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Sunday, July 29, 2007

A LITTLE R & R

" A little work, a little play,
To keep us going -- and so, good day!"
George Louise Palmella Busson du Maurier 1834 - 1896 "Tribly" 1894 - pt VIII

Or, as the saying goes: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

So after the last couple of weeks of dedicated work on my novel, as I came to the end of another chapter segment and needed time to think about what was next, I 'rewarded' myself with a weekend of leisure time.

I left Friday afternoon on the slick commuter train out of Vancouver, heading 70 k. out to the Fraser Valley to a sweet little town called Mission, (pop 35,262) nestled on a mountain slope overlooking the Fraser River. The area was originally inhabited by the Sto:lo First Nations People, and the town was founded there in 1892. 180 meters up on the mountain above the lush Valley is the Seminary of Christ the King, a Benedictine monastery, founded in 1931. The last time I visited Mission my friend and I went up there to look around and wander the pathways with tremendous vistas of the river valley below. On that visit I also spent some time at the Xa:ytem Longhouse Interpretive Centre run by the Sto:lo Nation. This morning the distant church bells tolling from the Abby (called Westminster) could be heard across the Lake along with the twittering of birds and croaking of bull-frogs.

My girlfriend is managing a very nice neighbourhood pub in Mission and stays in a big house called the Lake House at Hatzic Lake. The lake is unfortunately reedy but the swimming pool at the house made an extra pleasant treat. And to make the weekend even more special, my Havana Buddy had supplied us with comps to the Mission Folk Festival.
We went on Friday night and again on Saturday. I'm not much of a 'folkie' but there were some good acts including the Battlefield Band from Scotland, and a real treasure of folk music, Buffy Saint Marie, who sings just as beautifully as she did back in the 60's and 70's. Later on Saturday three other girlfriends came to join us for nachos and pizza at the pub. The weather was mostly very warm and sunny although today it rained a bit. My friend drove me part-way back to the city and from there I took the bus and sky-train home. In all, a pleasant and relaxing break. It gave me time to refresh myself and sort out where I'm headed for.

Last week I'd finished another chapter segment and find the transitions are always difficult for me. I wasn't sure who's point of view I should be writing from in the next part, what to leave out from the scattered notes I've had saved up for some time. (The novel is already way too long so I hesitate to fill it up with unnecessary scenes, keeping in mind I have to keep the plot moving along.) Anyway, given time to think about it in a pastoral setting was beneficial, and I think I have an idea of where to go next.

Sometimes when you get stuck, or you're not sure of where to go next, it's a wise idea to take a little break from the writing, step back, reassess and then go back to it with a fresh perspective.

I've got a busy week coming up with some lunch and dinner dates, the annual fireworksdisplays in the city this week and I'd like to attend at least one, and on Thursday I'm starting a five week in-home writing group with six people registered so far. So I don't want to loose the momentum and stop work on the novel. I needed some pre-planning time, which is done now and I'm ready to launch into the next phase of the story. In addition, I've been taking breaks each day for exercise, because my back is bothering me from too much time at the computer. If the weather holds out this means a few more trips to the beach or other recreation areas, some picnics, daily walks and an occasional bike ride too.

"If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it."
Herodotus 485-425 BC
"Histories" bk II ch 173.



Thursday, July 26, 2007

QUESTIONS

"The wisdom of a novel comes from having a question for everything. When Don Quixote went out into the world, that world turned into a mystery before his eyes. That is the legacy of the first European novel."
Milan Kundera 1929 - "A Talk With the Author", by Philip Roth (1980)

I don't know how many times I've been asked the question "Have you finished the novel yet?"
It started becoming an embarrassment to me some time ago, but I've tried to not let it deter me. Yet, I wonder sometimes, if I had know fifteen years ago when I first conceived the idea for "Shadow of the Lion", intending then to write it as a juvenile historical, if I would have ever begun.

I thought, when I began, that it was a project that would take me perhaps two years maximum. I had another novel partly finished which I'd decided to shelve as I was discouraged with it (my Celtic tale, Dragons in the Sky) . Little did I realize then, that between the long year of preliminary research, followed by a year of trial writing, in which I discovered that it was not going to work as a juvenile historical, and then starting over, that it would take all these years and I'm still not quite finished it.

Of course, there have been other projects. I spent two years rewriting my play The Street: A Modern Tragedy which was later successfully produced. I've also written and published dozens of travel stories. For some of those years I was working full time as a daycare head supervisor, and also teaching writing classes at night school. The research has been endless. I am always stopping to question things, then having to check to make sure I have facts straight: setting details, historical facts etc. I have, at this point, in fact written the equivalent of almost four moderate sized novels. This is an epic Homeric saga. There'll be lots of cutting by the time I am going through for the final edit. But I wanted to tell the tale to the best advantage and let the characters develop. It's been one heck of a journey!

The big question of course is, "Will I finish it?" I long ago gave up setting myself definite deadlines. Small deadlines work best for me. But this time, I'm so close to the finish line that I can't stop and I am determined to wind it up by some time this Fall. So far, I'm sticking to a good writing program every day, even with the sunshine beckoning me to the beach.

The last chapter segments of my novel have been in the point of view of Alexander the Great's five year old son, Iskander (Alexander IV). In a previous blog I included a short passage of some surprising dialogues the child heard between his mother, Roxana, and his grandmother, Olympias.

He has a lot of question, as any child would who is as aware and precocious as he is. So in this following segment he questions Nabarzanes, the Persian court advisor, about the things that he overheard the two women say in the courtyard.

Nabarzanes is dressing the child who has been summoned to his grandmother's room. Nabarzanes is Roxana's Royal Cousin and for all the child's life has been like a father-figure to him. (Alexander died before the child was born.) NOTE: Iskander has lived his whole short life in the company of adults: his mother, Nabarzanes and the soldiers. From his birth he has been taken from place to place living in army camps until they finally came to Macedon to live in his father's home in Pella. Now they are visiting his grandmother in Epiros )

The child tried to be still while Nabarzanes oiled and combed his hair, but everything burst out of him.

“Grandmama got angry and hit Mama. I made her stop.”

Nabarzanes stopped combing out the tangles. “Why were they quarreling?”

“Grandmama said cruel things to Mama. She said Mama killed my father!”

Nabarzanes took a deep breath. “Your father died because someone gave him wine mixed with poisoned water.” His voice trembled as he remembered. “He was already very ill and the tainted water weakened him. It took him a week to die.”

“Who killed him then?”

Nabarzanes answered the child direct. “Alexander had many enemies in Persia because he had conquered their lands.”

“When I’m big I’ll fight those bad men and kill them!”

“The Wise Lord will punish them for their deeds.”

“Everybody loved him, Mama says so!”

“Not everybody, Iskander-shah.”

“Grandmama said my father was god-begotten, so why did he die?”

“He was a mortal man, favoured by the gods. It was his kismet, but he died with glory.”

“Like Achilles?”

Nabarzanes tousled the child’s hair. “Yes, like your hero, Achilles.”

“Did Grandmama kill my grandfather Philip?”

Nabarzanes squatted beside him, his face grave. “Where did you hear these things?”

“In the courtyard.“ The child caught his breath in a sob.

“Philip was killed by one of his guards. The guard was angry with your grandfather.”

“Yes, because grandfather was cruel and did bad things to him.”

“King Philip had many enemies, Iskander-shah. He was ambitious and powerful. He had conquered the Greeks and they feared him and he wanted to fight the Persians.”

“Tell me true, Did Grandmama pay him gold to kill my grandfather?”

Nabarzanes took the child‘s face in his hands and looked directly into his eyes. “Where did you hear such a tale? This is not a story for a young boy. Tell me, was it Spitama the horse keeper?”

“No. I heard Grandmama say so. She said she hated grandfather.” The child sat biting his lower lip and swallowed hard.

Nabarzanes put an arm around him. “Don’t take it to heart, Iskander-shah. It was only women’s idle talk.” He stroked his fingers through the child’s hair to quiet him.

But there were still unanswered questions. “Who was Stateira?”
At the mention of the Princess’s name, Nabarzanes stared hard at him. “She was your father’s Persian wife, the daughter of Shah Darius. Why do you ask?”

“What happened to her?”

Nabarzanes was silent a moment, then he said: “Stateira and her sister Drypetis, who was Hephaestion’s wife, were killed on the road from Susa. They were on their way to Babylon because your father was ill and had sent for them.”

“Did my mother kill them?”
Nabarzanes sucked in his breath. He put his finger over the child’s mouth. “Hush, Iskander-shah! You must not think such wicked things of your mother.”

“I heard Mama say...”The child was almost afraid to blurt it out. Her remembered the punishments meted out to transgressors, those who followed The Lie. “If you steal, your right hand is cut off. If you bear false tales your tongue is cut out. If you see too much your eyes are put out.” Yet he needed to know the truth, and surely Nabarzanes who spoke only the Truth, would tell him true. “Mama said she didn’t want the Princess to live.”

For a long time Nabarzanes didn’t say a word. Finally he looked the child directly in the eyes and spoke very softly. The child listened, sensing Nabarzanes’ consternation. He had heard such stories told in the army camps and whispered in harem rooms, tales of vengeance and deadly rivalry like those in the Troy Tales. Nabarzanes had been a Bodyguard of the Shah, one of the Beloved Immortals. He had seen everything a soldier sees. He knew about wars and killings, daggers in the night and poisoned honey cakes.

Nabarzanes looked at him earnestly. “Verily, some people have blamed your mother, but there were others who were culpable. I can not lie to you, Iskander-shah, because the Lie is a sin against the Good Benevolent Lord. But I will tell you truthfully what I know.” He spoke coolly and firmly. “ The guiltiest is dead now -- General Perdikkas -- because he allowed it to happen though he could have stopped it. Some of the Macedonian generals did not want Alexander to marry the Princess and would not let her live to bear his child. The Persians were their enemies and they did not want a child of Shah Darius‘ daughter to inherit your father‘s throne. So Stateira and her sister were murdered. Your mother didn‘t do it, but her brother was an agent of the generals‘. It is he, your uncle Itanes, who is guilty. ”

The child nodded to show he understood. “He had to do it, because General Perdikkas ordered him to?”

“Yes,” Nabarzanes said. “And you were born to inherit your father's kingdom, a child of love, not one conceived for political gain.”


"There are two sidees to every question."
Protagoras 485-410 BC From Diogenes Laertius, "Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Protagoras" book IX sec. 51


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

PROGRESS REPORT #3 "Fire in the Heaven" !!



"The splendor of a great man lights up the heavens."
I Ching Hexagram 14

This was the hexagram I got this morning when I threw the old Chinese coins to see what advice the I Ching had for me when I'd asked "What do I need to do to keep the inspiration going?" Well, of course, the "fire in the heaven" of Hex. 14 certainly must have meant Alexander. Who else?

And then, when I read the Tao Te Ching this is what it had to say:

"Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking." Tao Te Ching 60

I think this means, I should look at "Shadow of the Lion" as a "large country" and don't worry about nit-picking ("poking" at it). Just keep on writing. Worry about the small things like editing ("nit-picking") when its all done. Keep on going. I'm almost there!

I've actually been feeling pretty inspired and in spite of having a couple of other things on my agenda last weekend I have progressed, almost finished another chapter segment, and managing to write several hours a day (sometimes up to six). Last night I workshopped the entire segment of the 'dangerous dialogues' and got very good critiques from my group, so that was quite a relief as I was uncertain if the point of view worked. So now I will carry on. And soon I will post a blog on "Questions" as in the questions Iskander is going to ask after overhearing the conversation between his grandmother and mother.

It's been a busy weekend. The rain kept falling almost non-stop. And I kept wishing I was still in Greece (frying in the heat-wave is better than drowning in the deluge). Anyway, the Summer Dreams Literary Festival was in the Park on Saturday and it managed to stop raining for part of the afternoon. I had the job of hosting the kid's stage for two of the children's acts but only six kids were in the audience and unfortunately a nearby craft table was a huge distraction. Then I went to set up my Travel Memoirs workshop but, as I expected, only one person showed up. (Actually two other women came but wanted to go for lunch first and didn't return.) So it was a bit of a bust but the one-on-one was a good run-through for the new 'course' which I will include in my night school classes from now on.

Sunday I had friends over for a Greek dinner. Lots of fun. And we watched the DVD of Haris Alexiou's concert at Lykebettos recorded last September along with two really hunky-dory male singers, Sokrates Malamas and Alkinoos Ioannidis. I swear that Malamas looks exactly like General Perdikkas in my novel. At least, exactly the way I had described the General who took over Alexander's army after he died. Yum! (No wonder I cried when I had assassinate the guy!) I once saw Perdikkas working in the post office up in northern Greece in Asprovalta. I bought a lot of stamps that summer when I was camping there. (check out their websites and you can catch some videos of Ioannidis on YouTube. All of them really talented singers/song writers.

I should write a blog on visualizing your characters one of these days. I do that a lot. I have almost my entire novel cast with real-life people I have seen (most of them in Greece, but some elsewhere such as in the movies.) You listen to Greek women speaking in those deep, sultry voices of theirs and you will 'hear' Olympias.

Today there finally WAS 'fire in the heaven". I think it's the sun! I worked all morning on notes for the editing and new chapter segment and then took myself out for a long walk. I'm having lower back problems again, brought on by sitting to long at the computer. And now the entire city is on strike so all the swimming pools are closed as well as other services. (It will be a stinky city in a short time as the garbage isn't being collected either.) I guess I'll start swimming at the beach though the water isn't so warm as the Aegean Sea. Because I need my swims. And should make more effort to get the bike on the road a couple of times a week too. Today I walked (briskly) for about an hour, just around the neighbourhood, on the streets that run port-side where there are a couple of sweet little parks ("meditation parks") where you can sit and watch the freighters and tug-boats. Very pleasant. Then I came home down the shaded back-streets where the old houses reminded me of when I was a teen-ager living in this area.
Nothing like a good hit of nostalgia!

Okay...it's time to go do those changes and additions I made note of this morning. I'll be back real soon!

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

Thursday, July 19, 2007

DANGEROUS REVELATIONS

"There is nothing more dread and more shameless than a woman who plans such deeds in her heart as the foul deed which she plotted when she contrived her husband's murder."
Homer 700 BC "The Iliad" l. 427

"CHORUS: Alas for fortune, your fortune mother! You have brought into the world the avengers of your own sins, grievous things and more than grievous have you suffered at your children's hands. But righteous was your atonement for their father's murder."
Euripides 485 - 406 BC "Electra"

The following scenes are from a chapter I've been working on, dialogues as overheard by Iskander, Alexander's five year old son, between his mother Roxana (Alexander's Soghdian widow) and his grandmother ( Olympias, Alexander's mother.) I chose to write them in the child's point of view, but I'm not certain it works that well. It all depends on the outcome of the following chapters much of which will also be in his point of view. Iskander has a fairly strong voice throughout my novel Shadow of the Lion because he is Alexander's only legal heir and a pawn of the Successors in the power struggle for control on the Empire after Alexander's death.

SETTING: Dodona, Epiros, 318 BC. Roxana and her son have been sent to Dodona to stay with Olympias after an attempt had been made on the child's life.

In this scene, Iskander is playing in the fountain court and overhears snatches of revealing conversations between his mother and grandmother.

Engrossed in his play, at first only fragments of their words caught his attention. Then, as he grew tired of his game, he listened more carefully though he dared no interrupt. He knew it was not seemly for a child to comment on adult's talk.

"Those rubies, my dear...Where they a gift from Alexander?" Olympias leaned forward and held his mother's ruby pendant in her fingers.
"No, Mother. My father Oxyartes gave them to me for a wedding gift."
"Hmm...perfect stones. Though not quite as perfect as these." His grandmother unclasped her own necklace of dazzling crystal gems and held them up so they sparked in the sunlight. "Alexander sent these to me. Diamonds, from the royal treasury. They once belonged to King Cyrus' wife. Alexander had great admiration for Cyrus. He wrote to me constantly you know. He told me everything -- his th ought, his dreams, his plans. Ah es, he wrote about you. How like me he supposed you to be! I did not take it seriously. Alexander had a passionate spirit."
"He loved me!" Roxana snapped.

The child looked up from his play at the sharp sound of his mother's voice. He expected her to break out in a rage, but she restrained herself, though her face had flushed crimson.

"Love?" His grandmother tossed her head back and laughed. "What kind of love was that? Oh yes, of course -- as one might love a favored pet. The only woman he truly loved was me, his mother. He chose you, he said, because he found us similar -- the gods only know why, or what he saw in you that was like me, though you are a pleasant-looking girl -- perhaps a trifle fleshy, a bit too dark-skinned, but isn't that typical of you foreign women?"

He saw his mother shift uneasily as Olympias went on. "You, my dear, are a simple girl from the highlands of Soghdiana, not a royal princess like Alexander's other wife, Stateira, was. Your father is a barbarian war-lord; her was the Great King. You were simply a whim of my son's. I know Alexander's passions! That part of him he inherited from his father. You were no more important to him than that Macedonian nobleman's daughter, that whim of Philip's. She, like you, was ambitious. For wasn't it your ambition that drove you into my son's arms?" Olympias lifted her chin and clucked her tongue in a gesture of disgust. "Or was it Alexander's need to secure Soghdiana? Oh yes, I'm familiar with the way of Macedonian kings: a wife for every battle. Alexander learned that, too, from his father. Men use women to cement their political alliances and enrich themselves. Sometimes they even use them to fight wars." She reached out and patted Roxana's arm. "Never mind, Alexander chose you for his wife. You bore his son, my grandson. I shall have to put up with you for that. Be careful t hough, not to let your ambitions take you too far. Remember, I am the Queen here, and I shall take charge of my grandson's affairs. If you're a good girl and do as you're told, there should be no trouble."

The dialogues go on with Olympias eventually questioning Roxana about her Royal Cousin, Nabarzanes, who is the child's court advisor. And the Regent, Polyperchon, who Roxana is secretly having an affair with. Then Olympias begins to tell about her relationship with Philip.

The child stayed out of sight behind the flower pots. He pressed his cheek against the urn. The ceramic felt cool against his bare skin and he could smell the sweet fragrance of the roses. He spotted an emerald-green scarab resting on a leaf and tried to catch it. Nabarzanes said scarabs were lucky charms. Vaguely he was aware of his grandmother’s voice.

“I was fourteen when I first met Philip. I knew he was the most eligible man in the north so I urged my Uncle to allow me to go to the rites on the sacred isle of Samothraki. Foolish and headstrong as I was, he let me go, knowing full well my intent. It would strengthen my family’s ties with Macedon and put me, an Epirote princess, in a position of power.
Philip saw me there in the grove and was immediately attracted to me. He knew I’d make a perfect queen -- better than any of those other spear-brides he’d brought home after his battles. I was everything he would wish for: intelligent, beautiful, a princess from a powerful Epirote family. How could he resist?” When she spoke again, her voice was so harsh it startled the child.

“Ah yes, brave, handsome Philip, king of the Macedonians!”

Olympias spat out the name “Philip” as if it were an ritual curse. Why did his grandmother sound angry when she said his grandfather’s name? His knowledge of such things was imperfect, yet he had a feeling of what was meant and her words disturbed him.

“At first I was blinded by passion but I soon grew to hate him -- his infidelities (a bride for every battle that’s how he kept his enemies from betraying him.) Philip was a drunken boor, rutting whenever it was his pleasure with the boys who served him and mountain laird’s daughters, even with my own brother, I suspect.” She stood silent for a few minutes, her eyes closed as if she was dreaming. Her voice softened. “Then one day Nektenabo came to Pella, an elegant man, learned and wise, a servant of Ammon, noted
.for his magic powers. He taught me many things....said I would couple with the god, that my child would be blessed and gifted, Ammon’s child. And so it was when Alexander was born, I knew he was not the offspring of that coarse brute who claimed to father him. But truly he was god-begotten, Ammon‘s child. Alexander was so intelligent, so beautiful. Philip resented him. He imagined Alexander to be his own son, but Alexander was god-begotten. Yes. God-begotten!” She gave a secretive smile. “There were god-given omens at his birth. Two eagles appeared in the sky, a portent that Alexander was born to ride two worlds. Fire consumed the holy temple in Ephesus just as Alexander’s fire would consume this world.”

“What mother does not dream that her first born is god-begotten?” Roxana said. “When my son was born, the magi said he was the Chosen One. We believe the Shah is the spokesman of the Wise Lord.”

Olympias hissed. “Barbarian rubbish!”
“Verily, it is true,” Roxana replied indignantly. “My son is the Shaninshah, the Great king of all the dominions from India to this wild place. Alexander wanted to unite our two worlds and Iskander is his father’s remembrance. He will grow to rival Alexander’s honor. We will show the world that Macedon will continue to rule, through Alexander’s son.”
“Only because he inherited it from his father, my son,” retorted Olympias. “But, fear not, for I shall see to it that he keeps the throne for himself. Not to share it with that mindless dolt Arridaios. Had all gone well the Idiot would not have outlived his infancy.”


“I have tried to get rid of the slow-wit and his mannish wife, too. But each time the Fates intervened,” Roxana said.

What she said startled the child. What did it mean, to
get rid of the slow-wit’? Did they mean to send Uncle Arridaios away, like Poly had banished his old nurse, Lanike?

“I have noticed that little Alexander is obstinate, like his father was,” his grandmother went on. “Alexander didn’t always think things out ahead. He was impulsive and he was lucky, because he was protected by the gods. Little
Alexander must be kept safe from his own vanity or the importuning of men who love beautiful boys.”
“Or men who would steal his affections from the woman who loves him...” His mother spoke in a low, mysterious undertone so the child could not hear all her words. “I always knew that Alexander loved Hephaestion best...When Hephaestion died he went mad with grief and had his physician executed....They did not suspect...”

Olympias threw back her head and laughed. “My dear, I see you are like me, a woman to be reckoned with, born with a vengeful heart.“

She put both her hands on Roxana’s shoulders. “You, my dear, were luckier than I was. Philip only married to consolidate the countries he‘d conquered. Well, he did not conquer the Molossion tribal lands, so long as I lived to fight him. I couldn’t abide his infidelities. Oh yes, at first with my young girl’s pride...my naivety...I still believed I was his favorite. Then there was his dalliances with his boys. Pausanias was one of them. Philip treated him badly, cast him aside and debased him. Everyone in Pella knew what Philip had done to Pausanias. It was an embarrassment to us all, and I know my son suffered because of it. It was Pausanias who stabbed Philip to death that day in theatre of Aigai. The assassins offered to pay him well. Some say it was me who plotted his assassination because he had discarded me and my son. The truth is, Philip
had become dangerous. He had angered the Athenians and the Persians saw him as a threat, too. And when he took that young Macedonian girl to his bed. I knew as well as everyone he meant to put her child on the throne, not mine! So I was willing to pay half my fortune to see him dead. What happened to her? When she bore Philip a son, I wrote a binding spell. One for her, and one for his favourite consort, a tattooed Thracian whore. His wretched bride didn’t live long after Philip’s assassination. Egyptian poison worked its magic and on her and her newborn child as well. I could not leave alive any offspring of Philip’s who might someday rival my son. I prayed his mistress would perish miserably too. Those barbarians have this custom of offering themselves at their husband’s funeral pyre. So it is she who walks with him now in the Underworld. I do not tolerate rivals. ”

“Nor do I,” Roxana replied coolly. She stared straight into Olympias’ eyes as if she were charming a snake.
“Well then, perhaps you are more devious than I thought, ” Olympias said. “Was it you who had the Persian princesses murdered? I would have counseled you to do it.”


Murder! The word sent a shiver down the child’s spine. He forgot about catching the scarab and listened attentively.

“It had to be done,” his mother said fiercely. “Should I have let the daughter of Darius hold him? Allow that puny girl from the line of a dead coward to conceive? We could not risk the royal birthright falling into Archamead hands. It was me Alexander loved. It was our son he said would be his heir. Had Stateira lived and borne his child, everything that Alexander had striven for would have gone back to them, to Darius’ family. There would have been nothing for our son. I could not risk that. Iskander was the rightful heir and I was Alexander’s first wife, the one he married for love, not politics. Alexander only married Stateira to please the Persian satraps. He chose me not as his war prize, but as his true love. And I loved him. I could not let him be with her!” The child heard the tremor in her voice as his mother spoke. He did not understand the meaning of everything she was telling his grandmother, but he knew her well enough to know that she was near a breaking point and might erupt any time in a deluge of tears.

“Who was it killed my son? Those sent by the Peripatetics of Athens, backed by Anitpater and his clan.“ There was a dangerous edge to his grandmother’s voice. “Did you kill Alexander? Or was it you after all?” Suddenly she lunged forward and attacked Roxana, squeezing her throat until her breath wheezed.

A storm broke inside the child. He let out a shriek and ran out from his hiding place. “Stop! You can’t hurt my mother!” He flung himself between the two women and struck out at his grandmother. Astonished, she let her go of grip on his mother and stepped back.
“I see at least the boy has some of his father’s spirit!”

“Never! I swear!” Roxana gasped. “Never Alexander!” She began to sob. The
child felt her body convulse as she struggled to catch her breath. “I clasped
Alexander's cold body in my arms, lay by his side, refused to leave. My
Alexander, my dearest love! My tears bathed his face, his sweet-scented body, as he lay naked on the sheets. I would not leave him until they dragged me away."

The child felt her draw her breath in and in and held tight to her. “Oh alas! Such sorrow! I begged them to let me stay. I wanted to die there, beside him. I wanted them to bury me with him. And I swear, my Mother, I would have taken my own life if I had not been carrying his child.”


A tear escaped a corner of the child’s eye and ran down his cheek. He clung bravely to her and glared defiantly at his grandmother. “Don’t you dare hurt her!”
Olympias leveled an amused look at him and went on ranting.

NOTE:
What the child overheard in the courtyard, and what it means to him in his relationships with his mother and his grandmother, will tie-in with the events following, during the last few years of his short and tragic life. Comments on this point-of-view are welcome as I'm still not quite certain if this is going to work or not.

"MEDEA: Rotton, heart-rotten, that is the word for you. Words, words, magnificent words. In reality a craven. You come to me, you come, my worst enemy! This isn't bravery, you know, this isn't valor, to come and face your victims. No! It's the ugliest sore on the face of humanity. Shamelessness. but I thank you for coming. It will lighten the weight on my heart to tell your wickedness, and it will hurt you to hear it. "
EURIPIDES, "Medea"

An interesting note: Euripides, one of Greece's
famous dramatists, was invited by King Archaleos (Philip's grandfather) to live in the Macedonian court. Some sources report that he was accidentally attacked and killed by the king's hunting dogs while walking in the woods in Macedonia.












Tuesday, July 17, 2007

PROGRESS REPORT#2

"Fool!" said my Muse to me. "look in thy heart, and write."
Sir Philip Sidney 1554 - 1586 "Astrophel and Stella" (1591)

I'm pleased with myself today because I finally conjured the Muse and managed ten pages of writing on the novel. There comes a time when the procrastination has to end and it's time to get down to business. This was the day. I had no more reason not to begin. I've finished the retyping, read over the previously written chapter segments, spent several hours preparing the notes for the travel memoir workshop I'm instructing this weekend for the Summer Dreams Literary Festival, and I finally convinced myself it wasn't necessary to check my e-mail a dozen times a morning.

I had several pages of previously written scenes for Shadow, it was all in random order so it required a bit of thought and lots of cut-and-paste. Yesterday I spent some time just thinking about how to start this next chapter segment. As usual, my best tactic is to browse through my notes, write some ideas down, and from there the words just start flowing.

Time went by quickly once I got in front of the computer. I even forgot to stop and eat my lunch and didn't notice this until it was mid-afternoon. By the time I had finished, I had ten pages written. Then I ate my lunch/dinner and decided I better get some physical exercise.
So I took the bike out for a little spin.

I'm such a sissy bike rider these days. I used to ride a lot but in the last couple of years I quit. Now I want to get more practice so I gain some confidence. It's like writing. The more you do the better you get at it.

Tonight I looked over what I'd written today and decided where I needed to edit or add things. In all, it looks pretty good and I'm pleased, for a first draft, how well it turned out.
The scene is a pretty meaty dialogue between the two women, Olympias and Roxana, as overheard by the child, Alexander's son Iskander (Alexander IV). I wasn't sure it this point of view would work, but it seems to be alright. The dialogue is revealing and somewhat shocking, especially what is understood by the child. I'm really into these women now. They are fun to work with. What a pair! Maybe once I've fine-tuned it I'll post a bit of their conversation.

Tomorrow I'll try to finish this chapter segment. I have the next few chapters already planned with some notes made previously. If I can stay on track I might get most of this novel finished by the end of summer. There's really not that much more to write and I'm anxious to wrap it up.

"On a dark theme I trace verses full of light, touching all the Muses' charm."
Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus) 99 - 55 BC De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) l. 993

Thursday, July 12, 2007

THE WRITER AS A CHOREOGRAPHER

Choreograph: to arrange or direct the movements, progress of details of...

"True ease in writing comes from art, not choice,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance
"Tis not enough no harshness gives offense;
The sound must seem an echo to the sense."

Alexander Pope 1688- 1744 "An Essay on Criticism" 1711 l 162

When writing battle or fight scenes, or scenes of sexual passion, it is important to remember that 'pacing' is the key to the successful building of tension. These scenes must be choreographed, just as in a dance. Not only are the actions of your characters important, but your word choice and writing style is too. (Active verbs, short sentences have an impact. Even single word sentences.)

I'm not a person who is fond of violence (either watching it on TV or reading about it), but in my novel Shadow of the Lion I had to learn how to write some violent scenes effectively. I cried after my first assassination. I was cheered on with "more blood! more blood!" by my critique group when I had to write another disastrous scene with soldiers being eaten by crocodiles and stomped on by elephants. Eventually I learned to relish the opportunity to delve into my 'dark side' and pull out all the stops. And there's plenty of episodes throughout the novel that call for this.

I do believe that violence needs to be tempered and balanced by some lightheartedness and perhaps the occasional steamy love scene too. Actually love scenes are quite enjoyable to write, a chance to live vicariously through your characters (hehehe) and an opportunity to recall feelings that may be lying dormant. (Ah, fantasy is so much fun!)

The most important thing to remember in either of these kinds of scenes is to frame a mental picture so you can see and 'feel' it, then describe for readers the key details --not just any details but the right ones. You must first know what you want the physical aspects of your scene to accomplish. If you're establishing a mood, look at your setting and choose details that will help reinforce it. eg: If you're writing a horror novel or a noir mystery find a detail that's dark and ominous that will give the reader a sense of danger. Details of setting can be used to convey emotions too. Conflict is critical to the development of tension (whether sexual or in battle scenes) The higher the stakes, the more intense the tension. And remember, what your characters are thinking and feeling is important.

Hints for successfully creating tension:
1. create characters who emotionally engage your readers. The attraction between characters should be emotional as well as physical.

2. Conflict is critical to the development of tension The higher the stakes the more intense the tension. By throwing your characters into an emotionally intense situation you raise the stakes and heighten the tension.

3. Don't make your scenes cliche. Make them unique to your characters and your story.

I've just finished retyping the last of Part III of my novel. It was interesting going back over work I'd written some time ago. I looked on it with an editor's eye, because truthfully there were parts I'd forgotten I had written. So it made it easier to make editing notes where to chop, change or revise. The end of each Part of my novel is an "Interlude" -- an epitasis in Greek tragedies -- where the action often shifts to a different location. As this story is very much a Greek tragedy, I have used this device in order to let the reader know what's going on behind the scenes. For instance, the royal caravan bearing the joint-kings is on it's way to Pella, accompanied by Polyperchon, the Deputy Regent. What they don't know is what is going on in Pella while the Regent, Antipater, lies dying. Here's a a snippet of one part of the Interlude of Part III demonstrating pace and 'tension'.

The Athenian senator Demades, has come to Pella with his son Demeas to appeal to the Regent on behalf of the Athenians to have the Macedonian garrison in their city removed. They did not know when they arrived that the Regent was on his death-bed and his son, Kassandros, the Chiliarch, has taken charge of state affairs. This is what happened:

There was a hush as Demades and his son took their seats beside the other petitioners to await their turn to speak.
They sat all morning in the Assembly listening to envoys and agents from towns they had never heard of: judgments on land claims, reports from officials and petty grievances from local land barons. Finally their names were announced by the herald.
“Demades of Athens, representing the Archon Phokion and the Democrats and his son Demeas, first speaker and representative of the citizens of Athens.”
When the purpose of their petition was declared there was a low discontented rumbling in the room. Demades looked around and saw resentment on the faces of the old marshals and highland lairds. He stared back at them square-shouldered and defiant. He had his pride.
For years the Greek envoys had been coming to Pella, arguing the policies of the new regime toward their City states. After the Greek defeat at the Battle of Chaironeia the city states had been governed by Macedon. Demades himself had conveyed the terms of the Macedonian victory to Athens and because of his loyalty to Macedon he had retained his political statues and his wealth. Now, all these years later he had come to ask Antipater to free the Athenians. Would the Macedonians accept his plea?
“Sir,” Demades said. “I have a petition from Athens regarding the Macedonian garrison at Munychia. May I beg you to hear it soon?”
Before the words were out of his mouth he heard the cat-calls and shouts of protest and realized how futile it was. But it was too late to run from his Fate. He had relied on the good will of Antipater to uphold the Athenians rights. It was clear that these stanch old defenders of Philip’s policies would stubbornly resist any new sanction.
There followed a heated discussion, an angry babble of Macedonian, the mixed argot of the hills and ill-spoken court Greek. Clearly they were antagonistic toward the pleas and petitions of the Greeks, even from those Greeks who had always been pro-Macedonian, like himself.
A white-haired baron stood up and shouted, “Alright then. Let’s hear what they have to say and get on with it!”
“Yes, yes!” Kassandros sounded indulgent but his face was set in a scowl.
The barons and marshals gritted their teeth and glared in silence. Every eye was on Kassandros. He sat stroking his beard, then leaned over and said something to his brother, Nikanor, who sat on his right.
“The first speak is Demeas, the Athenian, son of Demades, representing the Archon of Athens.”
Demeas kept a stoic expression on his face, but he hands were shaking . He glanced toward his father for courage. Demades managed a reassuring smile and whispered, “He’ll listen to you. You are the voice of youth. Do your best.”
Demeas stepped forward cautiously as if he were approaching the edge of a deep precipice. He bowed to the Kassandros and began to speak in his precise, well-rehearsed rhetoric.
“Both my father and I know we Athenians have been fortunate to have such a man as Antipater as a friend and ally. My father, Demades, is a loyal friend of Macedon. He would not lead Greece to war against Macedon, but treated with both Philip and Antipater to bring about a common peace. We have always been generous to the Macedonians and loyal to the royalty. We have treated kindly and fairly with you. Our citizens favored peace. But now there is dissatisfaction in Athens and we fear if the people’s wishes are not acknowledged, they will rebel.”
Demeas was at his very best, the rise and fall of his voice, the melodic cadence of his speech, like an actor on stage, each well-turned phrase persuading in its appeal. It was a good speech, following the scheme they had outlined together. With youthful enthusiasm and skillful charm, Demeas urged the Macedonians to release the citizens of Athens from the bondage and selfish corruption of the oligarchies, to abandon the garrison at Munychia and to allow the citizens democratic freedom once again.
By Zeus! thought Demades. Between the boy and myself we will turn the tide and save our City!
He waited as the actor awaits his cue for his turn to speak. He was a brilliant speaker and knew how to kindle the interest of even the most dissolute statesman with his exemplary prose and political fervor. And paramount in his favor, he could speak extempore if the need arose.
Demeas was almost finished his speech, appealing to Kassandros as a peer and fellow Peripatetitc, speaking for the youth of Athens, his own generation who desired a return to the moral values and integrity of the old democracy.
“And my father, representing the Archon of Athens, will bear out what I say. For have we not been friends and allies in all our dealings? Fair, honest and loyal to Macedon and Alexander.”
Suddenly Kassandros leapt to his feet. His eyes seemed almost to bulge from their sockets as he stared contemptuously at Demeas.
“Loyal to Macedon? Do you think we beat you at a game of knucklebones? This is no party!”
A soldier burst into a guffaw. All around there were murmurs of approval and hearty cries of assent. Demeas stood his ground bravely. “The Acropolis has never fallen. We Greeks are free men. We want our civil liberties restored. It is time for...”
Demades stepped forward and whispered, “Demeas, careful...”
Demeas drew back, so he took up the speech from where his son had left off.
“I ask you, Kassandros. Who gains most from prohibiting the Athenians their freedom? We Athenians or you? If you do not remove the garrison the Athenians will revolt, and in the next battle you could lose everything. Athens will gain by a civil war. Remember, you no longer have Philip or Alexander to back you. Your father the Regent is an old man, ill and possibly dying. You would do well to listen to our petitions.”
Shouts broke out and the clear voice of the Assembly responded with cries and jeers. The soldiers muttered together and closed their ranks closer around the perimeter of the room.
Demades felt something strike his head and clank at is feet. A wine-cup thrown by Nikanor clattered across the stone floor. Nikanor was on his feet shouting a barrage of profanities. Demades clapped his hand to his temple. Blood seeped between his fingers. He reeled, then caught his balance by grasping Demeas’ shoulder. Over the clamor of the crowd Kassandros screamed, “You Greek blackguards. Traitors! You dare threaten Macedon?”
The Hall was in confusion with an outbreak of muddled noise, dismay, protests, the sound of swords being drawn from sheaths and men banging on shields and table-tops. Loud voices cleft the air. A brigadier roared commands at his squadron and the soldiers crowded forward.
“You Greeks are a race of liars, thieves and traitors!”
Demades mind hung suspended. Shocked, he heard Kassandros’ high-pitched voice yelling “False friends -- betrayal -- treason!”
He opened his mouth to speak again but his voice strangled in his throat. He who had made a name for himself addressing thousands of Athenians in the law courts and Senate House, felt unnerved here in the presence of a handful of rustic land barons and clansmen. In alarm he saw the powerful aristocracy of Macedon rallying in a force against him. Suspense and terror scattered his thoughts. He tried to regain his composure but could not.
Kassandros hurtled forward from the dais. “You will die!” he screamed.
There was a flash of metal. Demades heard his son gasp and cry out “Father!”
then Demeas fell back against him, a crimson stain spreading from his chest where the blade of Kassandros’ dagger had pierced him.
As if they feared for their own safety, the other envoys rushed toward the doors elbowing, shouldering, bullying each other as they pressed to escape but the doors were blocked by the soldiers.
Kassandros looked like a demon. Dark blood engorged his face and his eyes bulged. “Die, you traitors!” he screamed.
His knife struck again and again until all the cloth of Demeas’ garment was darkened with blood. Blood splattered the floor and saturated the front of Demades’ cloak. He was struck dumb with horror and stood still in the center of the chaos blinking as if awakening from sleep. Demeas lay at his feet, his face white as chalk, his eyes open in a panic stare. He knelt and touched his son’s body. There was blood in Demeas’ hair and a trickle ran from his mouth. He moved very slightly, his shallow breath gurgling in his throat. His lips parted, drawing in just enough air for life, the breath hissing softly as he struggled to live. Demades cradled his dying son’s head in his arms. Demeas opened his mouth once and tried to speak, his lips again formed the word, “Father.” Then blood spewed from his mouth and his body went limp, his face emptying of life.
“In the God’s name!” Demades cried. “Why? My son was innocent of any crime. He came here only to speak for freedom!”
Kassandros stood over him red-faced and panting. “You got your wealth currying favors from my father and in turn you betrayed him.” He shook an accusing bloody finger in Demades’ face.
“You are a liar and a traitor! Look here!” He snatched up two rolled pages of papyrus and waved them in Demades’ face. “These are the proof!” He unrolled the letter scrolls and held them out. Demades gasped in surprise and stared incredulously, recognizing the fine Greek script, handwriting he knew to be his won.

The noise in the Hall died to a restless hum. Except for the click of the soldiers’ weapons, the Assembly fell silent. Kassandros began to read fragments of the letters that Demades recalled he had once sent to Perdikkas and Antigonos the One-Eyed, urging them to return to Macedon.
“Because Macedon is held together by an old and rotten thread...” Kassandros voice trembled with rage as he read. “Your words and your vanity are your nemesis, Demades.”
Demades thought to explain himself, to say that at the time he wrote these damning letters he knew Antipater was ailing and who but a seasoned veteran like Antigonos or Perdikkas could fill his shoes. But there was no use protesting now.
“Justice, Kassandros! There will be justice for all this evil you have done. You have butchered my son and the Furies will avenge his death and mine.” He stood looking down at his son’s bloodied corpse, unbelieving, thinking of all that he and Demeas had planned together. He grieved for his son’s wife and their unborn child, for his own wife with whom he had shared a lifetime of happiness. With these thoughts, somehow from the depths of his despair he recovered his dignity.
Kassandros threw the parchments down and crushed them into a pool of Demeas’ blood with his heel. “These letters, Sir, are your death warrant. What will it be? Death by sword, poison or torture?”
Demades had known for certain that he was going to die and had resolved not to cower or beg. In Athens he would have been offered hemlock for his so-called treasonable crimes. Like Socrates he would at least have been allowed to die in dignity. At the hands of this mad dog, Kassandros, he knew his death would be brutal. In Macedon men were impaled, flayed or stoned to death. Whatever they did to him, he prayed that his death would be swift.
For a moment the only sound was his own labored breathing. The red of Kassandros’ face had deepened to purple. He was trembling with rage and drew back his hand forming a fist. His hand was red to the wrist with Demeas’ blood.
“You son of a dog,” he cursed. The fist struck Demades full on the cheekbone and sent him sprawling. Demades struggled to get to his feet but Kassandros stood over him, a cold, eager smile on his face. Then he kicked Demades backwards, the full force of his boot catching Demades in the groin.
There was an astonished silence in the Hall then chaos broke out as Kassandros’ rage was unleashed and he screamed at his soldiers to seize Demades, do what they would with him. “If there is anyone among you in the Hall who sides with these traitors, you will share the same fate!” he shrieked.
The Hall became silent. At Kassandros’ order the soldiers rough-handled Demades and stripped him of his clothing, mocking him as he stood naked in their midst. He had heard how these brutes made sport of their enemies, passing them from man to man as if they were barracks whores. He stood rigid, holding an indrawn breath. The pain he felt in his groin was almost more than he could bear but he bore it as bravely as any battle wound. They bound him like a felon and flogged him, the lash laying open the flesh on his back to the bone. He heard his own cries, like a hollow echo, over the shouts of the Macedonian mob. When he was a youth the scars of such a whipping would have been a disgrace in the palaestra. He thought, with each lash of the whip, how he was suffering for Athens, and he would suffer with honor. He heard Kassandros’ harsh voice cry: “Stop!” and he was flung to the ground, thrashing about, choking on blood.
Kassandros stood over him holding his dagger. “You will die, Demades!”
“Murderer!” Demades cried. He clutched Kassandros’ arm with both his hands as the knife was plunged into his chest. “Murderer!”
He gasped as Kassandros withdrew the blade and drove it between his ribs up to the hilt. He had no time to feel the pain. No time. As he drew his final breathes he thought: The Macedonians have defeated us again!
Kassandros stared down at him, his eyes glinting. There was a look of feral pleasure on his face.
To die, one should do it for something great, and he was dying for the sake of Athens’ freedom. He thought of the high city with its painted pillars and gilded temples. Yes, for Her, he was dying, for Athens.
As Kassandros dragged his head back, Demades heard him say “Let the Athenians smell the stink of your corpse, Demades, and they will know who is it who rules.”
He hardly felt the slash of the blade across his throat but he could taste the blood and choked on it. His sight blurred; he saw nothing but a swirl of red.
Then, in his mind he saw Her, gray-eyed Athena, patron of his beloved City. She was smiling her enigmatic, peaceful smile. He reached out to Her as the darkness engulfed him, and she caught him in Her strong arms.

* * *
"As soon as Kassandros saw Demades after his arrival in Macedon he placed him under arrest. First of all, he had Demades son slaughtered in his presence: the two were standing so close the young man's blood poured onto the folds of his father's tunic and filled them: then he reviled and abused Demades for his ingratitude and treachery, and dispatched him in the same manner."


Plutarch "The Age of Alexander" chapter: Phocion.



Monday, July 09, 2007

PROGRESS REPORT

"Slow and steady wins the race..."
Aesop 550 BC. "The Hare and the Tortoise"

"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
Hesiod 700 BC "The Theogony" 1. 361

Little by little I've accomplished what I set out to do the past week. I only have one more old chapter of Part III to finish retyping of Shadow of the Lion and then I'm done with it and can move on to the new chapters of Part V. I've tried to do a little each day but also allowed myself time to enjoy the currently beautiful weather with trips to the beach and Park and other pleasant activities.

In retyping the writing I did several years ago I am finding lots of places that can easily be omitted and/or revised and condensed. As well, I've found a couple of places where the action would work better if I move it up to Part VI. I've made the mistake of writing the child's character in a much 'older' point of view than he actually was, so this must be eliminated or changed drastically. Nothing too major, but definitely some serious rewrites are in order when I am ready to do my final draft. Fortunately, there are also some parts that work well, are clearly written and I am quite satisfied with them. But yes, I've found some crappy parts there and realize the reason I wrote them was simply for my own benefit -- character development -- and not because they are important enough to forward the plot. I'm looking at the old script with an 'editor's eye' and as if it was another person who wrote it (actually, I've forgotten I even wrote some of this stuff it was so long ago!) So I am making lots of omissions and/or editing notes as I go. And those are the chapter segements I'll give my full attention to later on. Right now I don't want to slow myself down by going back over it as I want to progress instead of taking backwards steps. So I will proceed with the new chapters, and hopefully will draw to the conclusion by the end of summer or early Fall. At least, that's my goal.

Editing for me is easy and having my critique group to give their commentaries is very helpful. So when I start my final draft editing/rewrites I know it won't take so much time as it's taken for me to actually write this novel. (It's taken me forever, it seems, but I want to do a good job of it.)

So, "Let us sacrifice to the Muses" Solon 638-559 BC, from Plutarch "The Banquet of the Seven Wise Men"

"It is tedious to tell again tales already plainly told"
Homer 700 BC "The Iliad" l 450

but...in order to write a story that is a literary tale and not a piece of fluff, I must persevere.

Later...Alexander's world is calling...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

",,,accomplish the great task by a series of small acts."
Tao te Ching 63


After a week at home I think I'm over the jet-lag now and simmering down a little regarding the 'culture shock' issues. I spent a lot of time last week either dozing or grumbling and now it's time to move forward and get back into a creative spirit. Finally, too, the summer weather is here. It was a bit of a shock after all that Greek sun to come home to gray skies and chilly temperatures. But now the sun is shining in all its glory. Yesterday I even went to the beach!

We had a festive weekend of Canada Day celebrations and now that's over it's time to buckle down and get back into the groove. It's been awhile since I looked at "Shadow of the Lion" and as I made a promise to myself to try and finish it this summer, I couldn't delay another day. My usual way of resuming work after a long absence is to start by retyping some of the old chapters that are not on the computer. It happened that when I started the novel I was working on a word processor (in fact, my earliest drafts, when I thought to write it as a juvenile historical about Alexander's son, were written on a typewriter.) I was happy with the w.p. but eventually realized I must upgrade. By the time I got a computer, I'd already written the first three parts of the novel. "Shadow" will be approximately six parts, each following a time-line according to events beginning with Alexander the Great's death and the birth of his son, Alexander IV (called "Iskander" in my novel, Persian for "Alexander'), and the wars of the Successors which led to the eventual fall of Alexander's dynasty. The novel begins and ends with a Prologue and Epilogue in Ptolemy's voice. (No, I didn't copy the movie as I'd already written my P & E using Ptolemy as a strong thread throughout the story because of all the Successors his was the only dynasty that lasted.)

I have retyped the old manuscript up to midway of Part III. I'm now working on Part V and was making good headway before my departure for Greece. So now, to get started again, I'm doing more of the retypes and making editing notes as I go along. Each of the Parts so far are about the length of a short novel so there will be some major cutting needed when I do my final draft. I'm making note of where to cut and where to condense. There's quite a bit that can be cut because I often allowed my characters the luxury of going off on their own in order to thoroughly develop them. So I ask myself as I'm retyping "Is this forwarding the plot or is it just a little diversion indulging the character?" There's quite a lot I can cut, even though it might be interesting and enjoyable to read.

Yesterday as I was retyping, I ran across one particular scene, a boar hunt, which I'd done extensive research on. It's an interesting and high-tension scene but I realize when I reread it that it really didn't fit that well in that particular part of the novel. Mainly because the child, Iskander, is far too young at the time to have participated. (For some reason I've noted that in many places of the early chapters I have him behaving far too old for his age.) So I marked in the margin that it should be cut or moved, but wasn't sure what exactly to do. Should I just cut it altogether?

After my morning of writing 'work' I headed to the Park and beach. This is always a great way for me to quieten my mind and think over what I need to do, or come up with brilliant ideas.
I take the bus to the Park, have a pleasant stroll through the Park and rose gardens, along the Lagoon to the beach. It's an outdoor pool beach-side and so beautiful and refreshing. While I was floating in the water as usual, I get brilliant ideas, and this is when the Muse speaks to me.
I thought about that boar scene, what to do with it, and realized that it would work much better in a segment of Part VI as it would heighten tension of the events happening at that time and by then the boy is about ten and more likely to have participated.

That was just one small step for me, and I know if I keep on track this week I'll quickly move into the new chapters where I'd left off before my holidays.

Last night I went to "Word Whips", a literary event held every Wednesday in a cafe on the Drive, sponsored by the Pandora's Collective women. It's timed writings from prompts much like my class "Prompting the Muse". I participated in a few of the prompts, my brain still a bit foggy from exhaustion and clogged with other thoughts, but at least I started the creative juices flowing, so it was a good way to get back on track.

I have set myself a writing schedule, taking into account that now the weather is hot and sunny I don't want to deny myself some outdoor time during the day. This means rising early and writing in the morning (and perhaps in the evening) but allowing time to frolick in the sun during the afternoons. This is the opposite of when I spend time in Greece writing, as there my best writing time was 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. because that's the hottest part of the day and better to be indoors.

So I think I've made a good start this week and hope I can stick to it. Next is to reorganize the diet/exercise (Daisy knows about that!) and get back on to the W.W. program. I've stuffed myself with cinnamon rolls a couple of times this past week and ate a plate of nachos last night along with a beerm and that ain't good! (A little indulgence to combat the jet-lag and negative thoughts.)

Time to get serious! Back to work!

"Each moment is a precious God-given opportunity of good for me. New inspiration energizes me and leads me in a new and rewarding direction."
The Daily Word.