At the high point of my book, my Italian protagonists manage to bluff their way into St. Mark's Church in Alexandria, and make off with the saint's relics. (How? Well, I have to finish the book, and then you have to buy it.)
I'm a partial beleiver in "method" writing, and I'm part Italian - so last week, I bluffed my way into St. Mary and St. George's Coptic Orthodox Church in Albany... and made off with a delicious piece of cake! Ok, technically I was invited.
Here's how it went down: last Saturday I was shopping antiques in Troy with the family and our friend, whom we refer to as Lord Skeeter. We stopped for coffee. The cafe was filled with Egyptian art- pharaoh busts, hierloglyphics, that sort of thing. So I wondered to myself, as I watched a robust man with a bald head and a mustache make my cappuchino... is this guy a Copt?
Lord Skeeter knew exactly what I was thinking. He'd been in on the book almost since I started writing it. I picked up a takeout menu.
"He sells ham!" I said, excited. Lord Skeeter knew what it meant: the man was Egyptian, but not a Muslim.
"What are you talking about?" Emjay asked.
I looked behind the counter and saw an icon - Madonna and Child. "It's a lock!" I said, pointing to the icon.
"Oh, God, it's the book," Emjay realized.
We brought the cappuchinos outside. They were too cold. Skeeter and I went back in to ask for a warmup. The kids stayed outside with Emjay.
"So," I began innocently as he pumped live steam through my cup, "Would you happen to be from Alexandria?"
"Oh, that's interesting. It happens I'm writing a book about how the Venetians stole St. Mark from the church there."
"Oh! You know about Saint Markos? Hey, I'm a Copt."
"Really? What a coincidence!"
I asked the man - his name is Habib - to tell me what he knew about the theft. What stories had he grown up with? How is it that the Coptic church let its first Pope, a Gospel writer, be taken away?
"I can't tell you anything about all that," Habib said, "I tell you what. You come to my church tomorrow. You meet our priest, he can tell you everything you want to know."
I came back outside with my warm cappuchino.
"Guess what?" I said.
"Yep. Tell Reverend Mary I'm not coming to church tomorrow - I've gone Coptic."