Excerpt from Chapter 6 of Sons of the Sphinx by Cheryl Carpinello
A tall man stands and motions at the door. His lips are moving, but I can’t hear a word. A cone-shaped hat sits on his head and a kilt-like garment swishes against his legs. Light sparkles off the huge jeweled necklace that rests on his bare chest. It appears to sway as he breathes. Good thing the necklace is pretty because he is ugly. Oops, I’m not supposed to say that. But talk about an unattractive man. It’s his nose—so square and large—that really makes him that way.
Sitting next to him is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Black hair frames her delicate face, an older version of Ankhesenamun’s, and earrings shaped as gold eyes dangle from her tiny ears. Her bare shoulders sparkle like glitter above a golden gown that flows down her slender body. It is gathered at the waist with a jewel-encrusted belt. She looks stunning and totally unaffected by the huge elephant.
“Who are those two?” I ask, nodding my head in their direction. Tut averts his eyes from the scene in front of us.
“That is my father, Akhenaten.”
“Oh.” I can’t seem to manage any more than that. They don’t really look like father and son, but then I don’t see the resemblance between my dad and me. My grandmother always said I favored him.
“And that is his wife and Hesena’s mother, Nefertiti.”
Well, you could knock me over with a feather. This is the most talked about queen in all of Egyptian history. Everything I’ve read says that her beauty knows no comparison. The evidence stands right here in front of me.
I look back to Tut’s father. How in the world does someone that beautiful marry someone like that?
I’m having trouble taking all this in. Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tut, Hesena—and me—all in the same room, well sort of anyway. I’m beginning to wonder where I’m headed and how I’m going to get home. Nerves make my stomach flip uneasily.
Chills come over me like my blood is made up of ice water running throughout my body. I shiver. I try to shrink behind Tut. Evil. I remember how my grandmother would describe these feelings. Rosa, she would say. It feels like someone is walking over my grave. I would look at her, not understanding. She wasn’t dead. How in the world could someone walk over her grave? I know now. And whoever is doing the walking leaves evil in each of his footprints.
The king and the other Tut follow the elephant out a side door, and Hesena trails behind.
Nefertiti walks by, elegant and regal. Her imperial gaze halts any who might think to precede her. One by one, the people stand aside and bow their heads as she floats past. Her gaze sweeps over us, but it is not evil, just interested, as if she senses something where we stand.
“She can’t see us, can she?”
“No, Roosa. My people cannot see us. It is not allowed. Come, let’s follow,” he says. “I want to show you my father’s zoo.”
“Your father has a zoo! No way. No one owns a zoo, no...” I stop short. Tut’s image wavers before me. I suck in air, but my lungs feel empty. Pulsing blood thunders through my body. My fingers turn white at the knuckles as I clutch his hand. It’s as if I’ve just been punched in the stomach. Evil envelopes me, threatening to squeeze the life out of me. Please body, breathe! Am I dying? How can this be? No one can see us!
Book: Sons of the Sphinx
Author Name: Cheryl Carpinello
Hi! I’m Rosa. I’m 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. I’m your typical teenager—well, almost. I don’t have many friends anymore, but it’s hard to blame the other kids. If I was them, I’d probably steer clear of me too, at least most of the time. No one is ever mean to me; I’ve grown up with most of them, and on my bad days, they try to ignore me. Wish I could do the same to those who talk to me. Mostly I just shake my head and carry on.
What conflict are you up against?
OMG. That is a loaded question. I mean, I’m 15. Conflicts are part of my daily life! Passing my classes. Trying to get a date for school dances. Dealing with Nana’s gift nearly every day while I try not to lose my mind.
Oh, I bet you’re talking about in the story. Right, I should have known that. Well, without giving too much away, my ability to hear dead people talk pits me against an evil man, introduces me to the most handsome boy I’ve ever seen, and puts my life in danger. Sounds great doesn’t it? Nope. Not at all.
What is your strongest personality trait?
That would have to be my sarcastic humor. When you have a gift like mine, you need something to fall back on. Here are a few instances of it:
“It would be something to tell my, my…Right, I could tell the kids in my classes that I went to ancient Egypt with the ghost of King Tut. Can you hear the death knell? Bring out the strait jacket.”
“Most girls I know have had at least one boyfriend and have even gone on dates, even it is was with a group of kids. Me, the last time I held hands with a boy was in the fourth grade. We went on a trip to the zoo, and I had to hold hands with red-headed Erik as the we crossed the road…How sad it that?”
“In front of me is desert, sand, open sky, and heat for as far as I can see. Already sweat is starting to run down my face and neck. I thought gym class was bad. I’m not even moving here, and it’s as if a river is coursing through me. I sweat more standing still in this country than I ever did playing basketball.”
If you could change one thing in this world, what would you change?
I would make it so my Nana was still alive. I know that sounds self-centered, but she left me with her gift and didn’t give me any advice. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with it. It scares me, really scares me sometimes. I often wonder if she was ever scared. Now that I’ve been through this experience, I long to talk with her about it—to see if there is a way to go out and do good with it, not just wait around and see what happens.
Q&A for Double Decker Tour
1. What made you choose ancient Egypt for the historical setting of Sons of the Sphinx?
I’ve always been fascinated with ancient times, and Egypt is at the center of my fascination. Ancient Egypt is mysterious, mystic, and romantic to many people, including my target audience: young readers.
I didn’t really consider doing a story set back then until after my visit to Egypt in 2008 and the tour of King Tut’s memorabilia in the US. An idea for a story around Tut’s life started to grow. In fact, that story is told by Tut himself in my short historical Tutankhamen Speaks. While that was a fun write, it turned out it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. I wanted an adventure and to set that adventure in ancient Egypt with Tut sounded like an interesting premise.
2. Why do you write middle grade/tween/YA novels?
Coming from 25 years of teaching high school students, I want to use my experience to engage those readers and younger ones in the hopes of enticing them to read more. My Arthurian adventures are for readers aged 8/9-12. Kids love Medieval Times. While Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend and Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom are exciting adventure stories, readers learn that while the journey to self-discovery is not a smooth one, it is one that can be traveled. Even young kids are starting to wonder where they belong in the grand scheme of the universe.
Sons of the Sphinx is geared more to readers age 12 and up. At the heart of the story is the tale of Rosa’s coming of age. She is a high school sophomore who is desperate to find her place in life just as were the students I taught. It doesn’t help that she has inherited her Nana’s gift. As she finds out, where she wants to be, may not be where her life takes her, but she has to learn how to make the best of it.
3. Sons of the Sphinx is already gathering awards. Explain, if you can, what makes your books special.
Overall, my experience as a teacher and my ability to understand what motivates kids is a big factor in the success of my books. To that I would also have to add my philosophy on life, which is based on Joseph Campbell’s idea of the Hero’s Journey. The Hero With A Thousand Faces is really my Bible when I write. Campbell writes of the journey all of us embark on everyday of our lives: the search for self and worth, the successes and failures, the temptations and the denials. According to him, this is not a single journey, but one that is repeated throughout our lives.
Embedded within all of my characters’ adventures is their quest to find themselves. This is for them the first time they’ve really been able to explore their place in the world. My readers are also experiencing this in their lives. However, my books don’t preach or shout this out loud; instead, this journey is couched in an exciting and often dangerous adventure. This type of story offers readers a type of catharsis the old Greek playwrights used: Letting the audience experience the emotions of the characters while remaining somewhat safe. Those plays also carried individual meaning for each of the audience members and were very popular.
4. Tell us about you’re currently working on.
I’ve just finished writing the first draft of the sequel to Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. This was meant to be a stand-alone story, but over the years, readers have been asking what happens with the young Princess Guinevere and, especially, her companion Cedwyn. In fact, for about a year and a half now, Cedwyn has been reminding me that he wants to be a knight, and he wants to know when that is going to happen. I finally gave in. I believe the sequel Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend—Cedwyn’s Story is going to be a much stronger story where my characters make significant growth. Hoping to have it out in late 2015.
5. What are your long-term writing projects?
Oh yes. I’m hoping to have the first book of my trilogy The Feather of the Phoenix out in 2016. These tales will take place, in a manner of speaking, in the ancient worlds of Atlantis, Pompeii, and the Norse civilization. As of now, the books are The Atlantean Horse, The Ashes of Pompeii, and The Norse Star.
Also in the planning stages are The Trojan War and a sequel to Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom.
Factoids for Cheryl Carpinello
1. What are your favorite activities when you're not writing?
I enjoy reading, spending time with my family, and working in the yard. I’m definitely not a housekeeper
2. Where would we find you when you’re totally relaxing?
Sitting on the beach in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico!
3. Any pets?
None at this time. I am a pet lover, but I’ve had to put too many down to go through that heartbreak anytime soon. My last ones were my horse (38 years), my kids’ cat (18 years), my son’s two dogs (way too soon), and my daughter’s little dog (also too soon).
4. Any kids?
We have two kids, a boy and a girl. Both are married to wonderful people. Our son and daughter-in-law have a 6-year-old boy and a little girl 2 months old. Our daughter and son-in-law have a 2-year-old toddler. Those 3 grandkids keep us young.
5. What inspired you to go into teaching before writing?
Teaching was my first profession. I enjoy working with high school students. They are such fun to interact with, and it’s fascinating to watch them grow up and mature.
6. What’s your favorite color or color combination?
Blue’s always been my favorite color. It’s the color of my eyes, of the sky, and of the ocean.
7. Favorite beverage of all time?
Just can’t pass up a good marguerita.
8. You’ve clearly done some traveling. What was your ultimate travel destination?
Every extended trip we’ve taken has been the trip of a lifetime. In 2008, we spent 3 weeks in Egypt and traveled from Cairo to Aswan and eventually back to Cairo by local train. Absolutely in awe of that ancient world sitting in the modern one.
In Sept. 2014, we spent 3 weeks traveling around the UK by car. Our aim was to immerse ourselves in the land that gave us Arthurian Legend. I also wanted to explore the locations I used in my book Young Knights of the Round Table: The King’s Ransom. As an added bonus, I was invited to Manorbier Castle (also in YK) for a Meet and Greet the Author!
We visit Mexico and Las Vegas on a regular basis, and each fall, we travel to college football games. My husband prefers them to the pros, and I just love to travel! FYI: in addition to being a retired teacher and a writer, I’m also a retired airline employee:)
9. Favorite snack?
I devour nachos and Auntie Anne’s pretezels!
10. Which character do you love the most in all of your books? If you can't choose just one, pick a few.
The Princess Guinevere from Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend because she was my first character, and Rosa from Sons of the Sphinx because I loved how she handled herself in ancient Egypt. Also, I would love to have been her.
11. If you owned a time machine, what period would you most love to visit?
It would have to be the ancient worlds of Greece, Rome, Pompeii, Atlantis, and Egypt. Those civilizations have given the modern world so much, even Atlantis, which is supposedly mythical.
12. Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?
My writing cave is supposed to be the bedroom off the living room, but this is also my oldest grandson’s room and the toy room for both grandsons! I usually do my writing on the couch or on the patio in the summer.
13. What book are you currently reading?
I read several books at a time, a habit left over from my college days when I would take 4 or 5 literature classes at the same time. Currently I’m reading Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton, The Nile by Toby Wilkinson, and Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas. As you can see, I’m somewhat of an eclectic reader.
14. Who are your favorite authors?
I grab anything by the writing duo of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs, and I also love their individual books. David Baldacci’s books are also favorites. I’m somewhat addicted to blood & guts & thrillers!
15. Do you listen to music when you write?
Yes, and I also put on my favorite movies: the ones I’ve seen a million times and don’t have to pay attention to. Sons of the Sphinx was written to Mumford & Sons The Road to Red Rocks. I can see the amphitheater from my living room windows.
16. If you could live anyway, where would it be?
Right where I’m at, in Colorado. We have the best weather—All four seasons. I live next to the foothills, and a drive up in the Rockies is a cure for any ailment. My immediate family is all here, except for one sister. When I need a change, it’s so easy just to hop a plane and go to the beach.
17. What are your favorite movies?
Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and The Mummy. I’ve watched each of these so many times that I’ve lost track, and my husband shakes his head when he sees on and says, “Really?” I just smile.
18. Do you have a favorite TV show?
Yes. I like NCIS and CSI (both the originals). The Amazing Race is also a big hit with me. Love to see all the places the teams go.
19. Favorite books as a kid?
I devoured anything with horses. Then, as now, I re-read my favorites over and over. The ones I loved the most: Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion series and Rutherford Montgomery’s The Golden Stallion series.
20. What other jobs have you had in addition to writing?
I’m a twice-retired high school English teacher, a retired airline employee, and currently an Ambassador at Denver International Airport.
21. What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel, fiction or non-fiction?
Coming across numerous misspelled words, sentence fragments, and incorrect facts. That comes from 25+ years as an English teacher and writing instructor. Nothing is ever perfect, especially writing, but good editing is essential for authors.
22. Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Definitely a night owl! I don’t usually go to sleep until midnight, and now that I’m retired, I comfortable with not seeing the sun come up in the morning:) That’s one of the reasons I love Las Vegas.
23. Do you workout? Run? Walk?
I’m a walker. It’s quiet and gives me thinking time.
24. Favorite food?
That would be a smothered shredded beef burrito washed down with a marguerita.
25. Do you like to dress up or dress down?
Dress Down. A good old pair of jeans or shorts makes the best day better along with tennis shoes or flip-flops.