Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Guest post about artistic vision by Robert Peacock and Sara Lawrence (Peacock) Cook

I have a special guest post today about artistic vision by Sara Lawrence (Peacock) Cook and Robert Peacock. In particular, it's about their book, The Jinn and the Sword.

Robert Peacock is an attorney/CPA who has served as an Administrative Judge for the past thirty-two years, most recently on the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (ASBCA) and previously on the Corps of Engineers Board of Contract Appeals prior to its merger with the ASBCA in 2000. His inspiration for the book emanated from his study of Ottoman history and culture and visits to the magnificent city of Istanbul when he was stationed in Turkey as an Air Force JAG officer approximately forty years ago. Whenever able, he spends his free time with his twin daughters, Mary and Anne, and his grandchildren, Wilfred and Amelia.

Sara Lawrence (Peacock) Cook is a published interior designer and retired from her thirty-year career as owner of an interior design business and importer of antiques. Living in Europe for fifteen years she traveled extensively for clients, business and pleasure, including a visit to Istanbul, Turkey – the setting for the novel. A self-described “collector of experiences and impressions,” she turned her creative efforts to writing, using her vivid recollections to build scenes and characters in The Jinn and the Sword, an intriguing, inspired plot and mesmerizing outline developed by her brother and co-author, Robert. Joining forces, their shared vision was to enhance the reader’s experience by illustrating the book in a manner evocative of the manuscripts of the 16th century. Leaving behind the hectic pace of suburban life, she recently relocated to the northern Great Plains in search of a more Arcadian lifestyle. She has been married forty-five years to John L. Cook, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and published author. She credits Katelyn Cook and Rebecca Cook, daughters made family through marriage to their sons, Zachary and Joshua, for their elevated artistic and editorial contributions.

Guest post:
“It was the Year of the Prophet 937 in the city of Istanbul – “The City of Intrigues” – where deep beneath the cobbled and cacophonous streets, in the moments just after midnight, mysteries were manifest and multiplying…”

It is very easy for me to tell you what my inspiration was for The Jinn and the Sword...my co-author (brother’s) beautiful and evocative Prologue. It was mesmerizing and beautiful. He lived in Turkey and while there, immersed himself in the culture and history. I discovered, when visiting, that I was equally captivated by the mystery, the sights, sounds, its magnificent history and architecture. Irresistible!

“Kemal loved the mesmerizing allure of the city and knew it well. He spent any free time walking its streets and back alleys, sharing stories and tea while mingling with the shopkeepers and studying the city’s antiquity and architecture. A journey within itself, Istanbul always revealed new discoveries with each visit. To walk from one side of the street to the other was to walk across the centuries.”

The most daunting (and intimidating) task was that evocative prose was a tough act to follow – how could I do it justice? Rob, my big brother and judge, also presented me with a tantalizing plot and outline – I could not refuse…I was all in. The story became a passion, an obsession, for over a year. The plot “thickened” as the characters developed and we endured the predictable, sibling spats, sometimes even over a single word. Developing characters was a challenge, requiring authenticity and intellectual honesty considering the setting in the 16th century Ottoman court. Our new favorite mantra became, “WWSS…What Would Suleyman Say?” After the initial outline and first draft, we lived through another four re-writes before you knew it was time to “let go”, still grasping after it as it left us…did it need just one more round of word-smithing?

Writing was all-consuming and required a great deal of research to ensure the historical accuracy of the timeline, but the ideas flowed. It’s as though the characters spoke and told us just exactly where they needed to go and who they needed to become. It’s a very personal relationship that a writer develops with the characters. We were able to create colloquies that were not just pertinent to the 16th century, but issues of relevance in our own time: tolerance, diversity, slavery, the suspicions, superstitions and intolerance surrounding religious orthodoxy and radicalism. Descriptions of the brutal methods of castration perpetrated on innocent young boys, emasculating them into valuable Harem eunuchs are also included and pertinent to resolution of the mysteries. But at its heart is a story is beneficence and a story of love, yearnings, and awakenings…emotions that touch the human spirit.

We give you a gruesome beginning. A murderous Jinn stalks its victims in the cisterns below the Topkapi Palace, but for what purpose? Does a horrific Shaitan, mastermind of treacheries and treason against sultan and empire, perhaps manipulate the Jinn to implement its diabolical plots, inflicting mayhem, as both terrorize the Ottoman court? I have to laugh…Rob says he’s all the “violence” and I’m all the “poetry and romance.” Is he kidding? Another sibling spat! I invite you to read again, his beautiful Prologue – that’s some poetry! And I worked hard to describe the violence of a murdering Jinn and the “apocalypse of terror” that flooded over its victims…scared even me!

We wanted our characters to “let you in” and actually feel the depth of their emotions. Count Vincenzo Lupo de Venezia (Il Lupo, The Wolf), our protagonist, is a patrician nobleman, widower, renowned for his erudition and considered the finest swordsman on the Continent. (Author note: Rufus Sewell was my fantasy inspiration #sigh…) Il Lupo established a martial arts academy in Venice where students from Europe and Asia attend, seeking expert tutelage from the master. Although his striking good looks, righteousness of character and intellect make Il Lupo a Renaissance celebrity and highly attractive, his relationships with women have been ill-fated. Il Lupo’s 17-year old daughter, Fran – Francesca - possesses equally remarkable martial arts and analytical skills. Together they are a devastating and lethal tour de force. She is a master of disguise, often as a boy; none suspecting someone of her astounding martial arts talents to be a girl – especially in the 16th century. At Suleyman’s behest, they travel to Istanbul and encounter proliferating treacheries and assassination attempts within Suleyman’s royal court, including a recent attempt on the life of Suleyman’s favored concubine, Roxelana.

Turmoil reigns. Il Lupo and Francesca are escorted by Kemal, Suleyman’s personal bodyguard and captain of his elite palace guards, the Beyliks. Born a Palestinian Jew, stolen from his home and enslaved during the Ottoman invasion of Palestine, Kemal’s exceptional abilities elevated him within the Palace school and quickly within the janissary corps to his trusted status. His public persona of a brilliant, handsome and fearsome warrior is juxtaposed against that of a sensitive poet, with deep and suppressed longings for his homeland. Working closely together to solve the mysteries a romance, between Francesca and Kemal, blossoms.

The story is written over a period of five days and concludes “A Few Days Later.” It’s packed with layers of mystery, treachery, betrayal and that wonderful budding romance. Il Lupo and Francesca, along with Kemal, crush an assassination attempt on the emperor and solve mysteries surrounding the theft of sacred relics of Mohammed from the Topkapi Palace. Captivating characters abound. Enter Gulbehar, Suleyman’s conniving wife, and her loyal eunuch Mehmed, the callous and brutish Kizlar Agha, the Keeper of the Girls. Ibrahim, Suleyman’s Grand Vizier, a coxcomb of great influence, exhibiting a “perpetual hauteur of arrogance,” hovers throughout the story. Suborning a cabal of malcontent janissaries to treasonous acts against the sultan is Qais, Kemal’s second in command. Beautiful and seductive Lucia, a woman of Venetian and Spanish heritage and speculated to be the lover of kings, has her eyes set on Vincenzo Lupo. Mixed among them are Giovanni Contratini, boastful and brash, Lucia’s cousin, wealthy merchant and the newly appointed Venetian Ambassador to Suleyman’s court and the Marquis Antoine Valois, the French ambassador and friend to Il Lupo. A favorite is the Russian envoy, Gregor Zabatny, who is a refreshing contribution to the dull and obligatory Renaissance “cocktail party” and Hassan Pahlavi, the Persian envoy to the Ottoman court.

We wanted to illustrate the book in color – evocative of the illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy of the era – but the cost to the reader would have been prohibitive. So, we illustrated in black and white, and hope our readers still find the book beautiful. You can see our original intent, in all its glorious color, if you follow us on Instagram #thejinnandthesword and soon on www.thejinnandthesword.com. We so hope our readers are captivated by our tale, “a few days worth of being written.” A sequel, perchance, awaits…our readers will let us know.

With gratitude and humbled hearts,
Sara Cook (and for, Robert Peacock)


A few quotes from the book:
“And thus, in this moment, Francesca Lupo acquiesced, releasing herself to experience the utterly irresistible metamorphosis of the girl into the woman…an exquisite transformation tenderly and profoundly touching her embryonic soul.”

“The cruelties man inflicts upon fellow man are endless and barbaric…These things are beyond comprehension and each brutal bestial act creates an individual human tragedy, the consequences spilling into many lives.”

“This is the man known for solving mysteries of the imperial courts. He is very clever and often impassive. Be cautious. Vincenzo Lupo is more a fox than a wolf.”
“Il Lupo cautioned, “Apparent demeanor is an insufficient reason to rule anyone out at this time. Remember, we cannot discard clues until we are completely certain they are of no value. We must always open-mindedly interrogate our assumptions.”

“Blasphemous brushstrokes!”

“Abruptly the Jinn stiffened and sensing the presence of the three onlookers, ceased in its demonic maiming. Turning its head slowly and deliberately in their direction, it focused its minacious gaze on them.”

“Make no mistake, Kemal. Yes, I am a woman, but never underestimate me. I am a match for any man.”