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Sunday, January 28, 2007

O CONSPIRACY!

"O conspiracy!
Sham'st thou to show they dangerous brow by night,
When evils are most free?"
William Shakespeare 1564-1616 Julius Caesar Act II, scene 6, l 77

"The venom clamors of a jealous woman
Poison more deadly than a mad dog's tooth."
Shakespeare The Comedy of Errors 1592-1594 Act V, scene 1, l 74

While I've been writing about the local crime scene on my other blog
(The Pig Farm Murders) http://ruthakik.blogspot.com
I've also been watching my characters in Shadow of the Lion plot a few of their own.
I've always loved the tragedies, from Shakespeares' Richard III (the first Shakespeare play I saw on stage) to the Greek tragedies which I've read and watched on stages here as well as performed in the ancient theatres of Greece. Perhaps that I why I was also attracted to crime stories (real life stories rather than just murder mystery novels), because there is such a great sense of tragedy. What happened on the pig farm is not only tragic, but horrific beyond comprehension. It not only affected the helpless victims, but tore the hearts of their families, friends, and every one who has read or heard the story.

My play, The Street, was a modern tragedy of drug addiction and yes, death too. My w.i.p play House of the Muses is also a tragedy based on the life of the poet Sappho. My novel, Shadow of the Lion, is very much a Homeric tale, a Greek tragedy. Like Shakespeare's tragedies, the stage is strewn with bodies before the closing curtain. That's the way it was. Conspiracy was rife, and in Alexander the Great's world, blind ambition, greed and murder brought his dynasty to an end.

As I'm not a suspense or murder/mystery writer I have to work hard to untangle the intricate sub-plots and intertwine them with the compicated politics of the time. Slowly, I'm building to the crescendo which will eventually bring us to the conclusion of this epic saga. There have been conspiracies and murders all the way through, beginning with Alexander's suspicious death on page one. Now we are reaching the point in the story where all hell is about to break loose.
Here's a little sample of what's to come...

Recap of the story so far:
Adeia-Eurydike, the 18 year old wife of the titular king, Philip Arridaios, (Alexander's mentally incompetant brother), has sworn to avenge the wrongful killings of her parents and wants to claim the throne of Macedon for herself and rule on her idiot husband's behalf. She has invited a group of her faction to a secret meeting place and plots to oust Polyperchon, Regent of Macedon, and futher her plans to be the sole ruler of the country by eliminating the 6 year old son of Alexander (his only heir) who shares the throne with her husband.
This is a scene from Part V, Chapter Forty-Four

They gathered in the dim-lit hut around a table of thick rough-hewn oak. She stood before them, her stance bold, brazen and addressed them in a clear, strong voice.
“Men of Macedon, Friends, I have called you together to share some dire news.”
With her usual sense of drama, she related the information she had received from her agents in Asia Minor and Greece, emphasizing the importance of swift action.

“The time is nigh when I will govern in my own name, as I have sworn on the graves of my mother Kynna, and my father Amyntas, who was the rightful heir to the throne of Macedon. The time is right for us to act now in the name of the King, my husband, to overthrow the Regency. Polyperchon is morally corrupt and ineffectual as a
leader. He must be ousted from power before Macedon is destroyed.”

She stared at them fiercely and waited for their response. They sat forward in their chairs, looking at one another. For awhile there was no sound except for the fluttering of the tiny moths that swarmed around the table lamps, and the hiss as they flew into the flames.
At last, one man spoke up. “How long since you have heard from Kassandros?”
She turned to a shelf and picked up a roll of papyrus. “This letter came some weeks ago. He’s preparing his fleet to sail on Attika.” She wondered how much she dared divulge to them. In truth, the dispatch had been sent by one of her agents, not Kassandros himself.
“Perhaps we should confer with Kassandros first?” another suggested warily.

She responded in a firm, indignant voice. “No. I am speaking on behalf of my husband, the King. You have my royal word that what I am putting forth has the vice-Regent’s approval. We swore an oath on it long before Kassandros departed from Pella.”
She had, in fact, not heard from Kassandros in some time, though she had carefully pondered her bargain with him, and was certain he would approve of her actions.
“And Nikanor? Why is he absent?”questioned one of the Lynkestian tribal lords.

She had purposely not invited Kassandros’ brother because she resented his efforts to advise her. “He is away inspecting the garrisons at Amphipolis and the eastern borders. I’m certain he would approve of us advancing his brother’s cause.“ Her hand gripped the scroll defensively and she rapped it against her palm. “Are you with me? Will you agree to support me?”

Their weather-worn faces considered her shrewdly. As she spoke, she strode about, restless as a young lion, the fire-light flickering in a golden aura around her. As long as she should live, nothing greater could ever happen to her than to take the throne of Macedon for herself. Dressed in her leather cuirass with its burnished lion-head buttons, proud and implacable as a valiant warrior-queen, she faced them with her challenge.
“Even Ptolemy has pledge his support to Kassandros’ cause. The time is nigh.
Polyperchon is preparing to leave Pella with his troops. This is our chance to act.”

She saw how they looked upon her with admiration. The older men who had
known Alexander in his youth would remark later how they had seen the same spark of zealousness radiate from her, and how, uncannily with her mane of copper-coloured hair
and intense grey eyes, she appeared to them almost as an apparition of their dead hero.

Fuelled by her ambitions, she raised her voice as if she were a general addressing the troops. “During Polyperchon’s short term as Regent he has caused dissention among the clans of Macedon and disaster on the country. Now he is leading us to the brink of civil war.”

The council considered the grave dangers to the country that she outlined.
Their voices buzzed in conference. Finally, they thumped the table with their fists and raised their wine-cups. “You have our word, Madam. When it is time, we will rally the troops and fight for you.”

In one accord they saluted her. “Long Live Queen Eurydike!”. All pledged their loyalty to her, convinced that she promised them the same glory that they had known with Alexander.
She sat back in her tall chair and took a deep breath of relief. She’d had no doubt they would be easy to persuade.

“Between ourselves, we must plan carefully. As soon as Polyperchon leaves Pella we will act. Tomorrow you must each go to your own clan, find those who will support us in this cause.”

As the men filed out of the lodge, she called aside the young cadet, Drakon. Since their first meeting with Kassandros at the Antipides hunting lodge, after Antipater’s death, she had kept her eye on him, had her spies find out everything about him.
“You are a King’s guard, grandson of the Soghdian brat’s nursemaid?”
“Yes, my Lady Queen, until they were moved to Aigai. Now I serve King Philip Arridaios.”
“There is no need for your service in Pella now, then. My husband will soon leave for Greece with Polyperchon‘s war party,” she said. “I have a more important task for
you.” She glanced quickly round to be sure the others had left the room, then handed him a scroll sealed with the royal signet. “Here are your new orders. Say Polyperchon sent you.”

His cold, dark eyes fixed on hers. He hesitated, caught off guard perhaps, but who could resist her persuasive charm, her zealousness? She pressed a small packet into his hand. “Speak not of this to any of the others. This is your special mission as ordained by your Queen. Fulfill it and you will be richly rewarded.”

He swallowed and gazed at her in silence a moment. Her offer of money and honour were irresistible to an ambitious youth such as he, one who had lost his father in the wars and his kinsman by treachery. She knew he sought revenge for these wrongs. His eyes narrowed. Behind his neatly trimmed beard his thin mouth twisted in a wry smile.

“What are the contents of this packet, my Lady?”
She gave him a guileless smile. “Every child loves sweet cakes. These have been especially prepared so don’t be tempted to sample them yourself.”

He balked at first, but she quickly reassured him. “I dispatch this knowing that their discovery may purchase not only your death but mine too. But you must do this...for your uncle Kleitos who Alexander murdered. This will be your revenge...and mine.”

His mouth pressed tight. He hesitated and she saw that his hand which held the packet was shaking.
“You will be held in honour and a generous reward is offered. The boy is undoubtedly a bastard. All who knew Alexander, can testify that the Soghdian’s child bears no resemblance to him. If Alexander had lived to see him born he would have never acknowledged the brat as his rightful offspring. Where is the proof? Who can say for certain that the bastard is even one half Macedonian? He looks Persian through and through. Could he not just as easily be the illegitimate spawn of the Soghdian’s Royal Cousin, that Persian dandy who claims to be the royal Court Advisor? I am Macedonian, with true royal blood. My own father was wrongfully accused and robbed of his right to inherit the throne. Therefore it is my right to rule.”

She saw that his brooding eyes were bloodshot from the wine. She wondered if she had made a mistake recruiting him for such an important intrigue, asking him to risk death.
He stared past her into the dying embers on the hearth. Finally he looked back, raised his right hand and said, “I swear by Herakles that I will serve you and my Lord Kassandros with honour.”
“Whatever happens, remember you must not reveal to anyone the contents of this packet. Nor must anyone know it is I who sent you. Swear on the sacred stream of Acheron you’ll keep this secret.”
“My Lady, I swear!”
“Take the back roads to Aigai. Don’t draw notice to yourself. Polyperchon is too preoccupied now to care whether one single guard is missing from his duty. When you deliver your new orders to the garrison commander there, tell him anything you wish.”

After he left, she stood by the fire-blackened hearth and pondered the bargain she had made with Kassandros. He had not sent word to her for months. It was time to act on her own.
* * *

"And thus I clothe my naked villany
With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil."
Shakespeare Richard the Third 1592-1593 Act 1, scene iii l 336

"Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes."
Shakespeare Hamlet Act I, Scene ii, l 56

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

WHO IS YOUR ALTER EGO?

ALTER EGO = a second self, as (a) a trusted friend (b) the opposite side of a personality.
A Counterpart.

"Life is the garment we continually alter, but which never seems to fit."
David McCord 1897 - "Wheras to Mr. Franklin." 1956

When I went to work for the newspaper, fresh out of highschool, besides longing to write like Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation writers, I had aspirations of becoming a crime reporter. In my apprenticeship as a copy runner (they'd call it 'intern' nowdays), I envied the guy copy runners who got sent off to sit in on court cases while I got sent off to cut my journalistic teeth on socialite tea-parties and library board meetings. I envisioned myself as eventually becoming an investigative journalist covering sensational events and trials. Unfortunately, the City Editor wasn't inclined to encourage an 18 year old preacher's daughter to be trained for a job on the news desk taking police calls. Instead, I was directed to the news library where I was put in charge of the biography and crime files.

At the time, there were a couple of mafia-type gangs operating in the city vying for control of the drug trade. I was entrusted with the 'secret' files where the names of individuals were kept, sorting out who worked for who according to the police reports which I collected daily from the police dept.I got to know and recognized the names of popular criminals, drug users, bookies, crooks whose names happened to come up on the lists or in the news. (For years afterwards when I saw a certain name in the paper I could remember the list of their former convictions from the files I'd kept in the library.)

At a popular downtown cafe where I used to hang out after ballet lessons, or on the weekends before my friends and I would head off for the local dance hall, I used to rub shoulders with some of these notorious characters who also hung out on Granville Street, because that's where the gambling clubs and after-hours booze-cans were located. Once I remember that, after a particularly well publicized attempted murder of a drug lord, one of these guys was flashing a wad of bills and bragging out loud (overheard by me.) I quickly reported what I'd observed and heard to reporters in the news room and soon found myself down at the cop-shop browsing through mug shots, putting the finger on the blabber mouth.It struck me then, that this was a dangerous business. So in the end I gave up my aspirations to be a crack crime reporter, and turned my interest back to historical fiction. (Although my play, "The Street", produced in 2000, was a semi-autobiographical story about the heroin addiction of teen-agers in the 50's. Another scene I was familiar with because of my boyfriend's addiction. I wrote the play as a cautionary tale for my peers, when I was 18. But it was highly censored. So when I had the chance to rewrite it and have it produced, I was able to tell it the way it was without anyone questioning how an 'innocent' like me could possibly know such things!)

I have never been a reader of murder mysteries, although when I was in my teens I was a devotee of Mickey Spillane and I did read a few well known crime stories. I have to admit I haven't read Agatha Christie. I was impressed with "Silence of the Lambs" because of the author's knowledge and extensive research about serial killers. I prefer real life crime stories. Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" was chillingly real to me as at the time I was filing all the news reports on the case. Just as it was my job to keep files for any notorious crime that happened here or elsewhere.

At the present time our city has been brought to world attention, not for it's spectacular scenery and other amenities, but because of a gruesome murder case that has just come to trial after five years of extensive police investigation. That is, the trial of pig famer Robert "Willie" Pickton, who is charged with murder in the disappearance of at least 26 women from the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. By 2001 there were 45 women officially listed a missing. This later grew to 60 although since then a couple have surfaced, alive and well. These were mainly women who were caught up in the sex trade because of their drug addictions. They were all women who left behind families and friends who had searched without success to find them.

The investigation into their disappearance was hampered by police in-fighting, inexperience, under-resources and many mistakes. It wasn't until Feb. 2000 that the police raided Pickton's farm and laid the first of 26 charges of murder against him. From then on the findings were leaked or publicized were horrific, unbelievable. Rumous abounded from the onset when the police investigation turned to the pork rendering plant and there were rumours of 'snuff' parties behind held at the farm, in a place known as "Piggy's Palace". This guy, who calls himself "The Pig Man" brags about how in one day he killed 35 pigs and how good he was at the job. To an undercover cop, he bragged that he wanted to round out the number of women to 50 but 'screwed up' after the 49th. Of course, he's pleading "not guilty" to the six charges he is now being tried on (a trial which may last for a year before he he brought to trial for the next 20).

My alter-ego, the criminal investigator/journalist, has re-emerged. I started posting a few blurbs about this case when it first broke in the news in 2002, on my other on-line journal at and since the trial started this week I've posted a few other tid-bits. Over 350 representatives of the world press have descended on Vancouver to cover this sensational trial. It is likely to be the most notorious murder trial ever in Canada, to date it's the biggest. But I don't want to write about it here on my writer's blog so I am thinking of putting some of my comments and news on my other "Conversations with Myself". http://ruthakik.blogspot.com Or you can go on-line to www.cbc.ca or www.vancouversun.com

We have to remember these women. As one of the grieving fathers said: "These are our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, all human beings - all great people."

"I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within." Eudora Welty 1909- From "Finding a Voice."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

THE ENDLESS BUSINESS OF MARKETING

""Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print;
A book's a book, although there's nothing in't"
George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron 1788 - 1824
"English Bards and Scotch Reviewers" 1809 l 51

Hmmph! I wonder how much time the likes of George, Lord Byron, had to spend on marketing his work? I watched a TV docu on the Brontes the other night and was surprised to find that their early manuscripts were self-published in that they paid to have them put in print. This, I know, is a common practice these days, and even more common is going through the desk-top publishers. With the increasing difficulty in selling manuscripts (whether books or freelance writing) it's no wonder! I've just spend literally hours of my precious writing time over the last five days doing nothing but market research, for my travel articles, with some very discouraging results. The following is a post I have already put up on another on-line journal I keep, but I thought it was worth repeating here, and will add to it up-to-date comments on the subject.


"TROLLING FOR MARKETS"
One of the jobs of being a free-lance writer is finding markets where to send your work. I have spent seven hours in the last two days just browsing the internet and writing down potential on-line sites to send articles to. The unfortunate thing I found out is that almost all of them pay nothing. Zip. Nada. For what usually amounts to anywhere from 5 - 10 hrs (or even days!) of work by the writer getting said articles in good enough shape to be published. Man! It's downright discouraging. It's just as bad with the print publications these days and very difficult, in fact, to get published in newspapers as they all tend to be under the same publishing umbrellas, use wire service stories, and their own staff writers. I'm feeling rather at my wits end right now but I will try sending stuff to the few paying sites that I found and might send previously published stuff to some of the others who won't pay, just for the sake of exposure. As I tell people who come into my travel writing classes "Don't quit your day job!" Freelance writing simple doesn't pay enough to make a living off of it. The few perks are FAM trips (familiarization trips offered by tour companies) or winning trips like I did to Malaysia and NYC. Those were what I consider to be pay back for all the stories I've given away or got peanuts for. Now I've got a few stories (new) ready to send out but where to is the question? Because I don't feel like giving them away. So, I'll have to spend another few days and many hours marketing now and then just see what happens. With my busy time coming up (out every night of the week except the weekends to teach classes) I have to keep plugging along during the day getting my writing done. So far so good. I'm afraid to slow down because just the slightest distraction is enough to put me off course and I can't afford to do that just now.

IN CONCLUSION:
The thing is, you can't give up. In order to keep my membership in the travel writer's association I have to have at least three PAID publications in 24 months. That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you look at the odds, it is. This is what prompted me to take time off the novel to do some serious marketing. Now I have an idea of what's new out there and who might pay (hardly any that I've found so far), I have to take more time off the novel to actually send things out. I have also realized I must buy a new printer/scanner and a flat-screen monitor. All these hours of sitting at the computer in an awkward pose (because my new work space is cramped) is causing me a lot of pain in the neck and shoulders. Also, my old HP printer is not working, I've been using a borrowed printer, but I definitely need a scanner in order to jpeg photos that can accompany my travel articles. In reality I need to buy a digital camera (and it has to be high resolution to suit publishers) and that I will do before I leave on my next trip. At least all these expensive items can be deducated from my self-employment writer's income!

There's been an ongoing discussion among members of the travel writer's Assoc. regarding sharing info for markets. Most say no, they wouldn't consider it as it's all part of the work of being a writer. I agree in many respects although it would perhaps be less time-consuming to have a market list to refer to. I'm also not good at schmoozing travel industry people to troll for free (FAM) trips. I've tried, with no success. Partly because you need a publisher who will readily accept the story you are going to submit and that's hard to come by. Not many of them want to give out letters of assignment.

A long time ago I started to research agents/publishers for my novel. I found a lot of agents weren't accepting new-comers and a lot of publishers wanted you to pay costs. (My novel was 'accepted' by a Greek publisher some years ago who wanted me to pay half the publishing costs which would have amounted to $23,000 US dollars! Yipes! No way...and anyway, in my books it's they pay you, not vice versa! (In the case of Shadow, I graciously declined. Anyway I was not nearly finished the book and didn't want to put a time-limit on myself). I have ideas in mind, when I am working on my final draft, and then I'll start looking into it again.

Well, that's the situation for free-lance writers, anyway. Back to the drawing-board and hope for the best. I'll be spending the next few days sending some things out, then I have to finish the travel articles I just started, and then....I hope...I'll be able to get back to work on my novel again!

"A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor."
Ring Larder 1885-1953 "How to Write Short Stories" 1924

Writer's note: Yes, and so is the 'delete' button when you attempt to market on-line! Though it saves a lot of money, I am questioning whether or not it's the best way.

Monday, January 15, 2007

THE RETURN OF THE MUSE

"Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write."
Anthony Trollope 1815-1882 "An Autobiograph" ch 1. 1883

The Muse is back! You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish when you quit procrastinating and get down to business!

I resolved at the beginning of the New Year to focus more on my writing, in particular my novel (have to finish it!), and other aspects of my well-being such as exercise and diet.
I got off to a good start making sure I am doing some kind of exercise each day whether it be a walk, waterfit or the gym. And also to try and do daily stretching exercises. So far, so good.
I also sat down and worked out my menu plans so that I wouldn't be going off track with my diet. Last week when I finally went back to W.W. after two month which included travelling and Christmas festivities, I'd actually only gained back a pound.

For one thing, I've decided to stay home more and the extreme weather conditions we've had so far this month have certainly helped me do that. We've had relentless rains, vicious wind storms, and now it's snowy and cold (but at least the sun is shining!). So I've really been enjoying my cozy apartment and especially the fireplace. I've stayed out of my favorite haunts (except the coffee shop where I still go once in awhile) and finally Saturday one of my pals from the L.Q. called to see if I was okay. People have missed me and were asking about my whereabouts.

"I'm okay," I said. "Just staying home writing and relaxing and trying to stay on track."
And actually it's because I'm broke after the holidays and by staying home I'm also saving money.

Writing? Yes I am doing lots of that! I have so far this month finished another chapter of my novel and since Friday I've written two new travel articles (the Malaysian stories), have a partial first-draft of the NYC story and started the lead for the Chile story. I'm on a roll! And the Muse is definitely co-operating. I also got a kick in the butt when I realized that unless I publish three paid travel articles within 24 months I lose my membership to the BCTWA and would have to step down as secretary, a new position for me which I was pleased about. So I needed to finish up several of the travel story ideas that have been ignored these past months. Not to speak of the new ideas I have from my most recent trips. (I finally had my "Art in a Tropical Garden" (short version) published in this month's Transitions Abroad magazine (page 11). The long version with photos is up on the Malaysian tourism website. www.malaysiatourism.ca. Of course I didn't get paid for that and TA only gave me a pittance plus magazine copies (what am I supposed to do with those, sell them?) Ah...the life of a free-lance journalist. (My advice: "Don't quit your day job!" And that's why I took up teaching writing classes including travel writing, but that doesn't count for my membership in the association apparantly.)

The best part is that I'm once again enjoying those marvelous rushes of spontaneous thoughts we writers value so much. Whle riding on the bus, sitting in coffee shops, lying in bed, the ideas the words come in a rush and I must immediately write them down or they'll vanish. (I made the mistake last week when I was on my way across town and a whole scene for Shadow came to mind, that I didn't write it down. Of course by the next day it was forgotten. I couldn't remember a word of it. And then I had to struggle again to put together that very scene that my subconcious had told me what to write.) For this reason, I always tell people in my classes "Always carry a pen and notepad to write down the ideas that come to mind. And write them down immediately or you'll forget them!". So true.

By working diligently all day long, with the exception of the times I allot to go out for exercise or errands, I've been allowing myself some leisure time in the evenings to watch TV (which I rarely do otherwise) and to make myself delicious low-point dinners. On the weekend I allowed myself a couple of glasses of pisco sour but that's all. And I can certainly feel the benefits. For one thing I'm much more clear-headed and energetic.

This week my Memoir group "Write from the Heart" starts again for the Winter session. And next week all my night school classes start. So I will have to make good use of my daytimes to keep on track with my writing and exercise program. But I feel that I have a good start now, I'm back in the grove, and the Muse is certainly co-operating!

"You can declare at the very start that it's impossible to write a novel nowadays, but then, behind your back, so to speak, give birth to a whopper, a novel to end all novels."
Gunter Grass 1927 - "The Tin Drum" 1959 bk 1. "The Wide Skirt"

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

FITNESS FOR THE SOUL AND BODY

"Keep the faculty of effort alive in your by a little gratuitous exercise every day..."
William James 1842 - 1910 "The Principles of Psychology" 1890 ch 4

"Up down, touch the ground
Puts me in the mood.
Up down, touch the ground,
in the mood for food."
a song sung by Winnie the Pooh

With all the extreme weather we've been having here on the Coast it's been easier than I thought to stick to my New Year's resolutions: diet and exercise and writing. Fitness for the soul and body.

As the wind howls outside and the icy rain pelts down I'm hibernating in my cozy apartment with the fire blazing in the hearth and inspiring music playing on the radio. I actually enjoy being alone, especially in my new surroundings, and almost hate to leave whenever I have to go out on errands. It's even been a bit difficult to get myself out to go to the fitness centre and swimming pool, but I've done it. And already I'm beginning to feel the benefits of my new regime -- well, not exactly a 'new' one, but a 'renewal' after several months of being off-track what with moving, travelling and having a house guest for almost two months in my small space.

I think it's important for mind and body to exercise and feed them with nourishing food as well as the other things that help inspire creative thoughts and activities. I usually start my day doing cross-words while I have my breakfast (yoghurt and fruit). I think cross-words are a good way to exercise the mind, get it ready for the deeper thoughts once I sit down and begin work on my novel. So far, I've managed to stick to my plan to write a bit every day, whether it's editing, notes or actual composition. And to date I have almost finished another chapter segement.

My TBR pile has grown over the last months. I usually only find time for pleasure reading while I'm riding the buses, but I must start making more time for that now I'm at home. I'm reading a book titled "Venice" by Jan Morris which is inspiring me to start planning for my next trip. I have started to write on my travel blog about my trip plans and will add to it as the time goes by. (In mid May my girlfriend and I are going back to Greece via Venice, another dream vacation. And my return to Greece will be a reunion with other friends including two who are my classical scholar friends from when I lived in Athens. )

Making a decision to stay home has helped me get back on track with my diet program too. As much as I am a social butterfly and known to be a party animal, its been easier to stay away from the bistros and jazz bars for awhile. (Believe me, a test of will power but helped by the fact I'm broke until I start teaching classes again!) So I have planned out my menus and made sure I had the necessary ingrediants on hand so every night I make myself delicious meals that don't rack up too many points on my Weight Watchers program.
"I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!"
Alan Alexander Milne 1882-1956 "When We Were Very Young" 1924 "The King's Breakfast."
I was supposed to start back to WW last Friday but because of the sidewalks ankle deep in slushy snow and impossible traffic conditions I didn't get there. The best of intentions...
But I definitely will make it there this Friday.

Meanwhile, I have been following a daily exercise regime going to the fitness centre, water fit, and taking daily walks. I'm also trying to get back into the habit of doing daily stretches in the morning, a practice I stopped some time ago to my regret. Already I am feeling the benefits of exercise and I'm not waking up half a dozen times in the night with hip and back pains. Also feeling more energized. This is enough to keep me back on track.

"Early to bed, and early to rise, make a man healthy, wealthy and wise."
Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790 "Poor Richard's Almanac" October.

Yep, I'm even trying to get to bed a bit earlier than usual. I have to admit that on these dark, gloomy mornings it's a bit hard to rise 'early' though.

In all, I'm feeling proud of myself for sticking to the regime. It helps to have a plan and lots of positive things to focus on. I sometimes even allow myself the luxury of sitting down to veg out in front of the TV (I just watched the second part of a good Knowledge Network program about the Bronte sisters.) In two more weeks I'll be out and about every evening as my night school classes start up again, so I'll only have the days at home to do my writing. So I'm taking advantage of this time to refresh myself and relax. And it's great to see how much I'm accomplishing and how great I am starting to feel!

"Health and intellect are the two blessings in life."
Menander 342-292 BC "Monostikoi" (Single lines.)

"Time for a little something."
A.A. Milne "Winnie the Pooh" 1926 ch 6



Wednesday, January 03, 2007

FACT OR FICTION?

"What makes the poet the potent figure that he is, or was, or ought to be, is that he creates the world to which we turn incessantly and without knowing it and that he gives to life the supreme fictions without which we are unable to conceive of it."
Wallace Stevens 1879 - 1955 "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words." 1942

Here's the dilemma: how much 'fiction' should historical fiction writers put into their work?
As a lover of history, and a writer of historical 'fiction', this problem frequently arises in my own writing. How meticulous do you need to be when writing from a historical plot? Where does the 'fact' become 'fiction'?

I'm in a retrospective mood these days, going over my past year(s) as we often do at the turn of a new year. How much is in my imagination, my 'fiction', and how much is 'fact'? I still find myself obsessing over someone who is now gone. How many of my memories are just 'wishful thinking' about what our relationship might have been? How many were actually true? (It took him until the week before he died to tell me how he really felt about me.) Too late. And I know if he was still here it would be the same old roller-coaster ride as before, never-ending, unresolved. So, I ask myself, is it time to move on? Do I want to let go of those romantic 'fantasies'?

I've always had a vivid imagination. I guess that's why I am a writer. I can write my dramas and live them through my characters.

Although in the writing (and endless research) of my novel Shadow of the Lion, I have tried to stick closely to 'facts' there are some areas where I have allowed my characters to take me on unknown and unexpected paths. For instance, I've invented a clandestine affair between Alexander's widow Roxana and one of his former generals, now the Regent of Macedon, Polyperchon. Logically I could see this happening, because Polyperchon is a soldier of fortune and opportunist. Why not get invovled with the mother of the future king, Alexander's only living heir? It would certainly further his ambitions. I know that historians and classical scholars will jump up and down and protest saying "It never happened. It couldn't happen."
Why not? Who knows? The histories were written a hundred or more years after Alexander's death, based on scant records by his Successors and usually favored the authors. Who says the ambitious young Queen Eurydike wouldn't attempt to poison Alexander's son? Her idiot husband, Alexander's brother, was one of the joint kings and she wanted to rule herself. In fact, historically, the boy was eventually poisoned by the agents of Alexander's arch-enemy Kassandros who wanted to destroy all of Alexander's dynasty. So who says there were not other attempts on his young life?

I've been struggling a bit with my recent writing because I know some of it is pure fiction. But my characters led me there and so, as a writer, I've taken poetic license to allow them to have their way. (Besides, it's a chance for some hot sexy love scenes, and any opportunity is welcome to provide a bit of tenderness amongst all the killings.)

Note: Here's were I live vicariously again. Oh...that imagination of mine!

The problem is, sometimes when I am 'making too much up' I start feeling as if the story is becoming contrived. This is the dilemma I find myself facing at the moment. Should I stick to the truth or not? And who really cares if I don't? Is it okay to let my characters have a little fun on the side without being criticized by the historians?

Okay, and for myself... Dream on. There were many beautiful moments in spite of the difficult times. He was a damaged man from all he'd been through and it was apparantly his nature to treat the ones he loved rather harshly. Continue loving him in spite of it. Who cares how much was just imagination?

"Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in the human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear lines persists. The strands are all there: to the memory nothng is ever really lost."
Eudora Welty (1909 - ) "One Writer's Beginnings" 1984 "Finding a Voice."