Symbol Secrets from The Jerusalem Puzzle & a £100 prize.

Posted by on Dec 6, 2012 in Historical Puzzles, The Jerusalem Puzzle

The square and arrow symbol in the manuscript Sean and Isabel found under Hagia Sophia in The Istanbul Puzzle returns in The Jerusalem Puzzle. In The Jerusalem Puzzle the symbol is discovered in the Museum of Antiquities in central Cairo near Tahrir Square.  This is the museum where  King Tutankhamun’s famous golden mask is on display. The remains of many famous Pharaohs are housed there, as well as items from their tombs, along with a huge papyrus and coin collection on the ground floor. Sean goes to the museum after seeing a picture of a papyrus fragment in a guide to the museum. Here is the fragment: My interest in the square and arrow symbol was inspired by this fragment. The caption on the card beneath the fragment reads, according to my notes: Papyrus fragment found 1984 in rubbish pit near the Black Pyramid (built King Amenemhat III, Middle Kingdom era, 2055-1650 BC), by the Austrian Institute of Cairo. The lower hieroglyph represents the Queen of Darkness. The upper hieroglyph has not been deciphered. The only other example of these hieroglyphs is from a stone inscription at the Gihon Pool in Jerusalem, a Canaanite province of Egypt during the Middle Kingdom era. The symbol reappears later in The Jerusalem Puzzle when it is used as a marker and also near the end when its purpose is further alluded too. The Jerusalem Puzzle provides strong clues as to what this symbol means. And there is still a prize of £100 available to anyone who breaks the code contained in the symbol. Some other possible meanings since I created this original post on what the symbol means, include that it was used as a mnemonic or that it was an old Mandarin symbol for the sun found in the  Zhongyuan Yinyun. The character has been simplified in modern Mandarin to 日 (rì) meaning day; sun; date; or day of the month according to that theory. I don’t know if any of that will help you win the £100 prize! But it just might. Good luck! And remember – no purchase is necessary to solve this...

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Foreshadowing. What makes you read on? #4

Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in On Writing

This is the final post in this series, created as a lead in the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle ebook on Monday Dec 3rd.  We have had: A sense of adventure. What makes you read on? #1 Action opening alternatives. What makes you read on? #2 A sense of mystery. What makes you read on? #3 and now this final post in the series. Foreshadowing, for me, comes in two forms. The first is the simple, “something different was about to happen” phrase inserted in the text, which makes the reader wonder what is about to happen. I recommend doing this only very occasionally. I think I use this explicit form of foreshadowing only twice in The Jerusalem Puzzle. The reason you can’t use it very often is that readers get tired of such things very easily. Explicit foreshadowing loses its appeal very quickly. The second type of foreshadowing is a general foreshadowing brought about by the plot. For instance, if the main character is going  to Jerusalem to investigate the disappearance of someone he knows, then the reader will naturally anticipate what will happen next. This subtle foreshadowing is useful because it uses the reader’s imagination. It’s not just plot driven novels that use subtle foreshadowing, literary novels use it too. When any change or event is anticipated in the text you are using foreshadowing. Inspiring anticipation is a critical aspect of writing compelling fiction in my opinion. Anticipation is, for me, one of the greatest pleasures of being alive. Looking forward to Christmas, a holiday, a big game, a night out, a family event, an election, are what keeps many of us going through the hum drum nature of everyday life. If you can inspire anticipation in your writing, by hinting at what is to come, you will have cracked a powerful technique to make people read on. And I use make deliberately. I hope you have enjoyed this series. If you would like to order The Jerusalem Puzzle please click one of the links to the right. Next week  I will post about the secrets revealed in The Jerusalem Puzzle. Thanks for coming...

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Get Your Writing Noticed: Advanced social media for writers – what works and what doesn’t?

Posted by on Nov 16, 2012 in On Writing

. This is the last in a series of seven posts.  The previous post on using emotion in your writing is here. The question of what works and what doesn’t in terms of social media for writers is complicated by two key factors; each of us will have a unique social media experience based on our own situation and personal preferences, and each of us brings our own baggage to the social media table. Luddites will deny that social media has any relevance to writing. Social media lovers will say it will change everything for writers and writing. I fall in the middle somewhere. Here is what I can tell you that has worked for me, and what disappoints me: * Social media helped me win a global publishing contract with Harper Collins and my first novel is being translated into 9 other languages, partly because I had a presence on social media, (Twitter, a blog, YouTube). I also had a good novel, but the publisher was interested in the fact that I had a following too. This may be unfair, but for me it wasn’t. I’ve been on the other end of unfairness too often in my life to complain about it when I get a break. * Social media has helped me get through the day. I work at a desk in a small house in a bleak suburb. My social media friends make me smile, make me look at the world outside my little corner, and make me feel connected. Rubbish this if you want. But don’t try and take my social media away. I need it. * My sales are good for my first novel, The Istanbul Puzzle, the novel has continued to sell nine months after publication and the presales of my new novel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, are surprisingly good too (order it on the right). Yes, you have to have a good novel to sell, but social media allows me to get the word out, to tell people it’s been edited within an inch of it’s life and it’s available . * Not everything I have done on social media has been a success. I am on Pinterest, Foursquare, Empire Avenue, Sulia, Tumblr, Instagram and a lot of other sites. Their impact has been limited. Much of my time spent exploring the outer reaches of the social media universe has been wasted. The truly most important things I do are my two blogs, this one and, my Twitter profile and my Facebook page, because they generate a lot of interaction with readers all around the world. I got 400 hits on my two blogs yesterday. It’s not James Bond, but for me, someone who got only a hundred hits in his first month with a blog, it’s good. So if you are a writer these are the things I recommend, stick to the main sites, develop...

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Action opening alternatives. What makes you read on? #2

Posted by on Nov 10, 2012 in On Writing

“I opened the door. The woman standing outside in the rain had a small black gun in her hand. It gleamed. She smiled, then put the gun to her forehead. I put my hand out to grab it.” (1) This is an action opening to a short story. I know not everyone likes a story to start with action, but many people do. The action mightn’t be about a gun though, It could be about something else: “I opened the door. The woman standing outside in the rain had an envelope in her hand. It was wet. She smiled, held the envelope out. I put my hand out to grab it.” (2) This opening has almost as much impact as the gun opening in my opinion, but the impact is psychological now. Let’s try another way to get action into an opening: “I opened the door. The woman standing outside in the rain was dripping from every extremity. She smiled. “I’ve been looking for you,” she said. I had no idea who she was.” (3) This third opening isn’t about giving something physical, but it is about a possible moment of real change in someone’s life. What about a fourth type of action: “I opened the door. The woman standing outside in the rain was naked. Her eyes were wide. Her hands covered herself. “Please, I need to hide,” she said. Her voice quivered as she spoke.” (4) This one had an emotional impact, I hope. What about this final one: “I opened the door. The woman standing there laughed. The rain bounced off her. ‘If you abuse another female character in a story, I’m going to come and get you,” she said” (5) This is more of an experimental meta-fictional type opening. I wonder would you mind picking which opening you prefer? If you leave a brief comment below and come back late December, to give plenty of time for some responses, or simply sign up for updates above right, the most popular opening will have a short story created around it. Please also comment below on using action as an opening technique. This is the second in a series of four posts in the run up to the launch of The Jerusalem Puzzle on ebook December 3rd and in paperback in many countries January...

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Literary Mysteries at a UNESCO City of Literature event in Dublin

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Research

Author of The Istanbul Puzzle, Laurence O’Bryan, discussed some literary mysteries with’s Kevin Flanagan as part of the UNESCO City of Literature series of events in Dublin at Freemasons’ Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin in late 2012. For any of you who didn’t make it below is the Q&A I prepared. There were some extra questions on the night, and a reading of Chapters One from The Jerusalem puzzle, but you will get a good idea of the event from this post: Kevin:                   Are you a freemason, Laurence? Laurence:            No, but I want to thank the organisation for allowing us to use their building this evening. I find this hall fascinating. The whole building is a museum, an architectural gem of Victorian Dublin. The relevance of Masonry is not for me to make any judgements on, but I think if we knew more about their historical role in Ireland’s affairs it would be a good thing. Kevin:                   Would you consider yourself to be writing literary mysteries? Laurence:            Yes. Mysteries are distinguished by the reader not knowing what is going to happen or who murdered the victim. Mysteries often start with a murder as The Istanbul Puzzle does. Stories which are mostly thrillers look forward to an event, an assassination for instance, and make you want to read on to find out will it happen. These are the traditional definitions of these two categories of crime novels. Kevin:                   Is the mystery novel worthy of a place in the canons of literature? Laurence:            I will quote something from a book called The Technique of the Mystery Story. “A liking for mystery is not a mark of poor taste or an indication of inferior intellect. Its readers form an audience greatly misunderstood by other literary people, whose mentality lacks this bent. But what especial audience is not misunderstood. Do not many people say to music lovers, “I don’t see how you can sit through Parsifal? Do not some scoff at people who trail through art galleries, catalogue in hand?” Kevin:                   When was that written? Laurence:            1913. And it goes on to say, “Supercilious persons who profess to have a high regard for the dignity of literature are loath to admit that detective stories belong to the category of serious writing.” So there has been a long debate about the place of the mystery story in literature. That tract went on to say “We must consider the rightful place of the mystery story in fiction. It is neither below nor above the other types of story, but side by side with character studies, society sketches or symbolic romances.” Kevin:                   Let’s move forward a little. What is this mystery about the Big Sleep? Laurence:            Raymond Chandler is acknowledged as one of the finest crime and mystery writers. He wrote novels, and for Hollywood. The...

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