~~Ramona Louise Wheeler is a free-lance writer and graphic artist. Her fiction work was first published in Analog magazine, her “Ray and Rokey” series, adventures of partners, alien to each other, who travel the galaxy carrying cargo. The collected stories were later published in two volumes by Wildside Press, Have Starship, Will Travel and Starship For Hire, and the first Ray and Rokey novel, A Chance to Remember. Print on demand editions are available everywhere.
Her non-fiction works focus on the literature, mythology and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. Her websites have been a learning aid for students around the globe since 1995. Her Egyptian essays were published first in 2000, Walk Like An Egyptian: A Modern Guide to The Religion and Philosophy Of Ancient Egypt. This volume was translated into Chinese for the Asian market in 2001, and a third, expanded edition came out in 2004, illustrated by the author and published by Wildside Press. The new edition contains material on the Egyptian calendar, including a unique translation of the only existing copies, provided by Diana Janeen Pierce. These are also available online.
Wheeler is currently working on the first truly Egyptian tarot card edition, the Tamary Tarot, based, not on the Medieval European metaphors of the modern tarot, but rather on the mythology, beliefs and metaphors of ancient Egypt.
Wheeler was one of the founding member of Hal’s Pals, the science fiction writers group led by the dean of hard sf, Hal Clement. Professor Tom Easton, retired book reviewer for Analog and a true Renaissance Man, took over the helm for the group when Hal Clement passed away. The group continues to thrive with Professor Easton’s guidance. Such authors as Sherry Briggs, Wendy Spencer and Walter Hunt have been members of Hal’s Pals. The group was dubbed “Hal’s Pals” by Harlan Ellison.
Wheeler is also a graphic artist, specializing in book and web page layout, design and illustration. She did the cover art for her published books. She has done the production work for a number of other books for Tokapu Press, including John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, the centennial of broadcasting’s father, Reginald Fessendon and the SFWA Handbook for SFF Writers, edited by Hal Clement.
Her father was an American soldier and brought her mother back to America after WWII. As a result she lived in many places during her childhood, the longest in Columbia, SC. She followed the slaves from the South to the North, escaping mosquitoes, humidity and ignorance. She never went back.
Wheeler studied design at the School of The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
She studied Jungian psychology, comparative mythology and folklore, 19th Century literature, archaeology, art history, oil painting and ancient history at Beloit College, in Wisconsin, USA.
She was a scholarship student at the Cambridge School of Weston, Weston, Massachusetts, USA.
She lives in New England, USA, with the requisite number of cats. She married her high school sweetheart in 1972 and was widowed in 2007. Her husband’s poetry appears in some of her fiction writing.
Wheeler also writes poetry, her favorite inspired by her mother's many stories about life in Germany under Adolf Hitler.
Ava Brown, can you still see me?
Has your fuhrer left you here?
Did you watch the last sad trace
of life fade from his face, so dear?
(Leave her to her bitter memories.
Let her tyrannize her friends.
Let them be the ones to keep her
Lest she comes to better ends.)
Do you feel the morning wake you
With a cold, white stab of light?
Der Fuhrer's ghost will not forsake you.
Wife of darkness, child of night.
A novel about ancient Egypt as never was but should have been!
Published by Tor Books, February 2014.
Available everywhere books are sold.
"Dancing in The Dark" appeared in the April 2015 Analog Science
Fiction and Science Fact Magazine.
The @QQwill has an interview with Ramona Wheeler
(@Ramona332), the author of THREE PRINCES:
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
When and why did you start writing?
RLW: I was seven years old. I read SPACECAT AND KITTENS by Norman Todd, because I had just helped to deliver a breach-birth kitten and I wanted to know how that was done in outer space. I was hooked by the genre, and knew that I wanted to write science fiction. The more SF I read, the more I wanted to write. I had a brief fling with wanting to be an astronaut, but that was really to learn more about science and outer space and how to write about it. My school years were focused on creative writing, practicing the art, learning science. When I got a scholarship to a private high school, The Cambridge School of Weston in Massachusetts, I had the great good fortune to have superb teachers who not only encouraged me, they also focused my intentions. I learned two most important rules: understand the power of metaphors and write what you know. “Write what you know” means you have to do some living first, so I set out to do that. As the Good Captain said, “Get a life.” Twenty-five years on the road as crew for my husband’s rock and roll band gave me lots of material. (And no, you never heard of them.)
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?
RLW: The most challenging is the discipline needed to keep going, since there are constant interruptions to the momentum of the process. I have cats, and it’s right there in their contract that they must “continually strive to stop literature at its source.” Of course, some interruptions are themselves sources of inspiration and vision, like dealing with the death of loved ones or going through brain surgery for aneurisms. I have a corner in the living room with my computer, peripherals and research books. Even though interruptions are a problem, I found that trying to write in solitude did not work for me, (tinnitus since childhood) and now the house is pretty much arranged around my writing-space. My animus-mentors watch over me: action figure/avatars of Captain Kirk, Spock, Barnabus Collins and Doctor Who, (fourth and eleventh) and figurines of Sakhmet, Opet and Anubis, which were gifts from close friends. My artwork is on the walls. I have journal books for each writing project so that I can work out ideas in pen on paper, since that stimulates the visual brain and encourages it to work with the verbal brain. There are several notebooks for the various aspects of the alternate world I am building, the Pharoman Empire. It is a messy desk; at least I do know where everything is.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
RLW: THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE by A.E.Van Vogt and Andre (Mary)Norton’s books captivated me when I was still quite young. Cordwainer Smith/Paul Linebarger is my favorite for literary magic, and Keith Laumer’s work, especially the RETIEF stories, taught me a sense of pacing in narrative, and inspired the idea to use “highway diplomacy” in my empire. Dashiell Hammett, (MALTESE FALCON, THE THIN MAN) was a powerful influence -- minimalism, lean, crisp writing. I read a number of Thomas Mann novels in German in high school. German was my first language, (child of a German war-bride) although that language is buried now in the dark since learning to read Egyptian hieroglyphs took over. I had read all the SF in the Columbia, South Carolina and the Fort Jackson libraries by the time I was 12 and I never met an SF book I didn’t enjoy. THE LORD OF THE RINGS, DUNE and STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND were given to me by friends in ninth grade and I lived in those worlds for a long time. We had a weekly Tolkien seminar at CSW my senior year and we wrote letters to each other in Tengwar over the summers. More recently, I have greatly enjoyed the mysteries of Tony Hillerman (THE BLESSING WAY, THIEF OF TIME.) His deft handling of a totally different world-view in the midst of modern life taught me a lot about how do the same thing with an ancient Egyptian world-view. The clear comparisons between the DOCTOR WHO series and Egyptian mythology have fascinated me since I first met the T.A.R.D.I.S., and I enjoy the expansive genius of the resurrected series in the hands of Stephen Moffat and Russell Davies.
TQ: Describe Three Princes in 140 characters or less.
RLW: A spy story in an alternate world based on ancient Egypt. The Incans are secretly preparing to go to the Moon. Egypt wants in on the tech.
TQ: Tell us something about Three Princes that is not in the book description.
RLW: The enemies of the Egyptian empire fail because of their lack of respect for women, failing to recognize the power and wisdom of the female personality. I appreciate the way that the artist, Raphael LaCoste, showed that concept so skillfully in the cover art. Also, there is the contrast between a successful, benign monarchy and a successful, abusive one. The real-world Egypt never went through a colonizing phase. For the first millennium and more, the desert sand was the moat that protected the Nile. They went to war to keep trade lines open, to protect borders, recover stolen land and to prevent invasion. No one wanted to live away from the Nile. The pharaoh expected tribute and easy trade practices, but your business and your country were your own. In my Pharoman empire, Egypt rules the roads and the strips of land they stand on, as well as their foreign embassies, leaving everything else alone. Trade is the life’s blood of a living civilization -- and education keeps it alive.
TQ: What inspired you to write Three Princes?
RLW: The story concept and characters for THREE PRINCES evolved from my life-long appreciation of the TV series, I Spy, with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. Robert Culp’s portrayal of special agent Kelly Robinson is my kind of man. (My husband’s band regularly performed the theme from “Secret Agent Man” just for me. “There is a man who leads a life of danger -- to everyone he meets he stays a stranger!” etc.) The Avengers,” with Emma Peele and John Steed was my coming-of-age mythology; my friend and I dressed in black and played spy in downtown Columbia in the office building where my mother worked. The warrior-behind-the-scenes, stylishly dressed while fighting secret battles, appeals to me. (however, I prefer Derek Flint to James Bond.) I began with readings in psychology -- Freud, Jung, etc. -- in junior high, which led to Joseph Campbell, all of which led to the world of Egypt. I have since spent my life studying the ancient material, teaching myself to read hieroglyphics and using down-time on the road to translate texts, so I could hear the native voice. In 1982, I went to Boskone for the first time and met Hal Clement, the “Dean of Hard SF.” One of my smartest moves was when I joined his writers group, “Hal’s Pals.” His favorite book -- he read it 18 times -- was Terry Pratchet’s FEET OF CLAY, which I read as an instruction manual, trying to see it as he saw it. He was a good teacher. I was writing science fiction in those days, and my first “Ray and Rokey” story appeared in Analog in 1998. I was also writing non-fiction about Egypt, with a Jungian perspective on the philosophy, religion and art, self-published on a successful web site started in 1994, Walk Like An Egyptian. The first print edition was in 2000. I realized that my appreciation for the supreme humanism of the Egyptian civilization was better applied to fiction than non-fiction, since my interpretation is quite different from the textbook versions. The philosophy I have found has more in common with Buddhism than the Greek or Roman mythologies to which it is most often compared. My comfortable writing range is 25,000 to 45,000 words, but Hal encouraged me to aim for novel length. He taught me the rules for creating alternate worlds. When I introduced the Pharoman Empire concept to Hal’s Pals, he was pleased and said I should have Genghis Khan be a road engineer who falls in love with an Egyptian princess. (That’s the next novel: ROADS OF THE SUN.)
TQ: Why did you choose to write Alternative History/Fantasy? Do you want to write in any other genres?
RLW: The decision to write Alternative History was a means of exploring Egyptian concepts of civilization without the inconvenient reality that it died with Caesar and was buried with Cleopatra. The process of writing in this genre has quite taken over my focus and is the passion of my work now. I have the outlines for several novels set in the Pharoman Empire, ranging throughout the last two millennia, and into the future as well. Alternate history is actually new to me as a writer. I read a lot of it, yet I was a science fiction writer for most of my life. The five “Ray and Rokey” stories in Analog, and the Wildside novels and anthologies, are hard-SF interstellar tales about truckers with a starship.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Three Princes?
RLW: A lifetime of ancient Egyptian studies led to the creation of the Pharoman Empire, with the concept of Amun Rae as the god of civilization, taken from my non-fiction writing and applied to western history. I translated a lot of Caesar in Latin classes and the role Caesar played in the final death of Egypt’s ancient civilization haunted me. What if Caesar had never gone back to Rome? What if he and Cleopatra had used the might of Rome to make the world Egyptian? How would he have done it? I read a lot about aqueducts and Roman roads, which are the primary impact points of the Pharoman empire on other cultures. My writers group gave me non-stop encouragement, and they asked a lot of really intelligent questions. Changing two-thousand years of western history is daunting -- and fun. My anchor-points are natural disasters: civilization doesn’t change them, just the way we respond to them. Civilization solves problems. I chose my locations using Google Earth. My previous writing was always on designer-planets, so I found that writing a story based on planet Earth is both more difficult and easier. Having to use a known landscape is limiting but, once chosen, the landscape and dimensions are a given -- presets, as it were. I knew exactly how far they had to run and where each city in the Incan empire actually was, what the view was from there. The Palace in Memphis is on a real island in the Nile. I have laid the Pharoman capitol of Memphis over Google Earth images of Cairo, keeping to modern streets and neighborhoods as much as possible. Modern Cairo actually does sit on top of the original Memphis.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why?
RLW: The easiest character was Princess Runa, because she created herself. I was writing the scene on page 162, on board the Mixcomitl, and Prince Viracocha calls for hot cocoa. Runa pops out from behind the tapestry, and when I got to the description of her headpiece, “a white jade profile of a rabbit with bared fangs and a forked tongue,” she stood up and took over. I was surprised each time she appeared and her part in the story got more interesting as I went along. That was fun. I also enjoyed discovering the Kitchen Kingdom of Mama Kusay, which Runa showed me.
TQ: The hardest and why?
RLW: The hardest character to write was Viracocha’s psychotic older brother, Pachakuti. Villains are vital characters -- a story stands or falls on the strength of the dark side of the force. Shadows make things real. Villains have to believe in their own truth, in their own justification, and we have to know they mean it. Hal Clement rarely used a living villain because he felt the universe’s inevitable power of destruction is the true villain in life. My villain is the confrontation between the individual barbarian and civilization: the barbarian believes that violence works and new barbarians are born with every generation. Civilization solves problems.
TQ: Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?
RLW: The character who gets the opening and closing lines, High Priest of the Wheel of Darkness, Ihhuipapalotl, (which means “Feathery-winged Butterfly,”) was always a pleasure to encounter, and “ethically ambiguous” fits him. His devotion to the old Inca’s dream of sending a man to the Moon is the driving force of the story. It is his dream, too. There are few encounters with him, but each one turns the plot. He also has one of my favorite lines: “Let Egypt deal with the thunder -- I have to deal with the lightning!”
TQ: Give us one of your favorite lines from Three Princes.
RLW: Runa and Oken are discussing demons on page 203, and she asks what people in Egypt do about demons: “We hire them,” Oken said. “We train them, and put them to work.”