May Updates: Preparing for Kenya

For all those who contributed to my GoFundMe campaign at the beginning of the year, you’re all angels, and I thank you once more for your generosity and encouragement in helping me meet my initial deposit for my course. This update highlights the status of my trip preparations.

For the past three and a half weeks I have been taking an online prep course as part of the study abroad experience, and will be finishing that up at the end of this week. Interacting with my long-distance classmates and getting my feet wet for the field has been a delightful experience so far, and I’m look forward to embarking on this adventure. I officially leave June 8th (in a little over a week!) and return home July 24th. I’ll be spending six weeks in Kenya, studying the environments that surrounded the biological origins of man through George Washington University’s study abroad program. While abroad, I will have the opportunity to see fossil and artifact collections at the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi before leaving for more remote locations connected to the Koobi Fora Field School. This will be part refresher course and part completely new experience for me as I learn more about how different sub-disciplines within the field of paleoanthropology blend together to contribute to the big picture of the natural mechanisms that shaped our species and made us human.

I will be going to a wildlife conservancy ranch to observe living ecosystems and animal behavior as a model for past ecosystems and behavior, then learning more about ecology, taphonomy, faunal analysis in bone assemblages, the emergence of the earliest stone tool cultures, using stratigraphy and sedimentology (geology) in a paleontological context, and discussing human evolution in the fossil record as a whole to reconstruct past environments and understand evolutionary pressures that shaped human anatomy and cognition. I will also be participating in an independent research project under the mentorship of one of several participating professors. (This will be mentored research project number three for me, alongside my undergraduate projects exploring insect scavenging patterns on sauropod bones from a Dinosaur National Monument site, and learning how to reconstruct the family trees of fossil dragonflies using their wing anatomy).

Most of my preparations for the course (plane ticket, medical check-ups and vaccinations, gathering supplies) are just about complete. I have a few more things to do before I’m completely ready, but I’m pretty much literally all packed. (Okay, I’m still trying to figure out how to fit everything into my bags and what’s going to stay behind…but I’m getting really close!) I’m mostly camping for a month and a half, so I’ve splurged on an ultra-light cot and a little portable solar panel pack to charge my camera batteries and such to go with my ultra-inexpensive Walmart tent. Plus I’m bringing loads of sunscreen, hats, trail shoes, flashlights with rechargeable batteries that double as power storage, pens and notebooks, many of my usual toiletries… And I’ve got a mini set of scriptures all packed too.

This isn’t my first time flying outside of the US, and it isn’t my first time flying alone–but it will be my first time leaving the country AND flying solo. (I’ll be meeting up with my classmates, who are coming from around the world, when I reach Kenya). This will also be my first time going on a big academic trip as the only LDS person in the group (at least, I assume I will be the only LDS person in the group). Weirdly enough, my biggest concern has been over not being able to attend church for six weeks (I’ll be in remote locations most of the time and may not be able to have access to a meeting place–which, really, will be fine for a short period of time), or having someone think I’m weird because I don’t drink tea or coffee. My mother’s greatest fear, on the other hand, is that I’m going to get eaten by a lion or a crocodile. Or that I’m going to contract some crazy illness from mosquitoes.

I’m most excited to meet my classmates and to explore…The Circle of Life… *Had to make a Lion King reference.*

I may post one more time before I leave. But if not, I will post again when I return at the end of July and share the details of my adventures then (I will have little access to the internet, or to conventional electricity for that matter, for most of my trip). I will also take lots of pictures and post them online somewhere (so far I have requests for giraffes and elephants–if I see some, I’ll take pics). I cannot fully express how thrilled I am to be going on this trip, both for academic reasons and for enrichment. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. Many of my friends and family have been rooting for me, and I have felt your love, encouragement, assurance, and confidence, both communicated and unspoken. While it has admittedly been a little nerve-racking figuring out the financing for this trip, so many things have come together to make it happen. This field experience is going to be hard work, with many new and challenging aspects for me–and I’m excited to learn. Whether I get into graduate school or not as I continue to apply in the future, I’ll have some wonderful adventures to share from this trip and inspiration for new tales.

April Updates

Time goes by fast, doesn’t it?

I’ve been super busy with work and life, but it’s actually been a quiet month writing-wise, all things considered. I’m still working on my orc novel, and my Woodcutters novella (I think I’ve said that a few times now…but it’s true! I promise!). It looks like I will be applying to graduate schools again in the fall for next fall, as I was not accepted into any programs this year. BUT I am going to a field school in Kenya this summer, and I’m super excited! (No fellowship either, I’m afraid…but I’m going to make it work :-).

It’s a short update this round, but I’m hoping to post some more interesting content in the near future. I’ve taken a hiatus from writing plugs for my favorite local authors and other things I’ve enjoyed, but I’m hoping to get back into that groove this summer after my field course. I’m also in a bit of a poetry mood, and I have a flash fiction piece or two up my sleeve that I’ll probably share here in the near future.

Thanks again to all who visit my blog, read my books, root for me, and are otherwise awesome. Your support and encouragement still mean so much to me, and the writing life has been a fun challenge and a wonderful journey. I’ve slowed down just a little bit to make room for pursuing some other worthwhile things, but I promise I’m still up to my usual mischief and have every intention of writing and sharing more.

To all…keep writing!

Mad Scientist’s Regular Morning News

I have a little bit of a story about this poem.

One of the best things about writing is sharing my imagination with others–even when what I imagine or create is a bit unsettling and dark. I haven’t published or shared any fiction-in-progress for a while, and while I created this poem mostly for my own thoughts, I’ve decided to share it here on the blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I scrolled through my Yahoo news feed and found snipped after snippet of things going on in our world that really bothered, nay, disturbed me. There is a lot of sorrow, a lot of pain, a lot of darkness in this world, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it.

On the other hand, I have also been doing family history work in my spare time and have had the opportunity to attend LDS temples almost weekly for several months. I have had some amazing experiences attending the temple, where I often bring questions in my heart to ponder as I worship and refresh my view of things of the Eternities.

Even though I have had wonderful experiences doing this, the despair of the world I return to is often still palpable. In serving as Relief Society secretary in my church ward, I pray constantly for dozens of young women and men by name. I’ve started praying for lots of people I wouldn’t have thought to pray for regularly in the past, from co-workers, to refugees, to people who help me at stores or restaurants I visit, to people I hear about on the news that I don’t even know personally. I find that I am more sensitive than ever before to the suffering of others, seen and unseen. And I am not without my own stretches of personal shortcomings, confusion, angst, and despair.

I had a thought that, as I am a horror writer, I might try turning what I perceived as the unmistakable “sings of the times” into a cliché science-fiction-horror-movie style poem, to visualize that despair in my own words in a creative way that ultimately doesn’t take itself too seriously–or literally. (And I apologize in advance for any parts that may come across as irreverent as well.) It’s a horror poem, kind of gross in a few stanzas, with an ending that can be viewed as either hopeful or harrowing depending on what outcome you wish to imagine for the main character. I didn’t conform the structure too strictly to a rhythm or rhyming scheme. It’s not really an “uplifting” story in a sense–because it’s horror. But it’s a thing I wrote that I thought worth sharing because it was cathartic to write. In my mind, it’s about fighting back against the tides of darkness in the world even when it seems futile. I have no idea if that’s actually what I achieved, but my readers already know my writing style pretty well… So, enjoy! And don’t take the regular morning news too darkly… :-)

MAD SCIENTIST’S REGULAR MORNING NEWS
By Sarah E. Seeley

I’ve reached the end of this tunnel.
Instead of light I’ve met a wall.
This thing men made growls after me.
I did not touch it,
I spoke against it at the summit,
I fled—but somehow I am drenched in blood.

I know not whence this blood did come,
Whether it is my own, or another’s.
I may have tripped, or pushed someone down.
My fear is loud,
My heart is pounding in my ears,
There’s no way out—I’m naked to the creature’s sense of smell.

It feeds and grows, but never sates.
Its maw snaps bone and squelches flesh.
Others scream out their dying breaths.
As it draws near,
The fate of all the world seems clear,
These are the jaws of destruction once prophesied by crazy old mystics—and they who called it forth by their own hands cannot stop it.

This Abominable Experiment Gone Wrong,
It knows I cannot run away.
Its body scrapes the concrete halls,
Beneath the earth,
Where night chokes out in silent mirth.
I cease to claw at the halting barrier—and turn to face the creeping basilisk in the darkness.

I fall and plead to gods thought dead,
That as I die I might be numb.
I quail at approaching pain.
A voice inside,
Then bids me rise and fight the tide.
I take a breath—and dive head-first into the monster’s belly past the teeth.

March Updates

Salt Lake Comic Con FanX is this upcoming Friday and Saturday, and I am excited and honored to be a guest on a panel discussing why we love horror. Here is my official schedule, and the fantastic panel artwork provided by the convention creators:

  • Saturday, March 18 @ 7:00 PM–The Art of Horror: Why People Loved to be Scared (room 151G)
    Courtney Alameda, Michaelbrent Collings, Robert J. Defendi (Moderator), Sarah E. Seeley, Nathan Shumate, John Steiner

The past month since LTUE has been a long stretch for me. I’ve been rejected from three graduate schools, though I am still waiting to hear back on the fourth school I’ve applied to. In good news, after my deposit check to secure my spot in the Koobi Fora program got lost in the mail (I sent a second check), both checks eventually arrived, my spot is secured–and I’m going to Kenya this summer! I’m still waiting to hear back on the second round of fellowship considerations. But I’m excited either way, and looking forward to a wonderful adventure and an educational experience of a lifetime in just a few short months. Thank you once more to everyone who donated to my GoFundMe to help me pay the deposit. I shall be thanking you many times over in the months to come as I move ahead.

Writing has slowed down for me as things in my life have gotten busy the past few months, but I am indeed still working on my orc novel and my novella Woodcutters. I’m hoping to complete these projects sometime this year (and hopefully sooner than later).

And last but certainly not least, the Association for Mormon Letters has nominated Windows Into Hell for an award in their 2016 short fiction collection category. I am delighted by this news and honored to have this anthology be considered among two other collections. I am also honored to be included with so many amazing authors under consideration in all of the categories. You can read more about the AML awards and the nominated stories, poetry, and more here: http://associationmormonletters.org/blog/2017/03/2016-aml-awards-finalists-2-poetry-and-short-fiction/

Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.

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