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Friday, July 29, 2005

GOOD INTENTIONS

"In creating, the only hard thing's to begin;
A grass-blade's no easier to make than an oak."
John Russell Lowell 1819-1891 "A Fable for Critus." 1848

This was one of those days when my good intentions were completely grounded. I know this happens to other folks, so I shouldn't feel 'guilty' about it, but still...there was so much work I wanted to do and it just didn't happen. I somehow managed to laze away the entire day!

Yesterday I did several hours of notes for the next chapter of my novel. It was on my mind all day, even at the beach where I went for a few hours in the afternoon, and last night when I went out to listen to music and meet my friends. I had whole lines and paragraphs 'written' in my head as I walked home last night. But alas! All good intentions....

I had a free day today as my Memoir "Writing in the Park" was postponed til tomorrow. So I decided to rise early and go to waterfit. A good way to start the day, with some exercise at the pool. After that I went up the Drive, stopped for a bit of lunch at my favorite Italian coffee shop, did some grocery shopping and lugged everything home in my pull-along back-pack, also carrying a couple of bags. It was heavy. And the day was very hot!

By the time I'd walked home, and up the hill to my place, I was drenched and totally exhausted. I tried to compensate by having a wee nap, but only woke with a fuzzy brain. No way could I put together a sentence to begin a day of writing as I'd planned. So, basically I did nothing much all day long. Eventually sat out on my balcony with a salad, glass of wine and read a little. (I'm reading "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham, an interesting change of
pace for me as I'm usually reading historical fiction. I'm so far behind in my pleasure reading, and have wanted to read this book for some time. I'd also like to read some Virginia Woolf and this will be sure to prompt me.) Tonight I did nothing except play on the computer, watch the news (more mind-numbing activities) and now it's bed time but I am still very tired.

So, tomorrow's another day for running around town, going to my Memoir group (We're writing in a garden tomorrow), and then off to the beach. I must enjoy this sunshine while it lasts as they are already predicting more rain.

Somewhere over the weekend I will get back to my writing. At least I have all the notes done for the next chapter and have a good idea to where to begin. In the meantime, I write trivia on my other blog ("Conversations with Myself" at http://ruthakik.blogspot.com ) Yes, trivia.
But it's all part of this writer's life.

"Never do today what you can
Put off till tomorrow."
William Brighty Rands (Matthew Browne) 1823-1882 "Lilliput Lives"

a play on a quote by Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield 1694-1773
"No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today."



Wednesday, July 27, 2005

WAYLAID

"Friends, I have lost a day." ("Amici, diem perdidi")
Titus Vesperianus AD 41-81 from "Suetonius, Titus" sec 8

There are two big time-wasters in my apartment. One culprit is the T.V., the other is the computer. Actually the T.V. is exempt from this particular situation because I rarely watch it except for the late night news and whatever follows after. Before I went away I had the channels cut down to the minumum and now my favorite programs aren't available to me so I don't often spend time glued to the tube. Besides, yesterday I screwed up the colour and sound and as I am technologically challenged -- and the TV is an oldie -- I had to waste time trying to figure out how to fix it. As well, I do waste a lot of time on the computer when I could be doing other things (like writing!). And today was another one of those days when the computer was not going to co-operate with me.

Last week I spent three days trying to figure out why the darn thing kept crashing and was operating slow as a turtle. The new Norton Virus Scan I'd installed before leaving for my holidays was not working, my FAX isn't set up right and I'd lost a whole lot of music I'd saved on my Real Player. I eventually did a free on-line scan and found out there were a lot of infected files and likely one of them is the culprit that is blocking Norton from operating properly. So today my friend MJ and her husband, who is a computer techie, came over to try and fix the problem. Thank god for friends like him, because he spent hours on my computer although he was unable to get to the source of the trouble and will have to come back again to work on it some more. Meanwhile of course I wasn't able to do any writing today.

Earlier in the morning, I went for lunch with my grad class ladies, our monthly get-together. Then I spent the afternoon having a very pleasant visit with MJ (she's the friend who lives part time in London who I visited when I was there) while B. worked on the errant machine. We walked up the Drive together to look at the shops, stopped for an iced coffee, walked home again. When we got back some time later, Mr. Techie was still trying to sort out the damn computer. He has endless patience with such things. He worked on it for almost 7 hours!

After they left I just frittered away the rest of the evening until I eventually decided I better look at my notes for the novel because I have to start a new chapter and had no idea where to begin. That done, I proceeded to do cross-words (another of my procrastination activities), watched the late news (always a downer) and here I am, it's after one a.m. and it's bedtime.
I've told myself that I will not be allowed to go to the beach tomorrow unless I get some writing done first. So that means getting up at a respectable time and gluing myself to the keyboard. Hopefully this delinquent machine will co-operate.

"What is pleasanter than the tie of host and guest?" Aeschylus 525-456 BC



Monday, July 25, 2005

IN THOSE OTHER WORLDS

"Only through art can we get outside of ourselves and know another's view of the universe which is not the same as ours and see landscapes which would otherwise have remained unknown to us like the landscape of the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists."
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) "The Maxims of Marcel Proust" (1948)

I was born with a gypsy soul. I've always been a wanderer. My mother used to tell of my hair-raising adventures while I was still a toddler. So it stands to reason that I am still a wanderer and that many of my wanderings have been time-travels, fantasy journeys, and that many more have been real journeys. If I were rich, I'd have covered the world by now. But I'm not, so I go where my heart leads me and my pocket-book allows. And many more times I go where my mind takes me, astral-travelling into those worlds that I have read and dreamed about. These are the worlds that I write about too, and some I've been lucky enough to actually visit.

I started writing historical fiction when I was twelve years old. I used to write about the pioneers that crossed this vast country of mine by wagon-train and lived in log cabins on the Prairies or mountains. Then, because my Dad was a minister, and I had been brought up on Bible stories, I developed a keen interest in those mysterious countries of the Middle East and the sunny Mediterranean. I still have a collection of novellas with these settings. The Romans interested me too. That is, until I discovered Alexander and the Greeks.

So most of my time now is spent in Greece whenever I can, physically visiting the places I write about, or when I can't -- mentally visiting. And, because I am also a travel journalist, I can combine both my historical fiction and non-fiction writing. (I became a travel journalist in order to get publishing credits and experience, cashing in on my early dream of being a reporter, and validating my penchant for travel.)

I'm usually fantacising about ancient Greece. But last week I ventured into another world. Just as I used to write about pioneers, I still find that subject of interest, and last summer I visited what was once the largest ranch in my Province, the O'Keefe Ranch. I decided to write a travel article about it but needed more research. So I spent several hours at the library delving into the world of pioneer ranchers. How fascinating! Cornelius O'Keefe was a young Irish immigrant who left his home in Ontario and came west, via New York, the Panama Canal and San Francisco hoping to find his fortune in the Caribou gold mines. The ranch dates back to 1867 when he and his two partners discovered good grazing pastrues for the cattle they were driving up from Oregon, and decided it would be more profitable to buy the land and raise cattle themselves. The ranch, located near the north end of Okanagan Lake, was at one time 20,000 acres. It has since been sold off and only 50 acres are left which are now a heritage site including the O'Keefe mansion which contains furnishings of the period, and many of the original ranch buildings, general store, barns etc.

Last week, my memoir group was treated to a tour of a heritage house downtown in the west end of my city. This lovely Queen Anne style house was designed and built in 1893 by the famous architect Francis Rattenbury (who also designed and built the Parliament Buildings in Victoria B.C. and was later murdered by his wife's lover. Quite a story!) The Roedde House was once occupied by a German pioneer immigrant family and is furnished with original items as well as others from that period that have been donated.

I just love roaming around heritage sites whether ancient or recent history. I'm particularly
fond of these magnificent old houses and once I had the privilege of living in one of them when I rented the upstairs of a Victorian house, one of the first houses built in Vancouver. The smell of the old wood, the layers of paint and wallpaper covering oak bannisters and panelling. What stories those old houses could tell!

So, for the last week I've been back in pioneer times. But today, once again, I retreated into Alexander's world and spent the whole afternoon roaming around the agora in Athens (in my mind, though I was recently there researching the site.)
Tomorrow I'm going to time-travel up north to Pella, the royal city of Macedon. And soon I'll be heading west into the mountains and dark forests of Epiros.

I love those other worlds, imagining I am there in those times. Having seen so many of the ancient sites, recording what it was like then, using what I know about the terrain and details of flora/fauna, the fragrance of herbs, the colour of the sea, it's easy to let my imagination wander so that I am actually 'there'. And hopefully that is what I will convey to my readers, so they they too can visualize those worlds just as I do.

"Although we are mere sojourners on the surface of the planet, chained to a mere point in space, enduring but for a moment of time, the human mind is not only enabled to remember worlds beyond the unassisted ken of mortal eyes, but to trace the events of indefinite ages before the creation of our race, and is not even withheld from penetrating into the dark secrets of the ocean, or the interior of the solid globe; free, like the spirit which the poet described as animating the universe." Sir Charles Lyell "Principles of Geology" Vol 1, ch12 (1830)




Sunday, July 24, 2005

SUMMER DREAMS

"Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know,
Are a substatial world, both pure and good:
Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and
blood,
Our pastime and our happiness will grow."
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) 'Personal Talk' sonnet 3 (1807)

Yesterday, the poets of my city united in a Summer Dreams Festival performing from 11 in the morning until 10 in the evening at a city square by the Art Gallery downtown.

The poets from the Pandora's Collective (of which I'm a board member) were the organizers of this gala of spoken word. What a wonderful way to spend a sunny day!

I spent about four hours down at the Square with a couple of my writer friends, listening to the poetic words, music (Original songs by various musical groups provided breaks between the sets of performers.) There were representatives from many different writer's groups, mostly poets but some prose writers too including the Story Slam performers and, of course, the Poetry Slam performers who never fail to amaze me with their ability to recite long rants with such fervor.

It was a good way to schmooze with other writers and booths were set up by many of the groups with hand-outs and information on writer's events that take place around the city.

I decided to enter a haiku contest put on by the public library. Haiki is a good poetic discipline and I encourage writers in my classes to try it, and to read haiku which is a good way to learn to pare down descriptive passages to the vital essence and imagry.

Although I don't consider myself a 'poet', there are times when I do write poetry (prose poetry) and in my prose writing I endeavour to be 'poetic'. In my work-in-progress Dragons in the Sky: A Celtic Tale I have used Bardic verses as some of the chapters. And I was thinking yesterday about a performance works I wrote several years ago: The Alexandrian Collection: Hymns for Gods and Heroes.

My poet friend James, who I used to chum with in Athens, challenged me to write a collection of poems about Alexander. I studied the form of the ancient hymns and odes and wrote a dozen or more verses that began with Samothraki, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, and the meeting of Alexander's father Philip and Olympias, a young Epirote Princess. The verses were for two voices and were performed accompanied by a flute. It was quite affective and although it was an poetry form that many of the audience weren't familiar with, it certainly make an impact. I was considering, yesterday, that perhaps I ought to revive that work and see if we can perform it again.

I hoped, yesterday, to find some inspiration and just being around so many other writers was an excellent way to pass the afternoon. There are more festivals of the Spoken Word
coming up and recently there was a big day of spectacular readings by well-known and emerging writers. We're lucky to have so many venues in our city that provide a stage for writers/poets to perform. Next month the Pandora's Collective is hosting a troupe of roving poets in the Van Dusen Botanical Garden to spontaneously write and perform. I'll certainly mark that one on my calendar!

"I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

"We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) "The Tempest" IV, i 148

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

GETTING IT RIGHT

"As things are, and as fundamentally they must always be, poetry is not a career, but a mug's game. No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written: he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing." Thomas Stearns Eliot 1888-1965

One of the main activities of a writer's life (and that includes poetry and prose) is editing and revisions. And that's what I've been mostly doing the last two weeks. I actually like editing and find the time passes quickly while I sit, red pen in hand (or, when editing on the computer, red print to mark the errors and suggested changes.) However, I actually prefer editing from hard copy so I always print out my writing for this purpose.

Belonging to a critique group such as my group Scribblers, is important and useful too, because it isn't always easy to see where changes need to be made, or things added. It's good for inspiration and finding out what's working and what isn't. Meanwhile, though, the writer must learn to self-edit, and that isn't always easy because your words are precious and sometimes a passage that is simply brilliant may not necessarily fit and needs to be removed. It's kind of like extracting a tooth without anaesthetic. It hurts to throw your precious words out.

Getting a little distance between yourself and your work is helpful. The parts of my novel that I've been editing recently were written quite a long time ago. It happened that when I first began to write Shadow of the Lion I was working on a word processor. Of course, I saved everything onto floppies, however when I got a PC, those floppies weren't compatable with it. So it meant having to retype everything into my Word program on the computer. I've got most of it done now, and as I've gone along, I took that opportunity to revise and edit. At least, to mark with red in the margins any passages that definitely needed work, and those that can probably be deleted in the final draft without spoiling the flow of the story. It was easy for me to see where the plot dragged due to over-describing, and getting off on tangents. There are places that are extremely interesting and took me weeks to research, but now I can see that they are not necessary at all and don't forward the plot. These will have to either be pared down or deleted.

I was at a panel discussion with some published writers the other weekend, and one of the authors, Jack Whyte, who writes Arthurian and Roman/Britain era books, told how his editor asked to him to remove about 200 pages of his first manuscript because it didn't seem to 'fit' with the main story. He had at one point taken it out, but then put it back in as he was fond of the passage and the character in it. That section, when removed as the editor suggested, became the source of a sequel novel. I believe he's since written about five in that series. So you don't just throw out the baby with the bath-water. You save what you delete until you are absolutely sure you don't need to re-include it, or that you can use it in another story. I never throw out anything until I'm really sure I need to or not unless of course, the writing isn't up to par.

With Shadow, once I made my decision to write it in multiple point-of-view I allowed myself to go as deeply into my character's heads as they wanted me to, to let them go off on tangents just to see where they were going to lead me. In most cases it worked and there were many surprises. It was a good way to really get to 'know' the characters. Sometimes, though, they got carried away and took me with them. In looking over the manuscript now, as I edit and retype, I can see a number of places where I can cut and I'm not going to lose the essence of that character by doing so. Because by now, I know him/her so very well and have been able to convey them clearly to the reader.

My manuscript grew out of an idea to write a young adult novel about Alexander the Great's little known son and heir, and grew into a saga about how greed and blind ambition bring down a World Power. It's taken me years long than anticipated, and is far too lengthy. I worried about this at first, and a friend who is doing a reader's critique (my Persian Princess friend Dinaz) as well as people in my writer's group have often said "We don't want you to cut." But I know I have to, and the exercise of retyping it has given me such a clear insight into what I can safely eliminate and what sections still need some revisions and rewrites. When it comes time for the final draft, I won't have much work to do, and it shouldn't be a problem cutting several hundred pages out of the manuscript. This is par for the course for every writer. You have to accept that editing and revisions will take up a major part of your time. So relax, and enjoy it. The outcome will be a much more polished piece of writing and (hopefully) a successful publication.

"Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reasons that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in one line, but that every word counts." William Strunk Jr. "The Elements of Style"

"Every vital development in language is a development of feeling as well."
T. S. Eliot

Thursday, July 14, 2005

WRITING IN THE PARK

"By viewing Nature, Nature's handmaid Art,
Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow."
John Dryden 1631- 1700 "Annus Mirabilis st. 55 (1667)

For the month of July, my memoir group is doing four weeks of "Writing in the Park". Each week we'll go to a different location in the West End and (weather permitting) do our writing outside. These outings also include a pot-luck picnic lunch or snack. Today was finally bright and sunny so we met down in the Park near the beach. Unfortunately, the sunshine was deceiving because it was actully freezing cold which spoiled things a little. Still, the writers read last week's assignments ('A summer memory') and we did a timed writing based on the thoughts and ideas conjured by sitting quietly and listening to the sounds of nature around us.
(A flock of noisey crows who had their eyes on our sandwiches provided the subject for at least one of the writings.)

I suggest to students in my writing classes that they should always carry a notebook because you never know when the Muse is going to speak to you. Some of my best ideas and inspirations have come to me when I'm hiking along a country road, walking the sea wall or on a forest path. When I'm out in Nature it's easier to focus and clear the mind. So whenever I'm trying to work out a new part of my novel or figure out how to fix something that's not working, I take a walk. A great many scenes in my novel have been written while I was 'on the road' or sitting by the sea.

After the memoirs group was finished today I went for a swim in the pool. The water was pleasantly warm, though the air was very cool. I had taken along the most recent writing from my novel to re-read and edit and was pleased to find it needed little work. Now I am almost ready to start the new parts. And I'm hoping for a run of warm sunny beach weather so I can get out in Nature and invite the Muse along.

"Nature is full of genius, full of divinity; so
that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand." Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A MEMORIAL FOR A POET

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
Abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was withut a face
and it touched me.
Pablo Neruda from "Poetry"
A year or so ago, a Chilean friend introduced me to the poetry of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. He also encouraged me to watch the movie Il Postino (the Postman).
I fell in love with Neruda's beautiful words. And tonight, I attended a World Poetry Assoc. evening in honour of Neruda's 101'st birthday.

Neruda was born July 12, 1904 in Parral Chile. He was both a poet and diplomat. Betrween 1970 and 73 he served in Salvador Allende's government as ambassador to Paris. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. He died in 1973, soon after the coup that ended Allende's government .

Tonight's tribute had included a contest to submit poems in his honour from poets world-wide. There were hundreds of entries. At the performance tonight, which was conducted in both Spanish and English, Neruda's beautiful words were performed including a translation into Indonesian by a local poet and a dramatic recitation of his poems in Spanish and English by the Consul of El Salvador. There were songs in his honour too, performed by Chilean musicians. At the beginning, a lit candle was set out to represent the poet's spirit, and on the table was a large plant that someone had brought from Chile that had originated in Pablo Neruda's garden.

It was a rich evening, and I left with the poet's words resonating in my mind. I must read more of his work. And you can read some of it if you google his name.

Thanks, A. for introducing me to this wonderful poet. They had conjured his spirit tonight, and I'm sure Neruda was there, maybe with a glass of wine in his hand, smiling.

Here's one of my favorites:
"Clenched Soul"
We had lost even this twilight,
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
While the blue night dropped on the world.
Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.
I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.
Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
When I am sad and feel you are far away?
The book feel that was always closed at twilight
and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.
Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

AN AFTERNOON WITH THE SCRIBES

"Think of your reader as a person standing in the middle of a black, dark, windowless room. The reader has willingly suspended his own or her own normal sense of disbelief, and has responded to your invitation; and your invitation as a writer is, you say to that person: 'I'm going to take you into another universe, it is a universe that I have created and I want you to come with me'." Jack Whyte, author

Today (Sunday) was an excellent day of inspiration with some of my Scribbler's writing group friends and a very receptive audience at a special screening of "Scribes" a movie filmed last year at the Surrey Writer's Festival here on the West Coast. Afterwards there was a panel discussion with authors Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, and Terry Brooks.

Jack Whyte is a B.C. writer, born in Scotland, who writes historical fiction based on the 460 year Roman military occupation of Britain and the Arthurian legend.
Diana Gabaldon, from U.S., is the best selling author of the Outlander Saga. And Terry Brooks
who is from the Pacific Northwest, once a practicing attorney, is the author of The Sword of Shannara and 16 other best sellers.

From the snippets of workshops held at the conference, and the panel discussion after the film had aired, there was enough inspiration and reinforcement to get me well on my way again. Just what I needed. We all found it a completely stimulating and inspirational day.

The discussions and workshop cuts included all topics pertinent to a writer: from outlines, plot development, characters, setting, editing right down to publishing with a special interview with New York agent/author Donald Maass.

The Surrey Writer's Conference is one of the finest gathering for scribes and wanna-bes that there is. Whyte and Gabaldon are regulars there as well as an array of other published writers, editors and agents. This year's conference is Oct 21 - 23. I've missed the last two because of financial problems (it's a little expensive, but worth it!) but I am determined this year to attend.
I see that this year Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear) is on the roster. Should be another good one! (see www.siwc.ca for further info).

"A story sells itself. All you really have to do is tell a story in a pitch, or at least the beginnings of a story -- you know, the setting, the protagonist, the problem and a little detail that makes it a bit different from any other story like it." Donald Maass, agent and author.

Friday, July 08, 2005

WHERE, OH WHERE IS THE MUSE?

"Inspiration descends only in flashes, to clothe circumstances, it is not stored up in a barrel, like salt herrings, to be doled out." Patrick White 1912-1990 "Voss" (1957) ch.2

I've been slogging along all week retyping and editing old parts of my manuscript, waiting for inspiration to strike like one of Zeus's lightening bolts out of the blue. This exercise, designed to get me back into the groove, has partially served to discourage me when I see how much of what I had previously written is, although interesting information, not condusive to forwarding the plot and generally weakens the narrative. A great deal of it will have to go. And I'm having to be tough with myself, marking with red on the pages and editing as I go. I'm not taking time to rewrite longer passeges at the moment, just doing some line editing and scribbling editing notes in margins. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for a surge of inspiration so I can get on with the new parts and finish the book.

The other night a friend came over and we spent most of the evening discussing various subjects such as my time in Greece and also my writing. He's a historian so he finds the subjects of great interest and this is good for me, because he enjoyed having me talk about how I'm constructing the story, what research I've done etc. Most of my other friends (aside from my writer's group where I workshop my writing) are kind of in the dark or bored with my discourses about Alexander's world. My friend G. understood when I told him how I felt a part of that world, and that I 'knew' the characters involved in it. And it was good for me to talk about it. This is something I miss, because when I was spending time in Athens, when my friend Roberto was still alive, we would talk and talk about the novel and the characters and through talking it out I'd get loads of new ideas and insights. There are no longer the group of classical scholars and historians hanging out (usually at Roberto's table) at the To Kati Allo in Athens as there used to be. And the only one who I spoke to in length to me about the novel was my friend Dinaz who is my reader critic. (She has a copy of most of the MSS there and will do a complete reader's critique on it when it's totally finished. She knows the history -- she's Persian.) I get a similar feed-back from my friend the Babylonian as these two people know that to me they are very like characters in my story. Every time I see the Babylonian he asks how I'm progressing with the book. This is good, as I need to talk about it from time to time. So the discussion I had with G. on Wednesday night was very meaningful to me.

Yesterday I went downtown to see if my memoirs "Writing in the Park" group was going to go ahead. Only two had registered, so I was certain it would be cancelled. Lo and behold, six ladies showed up so it's on for the month of July. This is an inspiration to me as far as memoir writing and sharing writer's knowledge with these wonderful women. Afterwards I went to the Park and had a nice long swim. I took along recent chapters of my novel and reread them. Very little editing was needed and it made me feel more encouraged. I'm hoping that by next week I'll be on a roll again. You will co-operate with me, won't you Muse?

It's been a quiet week for me, getting back down-to-earth after my trip, revisiting Alexander's world, cleansing my body and mind so that I can focus entirely on my writing. I'm in the fourth day of a six-day total detox and cleansing fast. So far so good. By next week, with a clean body and mind, I should be ready to roll!

"My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love and the most absolute freedom imaginable, freedom from violence and lies, no matter what form the latter two take. Such is the program I would adhere to if I were a major artist."
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov 1860-1904
(Letter to A.S. Suvorin, Oct 17, 1888)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

TENDING THE GARDEN

"...words are the daughters of earth,
and things are the sons of heaven." Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784 "Dictionary"

I have a little balcony garden, but while I was away it wasn't tended properly, so I've been weeding, snipping off dead blossoms and leaves, and replanting a few of the bedding plants that failed to thrive during the very cool, wet month of June just past. We must cultivate our gardens if we want them to thrive. Just so, as a writer, I must cultivate my 'garden of words'.
So this week I've been revising and editing some of the old chapters of my novel, weeding, snipping, and replanting.

"Now' tis spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now and they'll o'er grow the garden." Shakespeare, King Henry VI pt ii

In rereading my old writing I understand just why this novel has grown into such a long saga: there are just too many words! Like weeds, they have overgrown my lovely garden. So I must cut and trim and give some nourishment. There are many excellent passages, but there are also many places where the action drags because of the excess wordage and information. A reason for this is my particular attention to details, and the excessive research I've done making sure things are correct. I realize now that much of the information is not necessary and that many of the sentences can be fine-tuned and reconstructed. In the end, it will make a much better story, faster paced and yet still rich-bodied with all the elements I wish it to have.

It's slow work, retyping these old chapters, but it's a good exercise for me and not wasted time, because I am editing and revising (or marking the places where this is necessary) as I go along.
In the end, it's going to save me a lot of time when I'm ready to write the final draft.

Whenever I've been away from my novel for awhile, such as the five weeks I've just spent in Greece, I always begin work on it again by going back to retyping the old chapters. This gets me back into the cadence of the prose and the spirit of the story. By the weekend, I should be ready to progress with the new writing and I look forward to that.

"Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south;
blow upon my garden, that the spices therof may flow out.
Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits."
Song of Solomon 4:16

Monday, July 04, 2005

RETURNING

"A wise man travels light on the road trip of life.
Wisdom is his map, wonder, his fuel,
and a good story, his favorite souvenir." Hallmark

I've landed with more than a few good stories to tell. Both feet on the ground again. Over the jet-lag. Not quite over the culture-shock. But generally, I'm back in the groove after indulging myself for the first few days after my arrival home. It happened that the International Jazz Festival was on so I made it a week of music. The highlight was seeing Cuban trumpet player Arturo Sandoval perform. Not only is he a trumpet virtuoso, but an accomplished pianist , plays timbali and keyboard too and his scat singing is simple wild! There were lots of other good groups performing too, including my favorite local Latino band, in concert with fourteen instead of the ususal three or four musicians who play every weekend at the L.Q. where I like going to meet friends and dance salsa.

By yesterday I was ready for some physical exercise, a need to clean out my head and get my thoughts focused on the work ahead: my novel! At last the sun was shining, so I headed for the beach. Had a little picnic at the place where once we used to have Sunday bbqs. Then a long, delicious swim in the pool. I sat at pool side all afternoon, even though it was sun/cloud/sun/cloud. The air was warm enough. I was relaxed. I did a lot of thinking, sorting things out, clearing out the negative thoughts that had crept in over the week. I wanted this new week to be fresh and clean!

When I got home and was preparing dinner, a friend dropped in to surprise me. We had dinner together and spent the evening talking about my time in Greece, listening to music (mostly my Greek music). It was nice. A good way to end the day.

So this morning I got up fresh and with new resolve. I simply must focus on getting the novel finished as soon as possible. How to begin again after such a long absence? Well, the best tactic for me is to go back over previous chapters, do some editing, get into the cadence of the prose. It happens that the first part of the novel was not written on a computer, so I still have a little bit to type into my Word program. This is where I started.

Funny how when you go back to things you've written a long time in the past, you see quickly what needs changing or, in this case, what can be cut. (As I have to cut a lot of the novel, this isn't a problem for me. I just just mark in red the parts I think can be eliminated, and edit the rest.) I only worked for an hour or so before I had to go on a grocery run up the Drive. But it was a start. And tomorrow I'll do more. Before the end of the week I should be in the groove enough to get on with the new parts.

Tonight was my writer's critique group, here at my house. There was a mistake about me reading tonight. (I was in such a coma when I dropped by there straight from the airport last Monday I guess I was misunderstood.) Anyway, I read one of the two Morocco stories which have recently been published on the internet.
"Rambling Around Morocco" www.justsaygo.com
and "Marrakech: The Red-Rose city." www.magiccarpetjournals.com

Now, besides my novel, I must send out more travel stories...and write a few more. So much work to do...so I really have to concentrate and make the time!

"Not the poem, which we have read, but that to which we return, with the greatest pleasure, possesses the genuine power, and claims the name of essential poetry."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772-1834 "Biographea Literaria" 1871. ch1