Celebrating the Equinox (an excerpt from The Copper Scarab)

The autumn is upon us, and it’s time to celebrate the harvest and wave goodbye to summer ~sniff~. I try to mark the quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) with something special. And there is stuff to celebrate! Those of you who backed the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter should be getting your hardback copies of the book very soon! The paperback and eBook editions will be out on December 1 (and are already up for pre-order!).

I have a story in volume 1, a reprint of my Pyramids and Punk tale The Copper Scarab. When I was writing it I had this vision of how I wanted the last section of the story to go. I knew the sphinx at Giza would be involved, but needed some other element to make it all click. I went poking through all my research files and found an article I’d saved talking about the connection between the sphinx and the eastern horizon and the timing of the inundation of the Nile (which is a plot point in the story) and everything fell right together into this passage below.

This is from the last section of the story but does not include the end. It’s minorly spoilery, but I doubt the reading of it would be “ruined” for you if you read this.

Excerpt: The Copper Scarab

In the darkness before dawn on the equinox, Khemetans who came from across the delta and White Fortress region gathered around the base of the Great Lioness. Their voices quiet, reverent; their bodies newly wet with water from the still anemic Nile. They sat with eyes trained on the eastern horizon. Like the giant stone Lion of the Horizon, their faces would greet the dawn directly on the day marking the beginning of the harvest season. Most of them tried not to think about how poor that harvest would be this year, just as last year, and possibly all the years to come. Instead, they waited for the life-giving rays of the sun to warm their skin and remind them of the first eternal truth: Everything changes, but the dawn always comes.

Half a shade after the sun disk pushed fully over the horizon, the Lioness seemed, impossibly, to shudder. Sounds emerged from under the ground that ricocheted around the still quiet crowd–vibrations that didn’t make sense.

They had begun to murmur when the copper scarab emerged from the sand between the stone paws, hissing and clicking and gleaming in the sunlight. The people’s silence held for one breath, two, before everyone reacted at once. Amatashteret watched from a short distance as some scrambled away in fear, some fell to their knees in shock or in reverence, and some ran to get a closer look. The engineers surrounded the scarab, lifting the copper wings to the right position and ensuring the steam pressure stayed at the right level. Once they gave the ready signal, she and the other chariot riders rolled past the machine, heading into the desert and upriver toward the capital.


Pre-order Sunspot Jungle to read the whole story.

Goth Rose

Story Notes: August Patron Fiction

Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

Earlier this week I took an out of town friend up to the International Rose Test Garden here in Portland. In the Shakespeare Garden area we sat to chill and my friend, Shveta Thakrar, read to me from a book of faerie stories.

One of the stories she read was The Lothian Farmer’s Wife, a tale I hadn’t heard before.

The wife of a farmer in Lothian had been carried off by the fairies, and, during the year of probation, repeatedly appeared on Sunday, in the midst of her children, combing their hair. On one of these occasions she was accosted by her husband; when she related to him the unfortunate event which had separated them, instructed him by what means he might win her, and exhorted him to exert all his courage, since her temporal and eternal happiness depended on the success of his attempt. The farmer, who ardently loved his wife, set out on Hallowe’en, and, in the midst of a plot of furze, waited impatiently for the procession of the fairies. At the ringing of the fairy bridles, and the wild, unearthly sound which accompanied the cavalcade, his heart failed him, and he suffered the ghostly train to pass by without interruption. When the last had rode past, the whole troop vanished, with loud shouts of laughter and exultation; among which he plainly discovered the voice of his wife, lamenting that he had lost her for ever.

When she finished I said: “It’s a reverse gender Tam Lin except, when a man has to do the bold brave thing, he fails. This is why men ain’t shit.” And we had a hearty laugh.

Then I kept thinking about the story, and about Tam Lin, and about how I have never thought that dude was all that great despite really loving some arrangements of the ballad, such as my favorite one by S.J. Tucker[1]:

The more I thought about how the people in this story might have known the people from the Tam Lin ballad and how Tam was probably not the best husband a Janet could ask for, the more I started to spin a backstory on why the wife got taken and then the first draft of this month’s microfiction poured right out of me.

It is, as some of you are aware, not all that micro! It’ll likely get a bit shorter once I polish it and send it out into the world for publication. Patreon patrons get to read it right now.

Footnotes

  1. P.S. You can buy the studio version of this track, which is excellent, on Sooj’s website []
background of books on a shelf in sepia tone with the words steampunk dollhouse on top

The Copper Scarab mentioned in the Steampunk Dollhouse podcast

Clockwork Cairo, the anthology where my first Pyramids and Punk story “The Copper Scarab” was published, hasn’t gotten many reviews. The few it has garnered are pretty positive on up to glowing, which makes me happy. Still, I was really glad when the person behind the Steampunk Dollhouse podcast (her nom de plume is Bluestocking and I am here for this) said they were going to devote an entire episode to the book.

You can listen to Episode 12 “Walk Like a Windup Egyptian” over on the Steampunk Dollhouse website or subscribe to the podcast. If you don’t want to hear a discussion about recent sexual harassment allegations in the steampunk community, you can skip to the 40 minute mark, which is where they start going through the book. Bluestocking devotes a few minutes to each story. If you haven’t read the book yet you’ll get a good sense of everything. Since my story is last she talks about it at the end. And hooo let me tell you all the blushing was going on once I got there.

Bluestocking loved the story and spoke highly of what I was trying to do with it. I haven’t been sure how steampunk fans were going to react to my milieu (I’m using many French words today), so it was a happy surprise to find that she enjoyed the story in part because it’s not “Anglo at all” as she put it. She also compared me favorably to Ken Liu and therefore is now my favorite person.

If you haven’t bought the anthology yet but do like steampunk, have a listen. It may inspire you to grab a copy.

Cover for the Sunspot Jungle next to text from the backer reward level

Get a mini Writing the Other class if you back the Sunspot Jungle anthology

Rosarium Publishing is celebrating 5 years of existence with a mega anthology called Sunspot Jungle. Two volumes, over 100 stories, and authors from all over the world. If you don’t know about Rosarium and what they publish, this anthology will be an excellent introduction to the kind of press they are. Later this year volume 1 will come out in eBook format[1] and volume 2 will follow in 2019. However, if you want a hardback version of the books you need to back the Kickstarter campaign going on right now.

The campaign only has a few days to go and is so close to its goal! I’m here to urge you to back it by talking up my contribution to the Kickstarter. Back it for $200 or more and you can choose an intimate Writing the Other class as your backer reward. There are only four spots in this tiny class available and, as of right now, two are already spoken for. Here’s why should you scoop up one of the other two:

Nisi and I charge $300 – $425 for the various versions of the full Writing the Other classes. Back Sunspot Jungle for $200 and you get the whole class. Plus, you and the other backers can choose your format — weekend intensive, 2 week intensive, somewhere in between… not the 6 week version, though — and the date/times the class will run. Big bonus: you only have to be in the class with a max of 3 other people.

If you’ve been wanting to take a Writing the Other class but have held back due to timing, due to price, due to being nervous about messing up in front of a bunch of strangers, this mini class is perfect for you and only available for a limited time.

Plus, you get two big books full of amazing fiction. Rading fiction by the authors in this table of contents is something Nisi and I recommend to our students, anyway. You’d already be on the path to greatness!

If this sounds good to you, go on over to the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter, scroll down until you see WRITING THE OTHER course, hover your mouse over it, and click Select This Reward. Easy!

Footnotes

  1. I’m in this volume![]
a picture of the great pyramid of egypt with sunrays emananting up to a golden sky behind it and text showing that I am halfway to my goal superimposed

Egypt Trip Fundraiser: The Big Push to $3,500

Thanks to my wonderful friends and fans I’ve raised half the money I need to go to Egypt! YAY! You are all so awesome and amazing and thank you so much! Here, have one more exclamation point!

Can’t stop pushing the fundraiser now, because there’s a big deadline coming up.

I need to pay the tour company on March 1 to ensure I have a spot (tour is in May). That means I need to get to $3,500 in the fundraiser since I have about $1,000 of my own money saved. Once I pay for the tour I can concentrate on raising the other $1,500 for flights and other needs.

So, another $1,000 in 20 days. Let’s do this.

My first goal is to get to $3,000. When I do I will finally do the thing I’ve been threatening to do since this adventure started: watch The Gods of Egypt.

I got through Exodus: Gods and Kings without too much lasting psychological damage, so I feel I can handle this. I’ll have help, though.

Poet and provocateur Scott Woods has agreed to do a livetweet watch of the movie with me. If you’re not familiar with Scott’s work, you should at least read his review of GoE, which I pointed to way back when I first posted about this garbage fire of a movie. If you read his piece and watch my video about it, you’ll get an excellent sense of what our color commentary is going to look like. You’ll also understand why doing this is a huge sacrifice. Bless you, Scott.

After we watch the movie, we’re going to do a reaction video wherein he will try to hold back laughter as I scream from my fetal position under a table WHY! WHY GODS WHY!?

You know you want to see this.

And you can once we hit $3,000. To make that happen faster you can donate to the fundraiser and/or you can share stuff about it all over the Internet. Either one helps!

The direct link to the YouCaring page is here: https://www.youcaring.com/ktempestbradford-1014406

Or you can share one of the videos I’ve made about the book or about the fundraiser, including this new one in which I sing:

Thank you again to all the folks who have already helped me get to this point. My first newsletter is coming this weekend, as well as backer rewards such as free fiction! Folks on Patreon: Same!

Pyramids and Punk

Help Me Get To Egypt, Get Cool Stuff

If you follow me on social media you likely know that I am finally planning to go to Egypt to do research for my AfroRetroFuturist series in progress. I found a tour that’s going to all the places I need to go, including one that package tours rarely go to, and it’ll cost me about $6,000 dollars all told. Some of that will be taken care of by the money I get from my (amazing, wonderful) Patreon supporters, but I have to raise the bulk of it outside of that. Thus, I set up a page on YouCaring.com.

I’m really eager to get this series of books and stories right. With it I intend to challenge ideas about gender roles in the ancient world and explore what a matrifocal, technological, and unquestionably African Egypt could look like. I’m doing it with characters that exist beyond binary sexualities and beyond binary genders, and whose problems don’t arise from those identities. And I’m doing it with queer Black women as my protagonists.

I need to go to Egypt because experience has taught me that in order to capture the sense of a place, a structure, or a monument in my writing I need to experience it firsthand.

In college I traveled to England for a class, and our teacher was able to get us special access to Stonehenge. We were allowed walk among the stones instead of settling for only getting tourist close. All my life I’d seen images of Stonehenge, heard from experts and visitors about how impressive an achievement it is, read about the height and weight and makeup of the stones. But it wasn’t until the moment I was standing next to them, touching them, and craning my neck up to see the top that I grokked the magnitude of the accomplishment Stonehenge represents.

I had to experience the truth of those facts myself before I could begin to understand and then convey them. I need to stand next to the pyramids for the same reason.

If you’d like to support this trip and my work in general but don’t want to do the monthly thing via Patreon, now you can send me a lump sum. All donors will get added to my new monthly newsletter mailing list, and depending on how much you donate, you get some of the same content my Patreon supporters get each month.

$25+ gets you a 30 minute video chat ask me anything session, $50+ gets you a piece of (very) short fiction every month, $100+ gets you chapters from the work in progress once a month, $200+ gets you a critique of a short story. There are some more levels and more rewards Click over to the YouCaring page to see them all.

As of this blog posting I’ve raised over $600, but I’m not to $1,000 yet. When I hit $600 I promised to do a live rewatch of The Prince of Egypt and a vlog with my reactions to it. That is coming up this weekend. When I hit $1,000 I’ll do the same with Exodus: Gods and Kings. With every major goal I hit — $2,000, $2,500, $3,000, etc.–I will do a live watch of some movie set in Ancient Egypt and very likely rip it apart for being inaccurate, whitewashed, or nonsense. It’ll be a good time.

And yes, one of those levels will unlock a live watch of The Gods of Egypt, which I have never seen. I will suffer through it for money.

If you’re able to donate, thank you! If you’re not ale to but want to help, please share this blog post or the direct link to the YouCaring page via social networks, email, directly to friends. Anything and everything helps.

Pyramids and Punk

Watch The #PyramidsAndPunk Reading from Surel’s Place

My month long residency at Surel’s Place is almost over, and on Thursday it was time for me to show off my work for the local Boise artist community. I read from three of my works set in AfroRetroFuturist Ancient Egypt — The Copper Scarab, the current novel in progress, and a short story in progress — all set in different times about 100 years apart. At the end I also took questions from the most excellent audience, who braved the cold to see me.

I livestreamed the event and trimmed the finished video so the boring parts are all gone.

If you enjoy the reading, you can support ore of the same either by becoming my patron on Patreon or by contributing to my Trip To Egypt crowdfunding campaign. With both, you can read more of the work in progress (depending on what level you donate) as I go.

A photoshopped image of tempest standing next to a camel with the great Pyramid in the background. An arrow points to Tempest, under it are the words This Could Be Me!

Want To Help Me Reach My Research Goals?

When I was in college I spent three weeks traveling the UK for a class that traced how mythology, folklore, history, and conquest all blended together. Toward the end, our teacher was able to get us special access to Stonehenge, meaning we could walk around inside and not have to settle for only getting tourist close.

All my life I’d seen images of Stonehenge, heard from experts and visitors about how impressive an achievement it is, read about the height and weight and makeup of the stones. But it wasn’t until the moment I was standing next to them, touching them, and craning my neck up to see the top that I grokked the magnitude of the accomplishment Stonehenge represents. I had to experience the truth of those facts myself before I could begin to understand them.

It was a key moment for me as a writer. It helped me realize how important experiencing a place is to being able to convey it on the page–for me.

Today we have so many tools at our disposal to help put us in places virtually. Google Earth is a treasure, Flickr and Facebook and the millions of photos you can find there from every angle are priceless, 3D modeling and 360 degree photography are everything. Still, I know myself, and I know that it’s hard to really capture what it’s like to be somewhere unless I’ve been there or been in a similar space. And there aren’t many places on Earth similar to the Great Pyramid in Giza.

I’ve wanted to go to Egypt on a research trip for many years, but events have made be wary to go until now. Yes, there’s still instability and unrest, but I think the time is finally right for me. So, I’m trying to gather funds for a trip.

The main way I’m doing this is through my Patreon. My first goal is to get to $700 per month. The next goal is $1000. I need to get to my first goal at least in order to save up enough for Egypt.

I’ve picked out a tour in May of 2018 — it’s a group package that includes all the sites key to my novels, including two sites not usually included in tourist packages. In order to go, I’ll need at least $5500.

If you are inclined to help me get to this goal, consider becoming my patron. There’s a $1 month level and everything. If you’re already a patron, or just do not have the wiggle room in your budget, would you tell your friends about my Patreon? All boosting of signal is helpful.

I’m also applying for grants and fellowships (SLF, Tiptree, etc.) to help fund this. If you know of any that I should be aware of, please do let me know.

I know I’m taking a big leap here, especially as I am not a proven novelist. I want very much to get this right, especially in later books in the series where a sense of place is key to the structure and worldbuilding. No matter what happens with these trips, I’ll keep writing and using the tools I do have to get this novel on paper and out in the world.

A stack of Clockwork cairo books

Story Notes: The Copper Scarab (in Clockwork Cairo)

Clockwork Cairo is officially out in the world! An anthology of steampunk stories on an Egyptian theme. It’s as if it was made for me. And I’m so grateful for Matt Bright’s patience in allowing me to submit a story at the last minute AND a little late. (Story of my life.)

I didn’t find out about the anthology until Matthew was almost done picking stories for it. And once I saw the theme, I knew I needed to be in it. I told him I’d write a story set in the world of my novel and then… spent a week not knowing what to write about. My ideas were only vague and, I felt, uninteresting.

Fortunately for me, I have smart and talented friends. Mary Robinette Kowal gave me her worksheet for creating short stories, and it starts with coming up with characters, who then have desires, whose desires collide with other characters’ desires, which makes for a story.

Beyond me thinking that my ideas for stories were too vague and/or uninteresting, I also got hung up where I often get hung up (so you’d think I’d recognize this as something not to get hung up on…), which is trying to adhere to the details of a sketched out idea instead of giving myself room to change and explore. In this case, the ideas I was trying to hold on to had to do with how the copper scarabs came into existence in my world.

NOTE: There are mild spoilers for the story below. Proceed with caution. Continue reading “Story Notes: The Copper Scarab (in Clockwork Cairo)”

Come for the giant steampunk scarabs, stay for the matriarchal culture

Let Me Sum Up: May 2017 on Patreon

A summary of the content my Patreon patrons got for the month of May plus what’s new for patrons plus a kitty.

May was a weird month for me. A ton to do, a con to attend (and help organize), and writing to worry over. I ended up being stalled for most of the month due to brain weasels, but did manage to get all the May content complete and up… if a little late. I’ve discovered that having deadlines is somewhat useful for me, but what’s more useful is having people who are as forgiving about lateness due to brain weasels as they are eager to read what I’m writing. Once again I say: I have the best supporters.

Here’s what they got to access last month:

Read Along ($10 per month and up)

Section 2 of the book starts here! Patrons at this level got to read:

Sneak A Peek ($5 per month and up)

I had a hard time getting section 2 of the book started, so I had several scenes that ended up being cut or completely rewritten. I posted a few of them for the patrons on this level as well as a background sketch.

AMA ($2 per month and up)

In this Q&A post I answered a question about whether I’m an architect or gardener/discovery writer.

All Patrons ($1 per month and up)

Last month my new podcast, ORIGINality, debuted. I posted a link to the first episode here, but there was also a secret, members-only episode we recorded for folks who joined the Relay podcast network. That super secret episode is also available to my patrons!

Other Posts

This post is public, though it’s likely only of interest to people who’ve been reading the novel in progress: I’m Changing A Character’s Gender, Here’s Why

New Stuff

I’m adding new patron content over the next couple of months. June’s new thing is Writing Exercises, which I explain here.

So far I’m on track with June content, and there are more chapters and background sketches coming. Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through the turbulent month of May! And thank you to all the folks who just started supporting me. You give me a reason to keep writing.

Oh, I almost forgot, here is your kitty:

Bast statue with kittens at her feet