Many people want to know what it's like to write a book with someone else. They want to know specifically how it works. Well, let me tell you, with the creation of Scrivener, it works pretty well. In the old days, about the only way you could do it was to send one master file back and forth with your co-author. But with the advent of Scrivener, a special writing software that I resisted like measles when I was first introduced to it but now couldn't live without) everything is backed up to Dropbox. I'm not going to say there are never glitches--and Glen and I have experienced several hair-raising ones--but overall the process has been infinitely more satisfying using Scrivener. The entire book is at your fingertips laid out right there in front of you. You can flip through scenes, back and forth, without having to scroll through the entire manuscript. But by far one of the most ingenious devices when you're co-authoring is the little flags beside each scene. Glen and I each have a working color (for scenes we are writing but not finished), finished colors (for scenes we've finished and the other person needs to review), and yellow flags for scenes in which we've left comments or corrections for the other to review. When the scene is finished, it gets a green flag. It's genius!! It makes it so easy to keep track of where you are and what needs to be done.
As for writing itself, that proceeds about as you would imagine it does. We have our chapters all set up with scenes nested beneath each. As they fill up and are finished, we can collapse them to keep them out of our way as we concentrate on the ones ahead. There is a separate section for research and another for characters which is handy. In general, we each have our own characters though we do "borrow" each other's characters when we need them for scenes.
That's the way it usually goes. But in Salome's Charger, there are several scenes where our two main characters share a scene. One person could have written the whole thing and the other person could have edited their character's "voice", but instead, we decided to play with the process a little. I mean, writing's supposed to be fun, right? So we wrote the scene in tandem, batting it back and forth like a ping-pong ball. We were both pretty happy with the way it came out. I thought the dialog was more natural because it was so organic. And it was authentic because one person wasn't writing it all while the other person tweaked it. See what you think. It's here.
And now it's my turn. I chose a scene near the beginning for my teaser. It kind of explains a bit about the charger and why it's important. Enjoy! (p.s. We're more than half finished with the book, and soon we'll be giving away some digital Advanced Reading Copies of Salome's Charger before the official release. So be sure and sign up for my newsletter--anywhere on my website--and Glen's newsletter, and follow us on our websites and Facebook--here and here--so you have a chance to see the new book before anyone else!) Here, then, for your reading pleasure, a scene from Salome's Charger:
The offices of Sloane & Associates Archaeological Research Foundation had been buzzing and little wonder. The media was calling the discovery of Salome’s charger “the find of the century.” Even the standoffish Professor Simms hadn’t been able to control her professional, detached facade when they’d gone out to lunch earlier in the week to discuss her preliminary findings. She’d used words like “extraordinary” and “fabulous” and “exquisite” to describe the ornate detailing, precious, and semi-precious stones around the edge. But she had cautioned him that the find was stirring up less desirable elements within the historical community.
This was putting an unwelcome damper on the otherwise unbridled elation Raymond Sloane felt over the discovery. It was a wave of euphoria he’d been riding since he’d gotten the phone call from his chief archaeologist. Even now he could feel the excitement tingling through his body. But a nagging sense of unease was what had compelled him to come in early. He’d tried unsuccessfully all night to dismiss it, but it persisted until he’d finally given up. He went into his study and fired up his laptop. What he’d found was disturbing to say the least.
Unable to enjoy his morning, he left for work so early he missed all the rush hour traffic. The offices were deserted. Only Ed, the security guard on the first floor, was around to even acknowledge his existence. He made his way up to the third floor on the silent elevator, brooding all the way.
“There’s this . . . curse,” Simms had said, almost embarrassed, not quite meeting his eyes.
At the time, he’d been amused. The thing that had drawn him into archeology in the first place was the fact that an artifact was rarely just an artifact. The past fascinated him: who had lived, what they had done, what they had believed, how they had lived. The mundane, articles of their existence drew him inexorably into their world. Sometimes he lived more in the past than in the present.
“You know the story, of course,” she’d said and he had nodded absently, trying to remember the details. Apparently his response hadn’t convinced her because she had elaborated for his benefit. “King Herod had taken the wife of his brother Philip I. He divorced the Arabian princess he was married to at the time and installed Herodias and her daughter Salome in the palace where, presumably, under different circumstances they might have lived happily and scandalously ever after. However, their illicit marriage offended the sensibilities of the God-fearing Jews he ruled. One in particular, John the Baptist, called them out on it. In fact, he was very open in his condemnation.”
“And Herod didn’t take kindly to that,” Raymond had guessed, amused.
“Actually, Herod liked John,” Simms had said, surprising him. She’d shrugged. “At least, according to the Bible.” She had gotten a faraway look in her eyes. “And I have seen one portion of a Dead Sea Scroll, a piece called Fragment 47RW, that seems to corroborate that, indicating that Herod was on the verge of dumping Herodias because of John’s disapproval.
“He never got the chance.” She’d snapped out of her reverie and gotten all business again. “The rest of the story is the most well known. Herodias throws a party for Herod’s birthday, her daughter dances for him, Herod gets carried away and offers the girl anything she wants up to half of his kingdom. But when she asks her mother what she should request…”
“Herodias tells her to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter,” Raymond had finished, practically by rote, remembering that much of the story from long ago Sunday School classes at church. “Look, I know the charger is beautiful,” in fact, it was magnificent, he’d thought when he had first laid eyes on it, “and as a historical find it’s quite a coup, but I don’t see why it’s cursed just because of the story.”
“The curse does not come from the strength of the story alone,” Simms had corrected him. “At least, not that part of it.”
Raymond had been as puzzled then as he was now. “I don’t understand. If it’s not cursed for what it carried—the head of a prophet of God—then what cursed it?”
“Legend has it that John the Baptist’s severed head cursed Herod and Herodias after it was placed on the charger.”
“You don’t believe that, do you?” Raymond had scoffed. Surely a head that had been severed from a body didn’t have the power of speech. Surely it wasn’t even cognizant any longer. Unconsciously, Raymond had run one finger between the collar of his shirt and his neck thinking absently that it suddenly felt tighter.
“Legend often has elements of fact in it,” Simms said defensively, then she looked him in the eyes and he could see she was playing him. “But no, I don’t believe it, as it happens.”
She had noticed his attempts to loosen his shirt collar and laughed. “Physiologically it’s not possible,” she had assured him. “No, whatever happened, it was not John who cursed the charger. But a group of converted Jews believed that his righteous blood caused the curse. Anyone who touched it or came into contact with it would be either blessed or cursed. If they were Christians, they would be blessed. If they were not believers, they would be cursed.” She paused.
“Or so the legend goes.” He was about to point out that it was a pretty weak curse when she had held up her hand to stop him. “There’s more. The charger reportedly has the ability to foretell the future.”
Raymond had frowned. “Foretell as in predict? It predicts the future?”
Simms had leaned back in her chair, toying with her water glass. “That’s where it gets really interesting. Before Salome used it to present John’s head to her mother, the charger already had a long and colorful past. It is believed to have been crafted by a mystic, Nabonidus of Babylon, and was purported to have mysterious powers even before Herod got hold of it, and it’s not completely clear how he did. Get hold of it, I mean. He may have stolen it or purchased it, or it could have been a gift. The fragment I mentioned seemed to indicate that the reason he chose that particular vessel to carry John’s head was because he himself believed in its powers and that by anointing it with John’s innocent blood it strengthened them.”
“So Herod used it to start predicting the future. Is that it?”
“Not Herod, although considering how his life turned out he might have wished to use it. After John’s death, the charger mysteriously vanished along with his head and his body. It never turns up again in conjunction with Herod, but an exiled Greek astrologer named Alyx…”
A nod had been the only response he’d gotten. “Alyx claims to have used it to predict that John the Baptist would return and that Herod would have the chance to atone for his gross error in judgment by acquitting him. When Jesus came along baptizing people, Herod believed the prediction to have been fulfilled. At first he plotted to kill Jesus because he was afraid Jesus/John would exact revenge on him for his weakness, but when he finally had the chance to destroy him, he must have had a change of heart, because he relinquished his authority and sent him back to Pilate.”
“But if that was the only evidence…”
“Oh, it was by far not the only evidence,” Simms had interrupted. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The charger reportedly predicted Herod’s eventual exile to Lugdunum in Gaul and death—some say murder. It predicted the fall of Jerusalem. Over time, people began to fear it. Whatever it predicted seemingly happened. After her death, Alyx’s followers used it to elect a new seer to continue to use the charger until a squabble broke out between them. Some felt the charger should be used only to predict major world events, and others thought it was acceptable to make more commercial use of it telling people’s fortunes which the first group considered little better than sacrilege.
“While their power struggle was going on, sometime in the early fourth century A.D., another group used the distraction to seize the charger.”
“Let me guess, they wanted to use it for their own nefarious purposes?”
“Not at all. These were devout Christians descended from a man named Demias. The charger was in his possession originally and was buried with him until Alyx stole it, having murdered several of their ancestors while hunting its whereabouts. These folks were mortified by what the charger was being used for and made a pact among themselves to reclaim it no matter how long it took. It did take them awhile, which is a testament to their devotion to duty. When they finally recovered it, they moved the bones of their ancestor Demias and buried both the bones and the charger in a secret place. They even sealed it to prevent accidental discovery.
“They were so determined to keep it secret that they committed suicide together. Knowledge of the location of the charger died with them. Many people, Alyx’s disciples and others through the centuries, tried to find it, but none succeeded…until your people accidentally discovered it. You should be proud…it’s rumored that Benito Mussolini sent a team of archaeologists to try and find it during World War II so he could predict the outcome of the war.”
“So…” Raymond had struggled to understand why his new find had the historical community all up in arms.
“So there are people who believe Salome’s charger still has power today. The ability to tell the future? What price tag can you put on that? Think of the people who might want to acquire that knowledge. At any cost,” she’d added pointedly. “But there’s more. There are some who believe that the charger not only has the ability to predict the future, but that in the right hands, it gives someone the power to control the future.”
“That having this charger in one’s possession could be a dangerous thing, yes.”
“But you don’t believe it, right? You don’t believe it can tell the future? Or control it?”
Her eyes had shifted away from his, not considering her answer Raymond had realized, but trying to mask her knowledge. “Let’s just say that from what I have seen so far, the last known prediction might not be the last actual prediction. It’s very possible the charger has predicted other major events in earth’s history.”
“What do you mean? Don’t you just ask it what’s going to happen next? Like a Crazy 8 ball or, I don’t know, runes or tarot cards or whatever other devices people use to predict the future?”
“Yes and no. I mean, obviously I can’t say for sure since I wasn’t there. There are carved words along the perimeter that we believe might give guidance to someone hoping to use the charger to control future events. The trouble is that they are in a mystic language, which is to say, not a spoken language, not even a language that anyone has studied from the past. It’s more of a made-up language of sorcery. That’s about the closest I can get to an explanation. It’s all so new,” she’d apologized. “We’re still trying to figure most of this stuff out.”
Raymond had swallowed hard before asking, “And does it have anything to say about what happens next? To all of us?”
Simms had a faint smile when she looked him full in the face and replied, “That is what makes it dangerous. And that I can’t tell you. Yet.”