Inspired by my recent real life odyssey to the ancient Roman world:
the Villas of Stabia,
Tiberius’s Villa in Capri,
Hadrian’s Tivoli Compound,
and glorious Ostia Antica,
my dear Antinous is festooned this Christmas in ivy and gold.
Is he Dionysus? Or the Ghost of Christmas Present from my all-time favorite classic film, A Christmas Carol?
Either way, he is still history’s most beautiful man. At least, he gets my vote.
Taste Life Twice
Exploring, adventuring, and tasting what life is all about
Below is an excerpt from the interview I did with Margaret Pinard for her blog Taste Twice Life. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to engage in such intelligent dialogue.
Here’s four questions that you’ll need to go to Margaret’s blog to read my answers:
MP: You make references to Ancient Egyptian and Persian politics and intrigue. How much research did you do to bring these scenes to life? And how necessary is it to make fiction (or historical fiction) resemble real-life events?
MP: There are plenty of steamy sex scenes in the Red Mirror Trilogy, and your earlier book Sex and the Zen of Shopping also focuses on sex, at least in the title. Is this part of what makes the stories exciting, or a symbol of something larger in life?
MP: You use the tagline, “One Life Is Not Enough.” In what ways is this related to your own life experiences? Is there something in particular that made you want to write these stories, bring these characters to life?
MP: Ok, last one: what’s your quirkiest writing routine or habit?
For the full article go to Taste Twice Life: Author S. L. Gore, On Writing, Passion and Sex
MP: Your books in the Red Mirror Series shred traditional genre boundaries to pieces, containing elements of historical fiction, thriller, erotica, mystery, time travel, and romance. Was there a particular type of story you set out to tell, or how did this combination otherwise come about?
SLG: I never planned to cross genres. When I started the first book of The Red Mirror series, I had specific intentions: to take the reader on an adventure to Ancient Egypt and tell the story of a woman who has fulfilling but unique relationships with three men of different cultures. I also wanted to challenge the concept of one ‘Mr. Right.’
As I began to write the tale of Isis, the story revealed itself to me. I had a loose trajectory in my mind that she would be kidnapped by a Persian and eventually escape from Egypt on a ship. From Day One, I knew the names of my evolving woman: Isis the Egyptian, Athena the Greek and Elektra the Roman (coming soon!).
Friends who followed me through the process said that I was channeling. Many times, I closed my eyes and typed, the words flowing through my fingers. Those were the times that I effortlessly wrote 3-4,000 words a day. Five thousand words, I think, was the most.
I never thought of the book as time travel, although it’s an apt label. Parallel stories propel characters back and forth between lifetimes. In each subsequent book, a more empowered modern Isis continues her present story and experiences yet another past life.
The Red Mirror series isn’t typical romance with a man and a woman estranged until joined happily ever after in the end, but the tone is intensely romantic. Yes, the sex scenes are erotic but intended always to be sensual. Sensuousness is what makes sex human not animal—and romantic, not pornographic.
MP: You’ve written a series, and I’ve heard that’s a better strategy for finding an audience than writing a stand-alone novel. What would be your top publishing and marketing tips for self-publishing writers?
SLG: I didn’t write a series because it was recommended for marketing. The concept of three books, each based on a different lifetime with a continuing story of an evolving woman influenced by—and influencing—her past, was there from the start.
Before I started the first novel, I read a cross-section of thirty “women’s” books in one month, and not one of them captured what I was envisioning. I made the decision to write what flowed through me rather than what was commercially popular, even though I’d never tell anyone to do that.
You have to choose your own path.
Marketing, for me, is far harder than writing. I find it very difficult to sell myself. But, you have to, so here are my tips:
- Choosing your audience is incredibly important in marketing. You have to be confident your product will fit. My books cross so many genres that targeted promotion is almost impossible. If you write in one genre with a defined and guaranteed audience, you may have an easier path.
- Social media is too vast to cover here, but absolutely necessary for an author today. You must have an internet presence—not a problem for anyone born after 1980 (Interviewer’s note: *ahem!* ;-).
- ‘Presence’ includes a website (which can be a blog), a Facebook page and a Twitter account, the more followers the better. Few, if any, of them will ever read your book, but the numbers make it look like you’re “somebody.” And you’ll make surprising connections that lead to opportunities. Have patience.
- Get on blog radio to talk about your book. It’s fun if you’ve got the gift of gab. (Note: Sandra also just completed a Blog Tour promoting Isis Erotica, the really steamy version of the Isis story.)
- You must have a brand. For example, get a URL for your website/blog with your name. Your Twitter handle should also use some form of your name.
- I recommend following Anne R. Allen’s Blog for practical tips on self-publishing.
- My best and final advice? You are going to feel like giving up. Don’t. And remember what Horace said a couple thousand years ago:
“If you want to be a writer, write.”
June 24 was the day I “finished” The Black Scroll. I put ‘finished’ in quotation marks because I’m starting the edit.
But the story is told. It is out of my imagination and now exists in the concrete world of words down on paper. Paper in this case is a digital format, but you get what I mean.
Whew! What a mind-bending experience. I had to pinch myself this morning. I did it! I wrote the trilogy that I’ve envisioned since 2010. The stories of Isis, Athena and Elektra.
There’s been months of hiatus here and there. The Arab Spring starting with Egypt and continuing through Libya. The remix of Isis to Isis Erotica and Isis BeachRead. Family trials and tribulations of late. You know – life getting in the way.
More intricate and involved with a much wider scope than The Red Mirror and The Emerald Tablet, The Black Scroll took a tremendous expenditure of psychic energy to tell. The Romans weren’t nice people. I was juggling memories of four lifetimes with recurring characters. I wanted to wrap everything up – cross all the t’s, dot all the i’s, tie up loose ends.
It’s a longer book, which may or may not remain so after the editing. But I have a feeling it will. The story is complex and action-filled. At least I hope so. It is in my mind, anyway. A fellow author said satisfyingly, “The monumental third volume.” I like the sound of that.
I’ve promised a couple of people to be first readers, and I haven’t forgotten that pledge. I’ll do an edit and then print a few draft copies for distribution.
In the meantime, I’m gonna savor my thrill. There’s not many moments in a lifetime like this.
All of us have seen beautiful works of art from ancient Egypt. Here I’d like to share some photos I’ve taken that give you a feeling for the daily life of my Isis of The Red Mirror. These are actual artifacts, thousands of years old.
If you’re like me, you love to imagine the hands that poured jasmine oil from glass flasks – or shaved heads and mounds with copper blades. Each object has a story – tales of love and disappointment, tragedy and triumph. And each object has a history that begins with the man who wrought it into being and those who used or wore it, then continues through the lives of all who have held the object in their own hands over the centuries – and finally to those who gaze upon it in wonder today.
This is a meal Elektra could have eaten in Roman North Africa, only instead of venison, the host might have served a young Barbary stag or oryx. Of course, my guests would have been reclining on lounges and served by slaves. And the Zinfandel would have been watered.
The recipe for the sauce comes from one of the most famous cookbooks of antiquity. Today it is known simply as the Apicius.
There is disagreement about whether the famous epicure of the Tiberian reign (1st c AD) Marcus Gavius Apicius was the original collector or the inspiration. Most probably, he had nothing to do with the book, De re coquinaria “On the Subject of Cooking,” which eventually became known by his name.
Most scholars believe the collection of Roman cookery recipes was compiled in the late 4th or early 5th century. The language in which it was written is closer to Vulgar than Classical Latin.
A huge hunk of frozen venison turned out to be three roasts when defrosted. I marinated all three for 24 hours in red wine, fresh rosemary and cloves of garlic.
The smallest roast was cut into chunks for a tajine (see photos) with onions, fingerling potatoes, chunks of carrots, and tons of peas topped with baby bell peppers. Spicing: cumin, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, clove, smoked paprika and fresh ground black pepper.
The middle-sized roast was coated in cajun spices and slow-cooked on the charcoal grill. Real charcoal please with mesquite chips! I served the Cajun venison with cherry sauce.
The large venison roast (see photo at top) was browned on all sides in olive oil and then put in a 350 oven with a few strips of bacon on top. Venison is very lean.
Now we come to the sauce from a recipe translated from the original Apicius. [Thank you to the food blog Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook]
I had to substitute a couple of herbs. And I used the reduced marinade for a base. I’m sure Apicius would have approved.
Ingredients for the sauce
note: all herbs are fresh, some from my own garden.
rue (I used fresh rosemary)
lovage (I used celery leaves)
Thai fish sauce (in place of Roman garum, the salty cured fish sauce Romans used with almost all meats and that they stole from the Greeks)
sweet wine (I used Port)
salt and pepper
Not having a slave to grind the herbs into a paste, I threw them into a small food processor. You use the goodies from the bottom of the roasting pan to make a sauce much like gravies are made today. The end result should be something between a liquid and a syrup.
Salty and sweet with tons of herbs. That was the Roman taste. Also black pepper – lots of it. Even with syrupy pears.
Not sure if the Romans had cous cous, but they definitely had grain, so I suspect they might have discovered this primitive way of making pasta long before Marco Polo. I toasted slivered almonds and soaked giant raisins in brandy (until they are plump and soft) to put in the cooked cous cous.
In addition to remembering our own fallen heroes on a splendid Memorial Day, we stepped back a little further in history to remember the Romans. To borrow from the gladiators, “We who are about to eat, salute you!”
The table setting is my vision of Roman North Africa. Need to get some silver chalices!