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.

WX Cruise Caribbean boat

Why You Should Attend The Writing Excuses Cruise & Help Others Do So As Well

This week the fine folks at the Writing Excuses podcast announced the next cruise and retreat. In 2018 I’m joining the team as an instructor alongside Amal El-Mohtar, Maurice Broaddus, Piper J. Drake, Valynne E. Maetani & more. The workshop starts on 9/22 in Houston, and the cruise sails from Galveston, TX and goes to Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico before docking again on 9/30. It’s going to be a fabulous trip and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Before I tell you why I’m so excited for this based on my experiences over the past couple of years, I want to ask for your help with something. Every year, alumni of the Writing Excuses retreats raise funds for a full ride scholarship to the cruise. This is in addition to a scholarship funded by supporters of the Writing Excuses Patreon (the $20/month level). The more money they raise, the more people who can’t afford this cruise get the opportunity to experience this. Please consider donating to the Alumni fund before December 15th, or giving ongoing support via Patreon. I’ll give details on how to do that at the bottom of this post.

But first, let me tell you why I think going on this cruise is an awesome opportunity for writers.

I first came on the cruise back in 2016 when I was invited to be a staff member. That year we sailed around the Caribbean, and it was my first time on a cruise ship. The nature of cruises like the one we took is that we only spent a few hours on each island, and so there wasn’t much time for seeing more than one thing and certainly not enough time to get a real sense of the place.

WX Cruise Caribbean zoo

That said, having one distinct experience in each place, getting some time in places I’d never been, being exposed to even the slightest hint of something outside of my life, was powerful. It made me want to have more time, to visit the places for real. But I also appreciated those few hours floating in clear, warm ocean water and allowing myself to just be and breathe and listen.

WX Cruise Caribbean beach

This year’s cruise was very different. We went to the Baltic sea with stops in Sweden and Denmark and Estonia and Russia. There were no beaches! But with each city there was time enough to again have a distinct, capsule experience.

WX Cruise St Petersberg

And it was on this trip that I discovered how even a small amount of time in a place can provide inspiration for my writing and fodder for my creativity. I talked about this in episode 13 of ORIGINality (skip to the 1 hour mark for the stuff on this trip in particular). I was able to turn experiences I had in Europe into useful reference points for the novel I’m writing set in Egypt. And I know down the line the places I’ve been will bubble up in some other way. Everything one does can benefit ones writing.

WX Cruise Stockholm

Beyond that, the cruise instructors all offer classes, there are critique groups and other workshops, the chances for one-on-one discussions with amazing authors, editors, agents. There’s networking and craft working and skill building and the opportunity to get to know some amazing people. I have felt so very lucky to be part of it the last two years and to get to be part of it going forward.

I want more people to have the opportunity to be part of it. And so I’m asking that if you have $5 to spare or $10 or $20, please donate to the alumni scholarship fund. You can donate via PayPal to wxralumscholar@gmail.com by December 15th. If you donate via credit card, please mark it as a gift and not as for a good or service, so they won’t be charged a fee. If you really hate PayPal, email that address and they’ll work something out with you.

If you have $20 a a month to spend, consider supporting the scholarship through the WX Patreon. You get cool extras if you do.

And if you’re a person who would love to come on the cruise and would benefit from it but cannot afford it, keep an eye out for when the scholarship applications open. It’ll be announced on the Writing Excuses website, social media, etc.

Finally, if you’re a writer and you can afford the time and price of the cruise, please join us! I have no doubt this year is going to be as wonderful as the last two. The ports we’re visiting have the potential to offer inspiration or relaxation, and the instructors are going to teach you amazing stuff.

Come on a boat!

Tempest in front of Surel's Place sign

My November Writing Residency Starts Now! (+ Events)

As previously mentioned, I am the writer-in-residence at Surel’s Place this month. My residency officially starts on the 6th, but I slipped in yesterday so I could get settled while the local artist pop-up shop event is happening. I’m already in love with this house and I know I’m going to get a bunch of work done while I’m here. And since I spent the last month researching, my creative well is super full. I’m ready for this.

While I’m here in Idaho I’m taking part in a few events.

Workshop: Crafting Characters Who Aren’t Like You

When: Saturday, November 18th 1:00pm–4:00pm

Where: Surel’s Place, Garden City, ID

$10 Registration Fee, click here for Full Description and Tickets (There are scholarships available, just email info@surelsplace.org)


Reading: Pyramids and Punk

When: Thursday, November 30th

Where: Surel’s Place, Garden City, ID

Free and open to the public

Doors at 6:30pm | 7pm reading, Q&A follows


On Friday, December 1 I’m reading as part of Garden City’s First Friday events, details to come.

I’m also working with the local NaNoWriMo community liaison to do a write-in here at the residency house. If you’re local and part of NaNo, that information will be posted on the local board.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Physicists Might Be Jerks and Other Things I Learned While Researching Egypt

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been holed up in the library at Rosicrucian Park, a magnificent place that is also home to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, one of my favorite museums in the country. I needed to do some deep research for the novel I’m writing, and I figured this particular research library would be an excellent place to do just that. I was not disappointed.

One of the great things about researching there is that they have several older Egyptology books, some dating to the early 1900s (oh man… I typed that like it was some old timey century ago but that’s literally the century I was born in… ack). One of the interesting things I discovered as I went through some of these older books is that the paradigms of Egyptology that I’m used to encountering in books written in the past 40 years or so are not the paradigms that have always existed. Some scholars at the beginning of everything had different–and sometimes more interesting–ideas about ancient Egyptian culture that have fallen away. Some have fallen away due to more finds and better understanding of the language. But some seem to have dissipated for no good reason. I find it all fascinating.

One aspect of the shifting paradigms is shifting ideas about how advanced or primitive the ancient Egyptians were compared to the ancient Greeks or Romans or even modern peoples, for whatever value of modern one is talking about. I found varying views on the types of tools and simple machines the Egyptians must have had for them to have built massive monuments and temples of multi-ton granite stones, varying views on how sophisticated their knowledge of astronomy was, and varying views on the meaning of their mythologies. So much to take in!

One particular aspect of this caught my eye while researching, which I wanted to share with you. That is the supposed mystery of how Egyptians were able to move such large stones.

A few years ago some physicists published a paper called “Sliding Friction on Wet and Dry Sand,” which proved that one needed less force to pull a heavy object over wet sand than dry sand. The way science journalists got everyone’s attention when reporting on this somewhat boring topic is with headlines like “The surprisingly simple way Egyptians moved massive pyramid stones without modern technology” and “Solved! How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Pyramid Stones.” First of all, nothing in this research paper proves anything about pyramid stones, but clickbait headlines gotta clickbait, right?

Anyway, the reason why most people remember these articles is because of this:

It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they overcame the problem of friction. … “The Egyptians… placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research … revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.”

Adding more evidence to the conclusion that Egyptians used water is a wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep. A splash of orange and gray, it appears to show a person standing at the front of a massive sledge, pouring water onto the sand just in front of the progressing sled. What this man was doing has been a matter of great debate and discussion.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Bonn [one of the researchers] wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “In fact, Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation…”

When I first read this my thought was: Ugh, typical Egyptologists/archaeologists, assuming something practical is ritualistic. Cuz, well, this happens often.

But then.

As I was going through older books, I came across that picture of the pulling of the giant stone statue several times, and every single time I did, the author explained the picture or captioned it with something along the lines of: Workers pulling granite statue of the pharaoh while someone pours water on the sand to help make moving it easier.

Um. But wait. I thought that “Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation.”

HMM.

Either the early Egyptologists were smarter than the ones that came later about these things or maybe, just maybe, the physicist who gave that quote doesn’t know what the hell he’s fucking talking about and/or made it seem like the people in a different scientific discipline than he is were being stupid.

Quite honestly, it could be either or both.

I want to run over all those articles about this thing with a giant CITATION NEEDED stamp.

Science journalism has so much to answer for.

At any rate, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time reading these older books and widening my understanding of ancient Egyptian culture as well as some of the people who were formative to Egyptology. This research trip was made possible by the folks who support me via Patreon, and I am so, so appreciative of them! They’ve put up with a lot of lag from me, but next month I’ll be able to get back on track and start sending them chapters again.

If you would like to read more about my research finds, I’ve been blogging about them on Patreon for all patrons. I have a few more research posts coming this week. If you’re interested in seeing them, click on over!

Originality podcast logo

ORIGINality #4 and Writing Exercises

Another episode of ORIGINality is out! This one is just Aleen and myself, and we talk about the role of practice in creative endeavors. I talk in depth about how I have not seen practice emphasized in creative writing the way it was when I learned music and the way I see it valued in other arts like drawing or dance. And yet, I come across students in every class who lament that they aren’t that good at describing setting or dialogue or writing action. To that I say: if you know you’re not good at it, then why don’t you practice?

To that end, I started a new thing on my Patreon: writing exercises. All patrons get a new writing exercise each week that’s meant to be done every day. Each will be about developing some particular skill. I encourage patrons to share the exercises with each other, but you don’t have to.

Patrons who want feedback from me on their exercises can get it if they are contributing on the Learn You Some level. All patrons can ask the other folks in the community for feedback if they want.

The idea is to have a 10 – 20 minute chunk of your day devoted to writing that is just about building a skill and not contributing to your wordcount. Not all words need to be designed to be read. You can create things just for the purpose of trying out new stuff.

Listen to me go on about this in the podcast below, or subscribe so you can listen in your favorite podcatcher.

Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation by Shannon Wright

A Place For Commentary on Cultural Appropriation

Today NPR published my piece on why “Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible.” I was inspired to write this article by a recent NYTimes op-ed on the matter that floored me with how the writer misunderstood the topic, conflated it with other issues, and in general did not take into consideration or seem to know about any of the many articles and posts and books that already exist talking about cultural appropriation. It’s frustrating because that often seems to be the case. That’s why my piece has so many links to so many other essays as well as to resources.

It’s been a while since I submitted a piece to NPR, and so I didn’t know that they no longer have comments (I did do a little cheer when I saw). However, some folks are super not okay with not being able to scroll to the bottom and tell me how wrong I am! And thus my Twitter mentions, the Inbox on the Writing the Other account, and comments on unrelated posts here are full of folks offering me their thoughts.

Since this is the case, I thought a post giving folks the opportunity to scratch that itch was in order. Ta da! However, since this is my blog, I have rules, and you’ll have to be bound by them.

First time commenters are always moderated.

If you’ve never participated in discussion here, then your comment will not appear below automatically. It goes into a queue, and an admin has to rescue it from the queue. Since many folks who will rush here to argue with me do not often do so in good faith and/or can’t resist wallowing in racism or misogyny as they type, I will not be looking at the mod queue, someone else will. They will let your comment out if it doesn’t have those issues. If it does, they’ll delete it and I won’t see your words.

Side Note: Someone is moderating the email address my contact form goes to as well, so I won’t see anything deemed to be mired in bigotry there, either.

Before you argue with me about cultural appropriation, read all the links.

I put a ton of links in that piece for a reason. Cultural appropriation is a complex topic that can’t be 100% covered in one 1000 word essay. So I gave all readers the opportunity to delve deeper into it via other great essays. Click every link in that piece and read what’s behind it and click all the links in those pieces as well. Only then should you come here to ask questions or make objections.

“But I don’t have time to read all that!” you might say. “I have a life to lead!” Okay. But if you don’t have time to read up on the subject you don’t have time to argue with me about it. Go do something, anything, else.

Don’t argue with me on points I haven’t made.

If you see something in those links that you want to fight about, fight about it with the person who wrote the article. The person who made that point. Not with me. I’m not the avatar of all people who have written about cultural appropriation ever. Don’t expect me to answer for them.

If you can follow these guidelines, you can submit a comment. I look forward to hearing from you!

P.S. Sorry for the disjointed nature of the comment responses below. My theme doesn’t support threading as of yet, but I’m trying to fix that now.


Top Image: “Shared or Stolen: An Examination of Cultural Appropriation” by Shannon Wright. Find more of her work on her website, twitter, and instagram.

 

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

A gold statue of egyptian goddess

In Search Of: Consulting Egyptology / Khemitology Scholar

I’ve reached a point in my research where I could really use the services of an Egyptologist, Khemitologist, or someone studying Egyptology at the graduate level or above. Someone I can ask specific questions, such as “what is the exact translation of these words?” or “Did doors in the New Kingdom have hinges or not?” The type of questions that I can’t find for myself with my limited research skills but would likely be very easy for someone studying this stuff to find.

I would likely need to email this person every now and then over the next year (one or two emails a week tops, and sometimes not more than a couple times per month).

I don’t know what kind of compensation is usually offered for this kind of thing (if any), so I’ll just say I am willing to offer some if asked and it’s negotiable.

If you are such a person, or if you know such a person who might be willing, please contact me or have them contact me through this form. Thanks!