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
I am closing in on the end. Once I finish, the cover design and line editing will need to be done, so Swallowing the Sun won't be published for at least another month. Given the shortage of writing time and the necessity for making the first volume of "Tales of the Watermasters" my priority, I've left this blog to languish again.
Despite the headline on my blog, I haven't done much to show you, dear reader, what "interests me." So here's something.
"So how is the final editing coming along, Sally?"
"It's coming along, just more slowly than I ever imagined."
"Why? What are you changing? I thought it was in pretty good shape for the beta read last year. A lot of people really liked it."
"Some of my readers had really good ideas for tightening it up and making it better. A few suggested new scenes that would help advance the plot. So far, I've cut out about 25,000 words and added three new scenes."
"Wow! I can see why you blew past your deadline."
The turning of the sun.
The Hohokam of central Arizona had several ways of marking the sun's movement. The most amazing one that remains is Hole-in-the-Rock in Papago Park, Phoenix.
The sun shines through the hole in the top of the rock formation and into depressions in the ground below during the solstices.
In my "Tales of the Watermasters" series, I imagine the lighting of huge fires, which could be seen from all the largest villages, at the time of the winter solstice. I call this the New Fire ceremony. I'm a few days off in the final editing of "Swallowing the Sun," though: the New Fire ceremony is still about 10 chapters away! It would have been serendipitous to be working on those scenes while the solstice was actually going on. Oh, well.
The Hohokam evidently had multiple ways of tracking the movement of the sun to determine the solstices and equinoxes. For a farming people, these solar events would have been important, as they would mark changes in day length and seasonal rainfall. In buildings and rock formations, deliberate placement of holes proves the Hohokam to have been able observers of the sun, while their rock art preserves what appear to be not only the sun/moon but also stars.
But the Hohokam were latecomers among the prehistoric people who recorded what they saw in the heavens. A new analysis of Paleolithic and Neolithic cave art indicates that people watched the stars closely enough to identify constellations and represent them in animal form.
In the final 24 hours of what was otherwise a lovely trip to Europe, disaster struck. My laptop, flash drive, and notes were stolen at a train station, and I lost more than a week's worth of revisions on Swallowing the Sun. I also discovered that what I thought was being backed up to the cloud apparently wasn't. Painful learning experiences. I'm still determined to complete this first book of my "Tales of the Watermasters" series as soon as possible. It's just so hard to keep going this year.
I bravely committed to release Swallowing the Sun into the wild before 2019. Now I have to figure out how to not only finalize the text but also format it, get a cover design, and publish it with Amazon's new KDP system. Plus I need business cards and other marketing materials and have to increase my visibility on social media. This is the part of the writing process I'm least comfortable with . . . and it's becoming the most important!
My Instagram and Pinterest posts have gotten some attention, this blog has been up and running for a year, and my Facebook fan page has acquired several new followers--some that I don't even know! Then there's Goodreads, which has a feed to the blog and direct access to purchase my published books.
I now have a Twitter account and made my first tweet. I'm setting up a Patreon page and have my first Medium post ready to go. I've decided to wait on Kickstarter until Swallowing the Sun has been out for a few months and The Rainbow Knife (#2 in the "Tales of the Watermasters" series) is ready to publish.
When I write, I see the scenes as a visual image or even a film. This is a rough approximation of the title scene from my upcoming book, Swallowing the Sun. The details are incomplete (there are no openings in the temple, for example).
I have sketched out several scenes but have recently played around with colored pencils, watercolors, and even, for this illustration, a drawing program to colorize a pencil sketch.
At Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, a fourteenth-century archaeological site southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico, researchers have found evidence of domesticated turkeys and speculate that these "may be why the excavations didn't find many canid [i.e., dog] bone specimens." Dogs perhaps weren't man's best friend at this prehistoric village, "due to the risk these animals might pose to turkeys." At other locations, though, domesticated dogs may have assisted in hunting or could even have been used as food, at least during times of starvation. Some may have served as beasts of burden.
In the Hohokam area, dog skeletons have been found, some buried along with people. Dogs also have been immortalized in art. At one village in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, many ceramic representations of dogs have been recovered from excavations. Dogs appear in rock art, too.
The Hohokam are known to have had macaws, but how did they acquire these tropical parrots? They certainly would have been able to trade for the feathers and live birds: shells from the Pacific Ocean, copper bells from deep in Mexico, even bison hides from the Great Plains made their way to Hohokam country in the central Arizona desert.
Long-distance trade has long been assumed to have been the means by which macaws entered the American Southwest. But Mimbres pottery found in southwestern New Mexico depicts young macaws, too young to survive the grueling hike from the fledglings' natural habitat far to the south. And indeed, recent DNA analysis of macaw bones from northwestern and southwestern New Mexico indicates that two separate cultures—Ancestral Puebloan (who used to be called Anasazi) in the north and Mogollon in the south—both acquired their macaws from a single breeding population.
Bones of several hundred macaws have been found farther south, in Paquimé, Mexico. But the ones in New Mexico date to the Chacoan era, AD 850–1150, significantly predating Paquimé, which did not become prominent until 100 years or so after Chaco culture collapsed. So where was this aviary where macaws were bred?
Its location has not yet been established. Maybe it was in one of the Hohokam communities. I would like to think my Watermasters had something to do with importing this beautiful bird into the Southwest and enshrining it in Puebloan art and culture.
The prehistoric Puebloan people to the northeast of the Hohokam area utilized turquoise, or "skystone," as a pigment. Crushed and mixed with other materials, it became a permanent paint. The Hohokam certainly had turquoise, because they made jewelry from it. They also had stone palettes for mixing pigments, as well as "paint pots" for storing either the raw minerals or the paint mixtures.
Ancient Mayans had another blue pigment material: the rare lapis lazuli, which yielded a deeper blue hue than turquoise. Did the Hohokam have access to this stone? There appear to be no sources in central Arizona, but they would have been able to trade with people in California or Colorado to attain lapis lazuli, as they did for saltwater shells.
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.