Door of the Day: Poets, crocodiles, and hieroglyphics

Door of the Day: Poets, crocodiles, and hieroglyphics


This is an entrance to one of the buildings at Edfu Temple, along the Nile River in Egypt. It seems tiny with Horus hovering above it!

Many years ago, I took a journey up the Nile, visiting sites along the way, seeing many treasures—including mummified crocs and a statue at Luxor that reminded me of Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias (he wrote that famous work after visiting this site).



It was my life-long dream to visit Egypt and trek those ancient temples. There was a time when I imagined I was akin to Tintin or Indiana Jones, an intrepid adventurer who would unearth fabulous treasures or solve esoteric mysteries. Alas, I am too clumsy for such an occupation. In fact, during one of our stops along the Nile, I fell into a giant hole, up to my neck—it happened moments after the photo below was taken of me peering out against the wall of hieroglyphics.


I’m posting my door inspirations from around the world to celebrate the release of The Guardians of Zoone on February 25!

You can find order links for the books of Zoone HERE.




Door of the Day: The Downtown Abbey wolf

Door of the Day: The Downtown Abbey wolf

This is a stunning wolf decoration that we found upon entering the front door at Highclere Castle—or, as it is better known, Downtown Abbey!


We visited Highclere on a VERY rainy day in 2015. This meant that we didn’t really get a chance to patrol the grounds, though I did see a very amazing tree out front (before the rain really set in).





Most people visit Highclere Castle because of it being Downtown Abbey, but it has another famous association. It belongs to the Carnarvon family, who sponsored Howard Carter’s expedition in Egypt. As such, the subterranean floors of Highclere feature a museum dedicated to Egypt, and housing many of the artifacts found during that expedition. I had been to the Valley of the Kings many years before, so visiting the Highclere exhibit felt like coming full circle.

I’m posting my door inspirations from around the world to celebrate releases of The Secret of Zoone (paperback – January 28) and The Guardians of Zoone (February 25).

You can find order links for the books HERE.


The Unexpected Mummy: combining creative writing with art history


I’m continuing to lead a series of workshops through CWC called Picture Perfect: Exploring Creative Writing through the Lens of Art History.

We started with prehistoric cave art and moved on to ancient Egyptian art. The students built miniature mummies out of clay. Then, after letting them dry for a week, they “embalmed” them with plaster and decorated them with paint and jewels.




These props inspired the students to write short stories about characters who die unexpectedly and go through the mummification process. The hitch was that they had to write the story from the first person point of view, which meant describing what it feels like to die and enter the Egyptian afterlife.

Here are the final version of their props. In addition to many human mummies, we ended up with a falcon and a couple of cats. Some students chose to do mummies with luxurious decoration, while others took a more humble approach. It all depended on the character situation in the individual story.














Snakes, crocodiles, and cats — mummified! (Part 2)

In an earlier post, I described a project I’m doing in one of my creative writing classes in which we build mummies as part of an inspiration for a story.

In our last class, we completed the final phase of the model-building by painting some ornamentation onto the mummies.

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I have to say, both the models and the stories exceeded my expectations. The students took a lot of inspiration from the process of mummifying these little clay corpses and included them in their stories. The most fun part of the stories have been reading how the students describe the process of mummification. You see, they had to write from the first person point of view of the character being mummified and journeying to the Egyptian afterlife.

Our (nearly) finished mummies! From my Picture Perfect class (where we write creative stories inspired by art history). I love all the different creatures!

Student mummies . . . just in time for Halloween!

The last two weeks, I’ve been teaching my mummy unit in “Picture Perfect,” the art history class I’m teaching for elementary students. In an earlier post I showed my somewhat-successful attempt at making my own Unger mummy. Well, after my practice run, I was able to lead my students more expertly. Their results have been excellent!

The first stage for them was to take my brainstorming sheet and begin designing their mummy, as you can see in the below snapshots.

Mummy design

Mummy design.

The next stage was the sculpting. Some students chose human-based mummies, while others chose cats. We even had one “ginger” mummy and a robot mummy (well, after all, we are a creative group!).

Mummy sculpting.

We had to wait a whole week (to let the self-hardening clay dry) before moving to the next phase. This is the really fun part: the embalming!

Mummy sculpting.

Mummy embalming.

The plaster of Paris strips that we use dry very quickly, so in only a few minutes after completing the embalming process, the students could then paint their creations.

Mummy decorating.

Mummy decorating.

I’m not sure what the Egyptian equivalent of “Voilá” is . . . but, in any case, here you have it: the Picture Perfect mummies. Well, they’re not all completed yet . . . we had a few “accidents,” which means two of the students started over. They can finish up next week. Oh, and many of the students sculpted some treasures to go with their mummies. Pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself.

Picture Perfect mummies.

How to make your own Unger mummy

This term I’m teaching an art history course for kids and next week is our unit on ancient art. That means we’re making our very own miniature mummies! I decided this weekend to try one out for myself and my fiancé Marcie and goddaughter Charlotte decided to join in on the fun.

We started by each making a form out of self-drying clay. Marcie chose a hummingbird, Charlotte a fairy, and . . . me? I decided to make mine in the shape of an Unger. After all, I imagine that the death rituals of those troll-like beasts from Kendra Kandlestar would involve something akin to mummification—though, let me tell you, it’s quite hard when it comes to their tusks!

Here’s stage one, building the clay models . . .

Mummy making - Unger clay model

Mummy making - Unger clay model

Mummy making - fairy and hummingbird

We let the models dry overnight. Then comes the really fun part: wrapping them with little strips of plaster of paris. It’s a messy process, as you can see by the photos below.

Unger Mummy - wrapping

Unger mummy - wrapping

Hummingbird mummy - wrapping

Fairy mummy - wrapping

This material is easy to work with; you simply just moisten it and start wrapping your model. You can smooth it out, or leave ridges, as you please.

For the last part of the project, you add decorations with paint. You can do this as simply or as elaborately as you wish, as you can see by our final results (all very different!).

Unger Mummy

Well, I admit that my Unger kind of looks like he has to go to the bathroom. But it was my first try, after all. The hummingbird turned out really well:

Hummingbird Mummy

As for the fairy, Charlotte decided to go for the weathered, ancient look; I think it looks very spooky and cool!

Fairy mummy

You won’t need to snicker about our choices for subjects. I was in Egypt many years ago and was surprised to discover that the ancient Egyptians pretty much mummified anything and everything—including these crocodiles that I found at the Temple of Kom Ombo, in honour of the Crocodile God, Sobek:

This activity, of course, is not only a good connection for art history, but for creative writing, and ancient studies as well!