Insights into Writing, Editing, Turning Dry Facts into Compelling Stories,
and Anything Else That Interests Me at the Moment
and Anything Else That Interests Me at the Moment
A girl betrayed by her father. A man fighting to save his people. A woman concealing dark secrets. A rain priest forced to choose between loyalty and honor. Their uneasy alliance could save their ancient civilization . . . or destroy it.
Dramatic action and memorable characters drive an epic story of deception, treachery, and sacrifice. In this intriguing novel of the prehistoric desert Southwest, the People of Two Rivers are shown at the height of their glory as they face a catastrophe that threatens to divide them forever.
Based on decades of research, Swallowing the Sun shines a new light on a mysterious world. The Hohokam, my People of Two Rivers, mastered their environment through technology, building hundreds of miles of perfectly laid-out canals to water their fields. With stone tools they constructed platform mounds as big as a football field and 30 feet high, as well as massive four-story buildings that still dwarf visitors 750 years later.
And then they vanished.
What happened to them? To find out, read Swallowing the Sun and the rest of the Tales of the Watermasters series.
Sally Bennett Boyington’s vivid re-creation of the Paleolithic Southwest is sure to enchant readers of Jean M. Auel’s beloved Clan of the Cave Bear and W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s award-winning First North Americans series. Take the first step on your own adventure . . . walk with the Watermasters today!
There's an interesting article about Game of Thrones in the journal Public Medievalist.
The gist of the article is that Martin relied on outdated secondary sources for his worldbuilding, which has been described as "the War of the Roses, with dragons." The article's author argues that the worst problem is the "outdated misogynist and colonialist perspectives" of Martin's main sources and a related issue, Orientalism, which exoticizes people of color.
Unfortunately, the article doesn't discuss what, exactly, is inaccurate about the research Martin based his worldbuilding on, beyond the statement that Martin's world "bears little resemblance to the actual Middle Ages in Europe."
I'm sure medievalists' current research reflects the postmodernist, diversity-oriented philosophy that is prevalent in the academy. What I don't see in the article is acknowledgment of the fact that Martin did his research and primary worldbuilding before postmodernism became as dominant a philosophy. After creating his world with a set of principles, characters, and relationships, how could he change it?
Maybe I'm just sensitive to this article's criticisms because I started my series of Hohokam novels a few decades ago. The world of the Watermasters that I created was based on research conducted between 1988 and 1997. Only some, not all, newer archaeological data and interpretations could be incorporated into this world without undercutting foundational aspects of the stories that developed.
Once a character arc is established (even just in the author's head) and plot points are set down as a framework, any changes can have a cascading effect that ruin the storytelling. Do I enjoy everything that G.R.R. Martin did with his story? No, absolutely not. Do I believe that it needs to reflect current scholarship in the field of medieval history? Again, no, absolutely not.
Martin is telling a story, one that unfolds over thousands of pages written over decades. My hope is that he eventually finishes the story in a way that is true to the beginning of his series "A Song of Ice and Fire."
The copyeditor is partway through Swallowing the Sun, and the cover designer should return from a photography workshop in a few weeks, so the first volume in the Tales of the Watermasters series should be ready to go into production soon.
I received my new business cards and bookmarks yesterday. I'm so impressed with everything the designer, Kara Hudgens, has done for me!
This is another bit of trivia that I've incorporated into Swallowing the Sun, the first book in the Tales of the Watermasters series: the frequency of albinism found in Hopi and Zuni villages is (or was) much higher than the global average: at least 1 in 200.
That became significant because I was looking for something that would mark one of my major characters as an outlander. From the moment he came into existence in my mind, I understood him as having been born outside the Valley of the Sun and thus looking at the world in a unique way. But I didn't know precisely how he might be different until I broadened my research to other peoples of the region and came across this historical photograph of a light-skinned, pale-haired Zuni boy.
The Zuni form of albinism often involves uncontrolled movements of the eyes, sensitivity to bright lights, and rapid sunburn, as well as a lack of pigmentation in hair, skin, and eyes. These characteristics can become less obvious with age.
Traditionally, depigmented Hopis and Zunis appear to have been accepted as people with gifts, or powers, connecting them closely with the spiritual world. This belief that albinos bring good luck to a village or have special supernatural or religious significance appears to have faded during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries as these Indian nations became acculturated into larger American society.
In Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain Park, Todd Bostwick has a section explaining the entoptic phenomenon of phosphenes, "a universal set of geometric shapes . . . that are seen by individuals under altered states of consciousness" (p. 24). Some hallucinogens such as datura and tobacco (both of which are found in Hohokam archaeological sites) produce trance experiences during which individuals see geometric shapes such as those commonly found in Hohokam rock art and pottery.
The concept of phosphenes as shamanic or trance experiences was developed by anthropologists John David Lewis-Williams and Thomas Dowson in 1988. As if to prove that everything old becomes new again, Forbes magazine has an article about neuroscientists using brain waves to analyze what people perceive in Paleolithic art. Amsen says, "Viewing the engravings activated the same brain regions as when people looked at images of recognizable objects."
While we may never know the original meaning of such artworks, the repetition of lines and circles and arcs continues to speak across the centuries to modern viewers.
Hohokam pottery is beautiful. I've started converting some of the designs from polychrome (black, white, red-brown) pottery into 2D miniatures. So far I've only done the black and white elements, to keep the process simple. Here are a couple of early efforts, staged against an actual pot.
It seems like every time I start working on the wiki, I find a new source of information that I have to stop and read. Today's was Michael Kyle Woodson's "Re-Drawing the Map of the Hohokam Canals in the Middle Gila River Valley." His map doesn't show the canals right around the Casa Grande Ruins, which is where my upcoming novel Swallowing the Sun is set, but it does show an area that is of great concern in the second book in the series.
I love archaeology!
A little more research has revealed another term that can be applied to short descriptions designed to grab a potential reader: teasers.
Many people reserve the term blurbs for words of praise from famous authors. Since no one such as J. K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, I know he's dead), or G.R.R. Martin has weighed in to describe my book as "the most captivating novel ever written about the Hohokam" or "sweeping, magnificent," I can put off having to use blurb for a while longer.
So, what I've written the past few days have been teasers, and what I will have to develop them into will be called cover copy, which, although not catchy, is at least descriptive.
Oh, how I hate that word.
I would prefer to call them "specks," maybe, or "tips" or "dabs." The sound of "blurb" reminds me of something going under the water's surface in the toilet.
But I've manned up and written many blurbs today, to be doled out over the next several weeks here and on social media.
Here are a few:
Swallowing the Sun is done and off to the copyeditor.
I had my mother teach me to read when I was four, and I've never stopped. Now I can play with words all day long... it's the best job in the world.