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Thursday, January 31, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #27: A BIT OF HISTORY

The Vancouver Public Library

Last Friday I went on a little field trip downtown. At the Vancouver Public Library there was a small exhibit presented by the Biblical Museum of Canada www.biblicalmuseum.com
The display included some interesting accurate facsimiles of historical artefacts of cultures and civilizations that provoke memory and inspire vision. This display included artifacts from the 5000 year Glory of Egypt and the Ancient World. There were a number of interesting objects from Egypt, and some Sumerian images (early Hebrew). The Golden Age of Egypt was represented by Pharaoh Amenhotep IV and his beautiful wife Nefertiti.

In one case there were articles referring to the Exodus including various papyrii. Then there was a case devoted to the downfall of Egypt begining with the Persian invasion, the the Greeks, under Alexander the Great. I was thrilled to see a (replica) of the beautiful bust of Alexander that I have seen in the Pella Museum in Northern Greece. In this bust he is about 18 years old and it was likely sculpted after the Battle of Chaironea. Following the Ptolelemaci Dynast, came the Romans. There was a copy of the Rosetta Stone and some Roman artifacts as well including a bust of Julius Caesar. (Here I should add, that our library is built to resemble the coliseum of Rome.)

Bust of Alexander from the Pella Museum
I found the diplay, though modest, inspiring and interesting. Seeing Alexander there was a huge surprise and that, if anything, made my day!

I also enjoyed the little tidbits from ancient Sumeria and Mesopotamia and it reminded me of the early part of my novel which takes place in Babylon, and all the research I did about that ancient city of Nebuchadnezzar. So I thought I'd post a snippet from the early part of my novel Shadow of the Lion (It's from Chapter Two and is in the point of view of one of my fictional characters, Nabarzanes, the Persian Court Advisor.) So, enjoy a little visit to Babylon.

NABARZANES
From outside the north gates of the palace a throng had been gathering since before dawn. The cries of jubilation at the news of the royal birth spread down the bustling Processional Way into the narrow streets of the suburbs. From the rooftops of the tall, three-storied houses, trumpets and voices proclaimed the arrival of the imperial child.

Above the glowing temples, thin plumes of smoke rose into the still air as one by one fire altars were rekindled. Pennants and garlands appeared on the city walls where adornments had been removed after Alexander’s death. The Processional Way blazed with colour and on the palace battlements the purple and gold pennants of the Shahanshah fluttered from their gilded standards.

Nabarzanes left the palace by the eastern court, avoiding the press of the crowds who waited near the main gates. He was weary from his long day in the palace. He had tarried there long after the Annointments Rites, waiting until the Magus came from the Shahryar’s bedchamber. The old man had seemed transfixed and looked as though the blood had been drained out of him. He mumbled something about a dream -- a serpent -- (had he interpreted it to be the infant Prince’s daimon?) He had said that the newborn son of Alexander needed their allegiance, and complained that the Macedonians did not see their Shah as the Hand of God. Now that Alexander was gone, there was little respect for order. It was men like he, Nabarzanes, the Magus had said, who must be loyal, as the imperial child would be dependant on those who followed the Good Religion and believed in the Truth.

Nabarzanes pushed his way through the crowds on the Processional Way, past the parade of lions adorning the high brick walls. Outside of the Temple of Ishtar with its gleaming blue-tiled steps and Ishtar’s guarding lions, hawkers were selling votive offerings and trinkets to commemorate the royal birth. Farther along, in the courtyard of the little Temple of Nabusha-hare, the temple concubines plied their trade in honour of their goddess, dancing to the music of timbrels and flutes under the orange trees. A group of richly clad men stood by laughing. One of the girls beckoned to Nabarzanes as he passed. Another day he might have stopped.

The sun, setting in a crimson blaze over the western walls of the city, reflected from the temple’s silver ornaments and red glazed bricks. Through the palms, the river shone like polished brass. A fleet of little straw-hulled boats drifted downstream toward the harbour. The coarse voices of the boatmen echoed clearly across the breadth of the river.

As he turned into the palm grove he could hear the chanting of the magi from the fire temple on the ziggurat's top tier. A long line of supplicants wound like a coloured streamer up the whorl of steps to Marduk’s shrine. The sacred fire would be ablaze on the altar. At the entrance gates, the money-lenders were doing a brisk trade.

A hand tugged at the hem of his tunic. He looked down to see a wizened face imploring him. Days of celebration were profitable for beggars too. He tossed a shekel toward the bundle of rags.

“A thousand thanks, good sire,” a cracked old voice said. “May your sons have many sons.”

The words, meant as a compliment, cut through him instead. He remembered a stormy day in Ekbatana, the birth of another child. He had tried to put it out of mind until today -- the long cold winter he had spent with Darius’s army waiting in the sanctuary fo the mountain palace after the king’s cowardly flight from the Macedonian troops. He still felt an ache in his heart when he thought of it.

That winter had taken its toll. Freezing and hungry, snowed in and trapped in the mountain palace, his wife had died in childbirth; his newborn son lived only for a day. Today, seeing the Soghdian’s infant had brought it all back to him.

He turned toward the marketplace. As far as the eye could see where tents and pavilions, astonishing colours, sounds, smells. Bright banners marked the start or terminus of this or that caravan. There were merchants here from every part of earth; jugglers, acrobat, soothsayers and snake charmers.

A parade of horsemen approached. He recognized their standards: the golden starburst on a deep blue field, the royal emblem of Macedon. He stood aside to let them pass.

General Meleager glowered down at him sullenly. Nabarzanes recollected seeing that same expression of hatefulness on the man’s face when he was viewing the Soghdian’s newborn. He saluted, but was not acknowledged. Meleager had long made known his dislike of Persians. Several henchmen rode beside him, their horses bedizoned with silver trappings and scarlet ribbons. In their midst was Philip Arridaios, dressed in Alexander’s state robe, a sleeveless chlamys made of fine wool, dyed with rich Tyrian murex, clasped at the shoulder with golden lion masks. Alexander always wore it on parade days, its rich purple-red colour distinguishing him as the King. Arridaios, wearing full parade armour under the cape, sweated in the sultry evening heat. There was a look of dull uncertainty in his eyes and he glanced around nervously as his horse approached the crowded by-way.

Nabarzanes made a gesture of prostration out of deference to royalty. One of the escort soldiers proclaimed: “Make way for Philip Arridaios, King of Macedon!”
The soldiers began to cheer. Arridaios brightened and clapped his hands. Some men came running from the street to greet the cavalcade. They were Greeks, by their dress.

“Long live Philip Arridaios!” they cried.

Meleager looked around, beaming triumphantly. “Behold! Our new king!” he shouted.

Nabarzanes watched uneasily as the troop passed. He smelled treason. He knew it from his days with Darius, when the Persian army was on the run from the Macedonians. That winter in Ekbatana, he had known that Darius would die because of it, and he was unable to protect him. He wondered if he would be able to protect Alexander’s son. For as surely as Darius’s own generals had turned against their Shah, these Macedonian soldiers were conspiring to rid themselves of Alexander’s newborn heir.

He turned into the King’s Paradise, isolated from the jubilant cries . Nabarzanes kept to his solitary walk and entered the park, away from the bustling avenue. It was quiet in the park, the street sounds were muted and ring doves cooed from the trees. He wandered through the grove, under the tall sycamores and poplars, the grass soft under his slippered feet. The exquisite perfume of jasmine permeated the evening air, mingling with the fragrance of roses from the gardens. Near the river he passed the grand mansion of the Grand Vizier Perdikkas, and could hear the sounds of revelry. The Macedonians like a good feast. This one, to celebrate the royal birth, would far surpass any other they had had in recent days. Whether they accepted the child or now, it was as good an excuse as any for a banquet.

Over the music of kitharas and flutes, he could hear their voices raised in a raucous drinking song. Judging from the sound of the merriment, it was a large feast, perhaps fifty couches. There would be dancing girls and tables heaped with food. He could smell the drift of roasting lamb.He had not been invited, a slight he had long ago grown accustomed to. When Alexander lived, Persian noblemen were always included in his banquet and state affairs. But since he had become Grand Vizier, Perdikkas had tried to please the faction who opposed Persian supremacy and only addressed him in the role of Court Advisor. Revelry was left to the Macedonians.

Being a modest and temperate man, Nabarzanes felt no ill will at being snubbed. Persian modesty greatly amused the Greeks who were happiest when they were watching naked youths play games. Persian often drank large amounts of wine on ceremonial occasions, but Nabarzanes considered Macedonian manners boorish and uncouth. He abhorred the violence that erupted each time these high-spirited mountain warriors sat round banquet table.They were always borne along on a wave of sentiment. This celebration would undoubtedly go on for days, until the wine took hold of reason and blood was spilled. Even Alexander had been known to draw his sword on occasions. Once, at Marakanda, ihe had thrown a sarissa at a friend in a fit of rage. The killing of Black Kleitos had tempered Alexander. He nearly killed himself with grief over it. After that he was more careful to water his wine.

Nabarzanes passed by the torch-lit gate house. Cries of celebration spilled out into the courtyard: high-pitched voices, laughter, the squeals of women. Macedonians were men of vulgar morals. A Persian would die of shame rather than expose his woman to debauchery. He thought their behavior disgraceful. The first time he heard them address their king by his name “Alexander”, as familiarly as a common foot-soldier to his drinking mate, he was mortified. He had been raised in the court at Susa, sent there when he was five years old, the only son of a wealthy Median nobleman, cousin of the old Shah Ochus. He had been raised with royal children, educated in court affairs, poetry and the sciences, and taught to honour the Good Religion. By right of birth he chose to join the distinguished hazarapats, the Immortal Ten Thousand Bodyguards who carry golden pomegranates on their spear butts, and march beside the Shah in battle. He learned to humble himself before the Shah, and would have died for him. When Darius’s troops were routed and ran from the Macedonians like honey bees fleeing before smoke, he had shared the shame of Persia, but always remained true to the Shah.

Think correct and true: Speak correct and true: Do correct and true.
The Shah must be revered, for the Shah is the God’s spokesman on Earth.

It had been he who led the Macedonians to Darius who had been bloodied by the assassin’s knives and left to die in his war chariot begging for a drink of water. Alexander had rewarded him for his loyalty. Now he would honour Alexander by pledging loyalty to his infant son. Whether the Successors accepted the child or not, he knew this was to be his life’s role.

BABYLON

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Monday, January 28, 2008

TRAVEL THRU HISTORY

Trekking in Morocco

This post is to announce the official launching of my new travel website,
TRAVEL THRU HISTORY.

Check it out at www.travelthruhistory.com

It's a new site for new writers and aside from a couple of my stories, the others are written by people who have taken my travel writing classes. It has been difficult for freelancers lately, with the larger newspapers not accepting much freelance travel, and a lot of the smaller publications on such tight budgets they aren't able to pay much if anything. Most of the travel zines on-line are free. They want you to give them stories (for their own profit) and I was getting tired of submitting in this way. In fact, last summer I was getting mighty discouraged about the whole business of travel journalism and considered quitting it. But I can't. I teach travel writing so how could I quit? And I was becoming aware that my discouragement was affecting students in my classes. What to do? Well, this is it. A leap of faith to be sure and a bit of an 'investment' on my part, as well as some blatant self-promotion. But it's mainly a chance to see that some of the talented writers I know have another place to submit where they'll get paid a small honorarium for their efforts. This way people can qualify to join the travel writing association and have a reference for other publishers. And hopefully, if enough people click the google ads, it will start to generate a little bit of pay-back for me as well.

I am pleased and excited over the site. My friend Paul, the web master, has done a really excellent job of setting it up for me and I'm very grateful. It's opened up some new doors, possibilities for me and I'm excited about that too. And I love being an 'editor' too!


Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly Wales

So take a look, and tell me what you think. And watch for new stories to appear soon.
I'm accepting contributions and have requested some particular stories from some writers I know on subjects that aren't frequently written about. By having a focus on historical/archaeological; culture; art/literary trips; exotic adventures and travel memoirs I think the site will be well received and make some interesting reading.


Vaulted Street, Naxos Greece


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #26: SOME LEISURE MOMENTS

I've been working very hard the last week or so getting my travel website set up, so by Sunday I needed some leisure time and decided to go for a long walk on the seawall from the Downtown East Side to the Convention Centre. The day was sunny and bright but crispy cold. A good day for a long stroll with the camera. Above is a view of the skyline from the seawall at Crab Tree Park walking west toward downtown.
The Canada Place Convention centre was built to resemble the Sydney Australia opera house. It's like a giant ship. There's a luxury hotel in front and the cruise ships all dock here so there's also a heli-port. That day there was a new B.C. Ferry in the dock and I wanted to go on board but there was over an hour wait. As I've seen dozens of ferries (non can compare with those new super-fast ferries in Greece) I didn't bother waiting, but continued along on my lovely Sunday afternoon stroll.

The mountains were glorious, clear and crowned with new snow. All week we've been blessed with this frosty winter weather, clear skies and at night a huge full moon shining down on us.

Besides all the work on my travel web site (which is almost ready to be officially launched!) I also attended another travel media dinner, this time for Turkey. It's as if a new door has opened for me and I'm schmoozing like crazy, making all kinds of new contacts. Hopefully the new web site will bring some new opportunities for me too. At best, it's a great way to do some blatant self-promotion! (Although I don't want it to be a 'vanity' site as I want to give new travel writers a chance to have their work published.) Last night I went to a Chile promo do for Patagonia. And guess what? I won the door prize - a 4 day all inclusive stay for two at a luxury spa near Punta Arenas in Patagonia, Chile. I was delighted and immediately worked out in my head the plans for my travel pal Patrick and I to fly down there from Santiago when we go to Chile again next November. Well, my delight was short-lived. The offer expires September 2008. I was quite frankly a bit miffed about this. You don't go to Chile in summer (their winter) and Patagonia in September would be like going up to the northern territories in March. So unless you went now, or later (the time I'm planning to go) it wouldn't be practical to visit the spa.

So I gave it to a man who is leaving this weekend and he said he'd send me a nice gift from there. I suggested he could send me a penguin!
I'm going to another travel/media event tomorrow. This one is mainly for schmoozing, collecting my next supply of free pens and do-dads, and having a little free food and drink. Ah, the life of a travel journalist! And, my night school classes start tonight. Prompting the Muse. And Travel Writing tomorrow. So I am finally going to be bringing in a bit of cash again which will be most welcome as the coffers are pretty bare these days.

I've only had a bit of time this week so far to work on Shadow, my novel. But I've become totally hooked on the HBO series ROME. My friend loaned me the DVDs of the whole first season and I watch it most nights before bed-time...dream of Marc Antony...get lots of inspiration and ideas for my novel from the excellent script and the attention to details they have used in the movie. I wish they had made the Alexander movie into a series like this one, but maybe one day they'll make Shadow of the Lion into just such a series. (It lends itself perfectly to this idea.) I felt sad to hear that Heath Ledger so tragically died. He's the one I thought should have played Alexander in the movie instead of Colin, though Colin did a reasonable job. I find when I'm writing Shadow I 'see' it as a movie and even when I read it in my writer's critique group, people (one guy in particular who is a real movie buff) 'cast' the roles for me. In watching ROME, I see a strong resemblence between Atia and her son Octavian like the relationship between Olympias and Alexander was and now, Olympias and her grandson little Alexander (Iskander). Interesting and inspiring. I'll be posting more snippets soon.
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Friday, January 11, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #25: TIME TO REFLECT

Reflections in a pond


I wasn't able to do too much work on the novel this week. It turned out to be a week focused on travel writing instead.

Mid-week it was the AGM of the travel writer's association, for which I'm secretary. I managed to win another door-prize that night: a trip for two to a nice lodge on Vancouver Island.

The next day (yesterday) was a dinner hosted by the Maui Tourism people, held at a brand new downtown hotel. They always put on an excellent event and
this one was strictly for the travel media so it was a good chance to schmooze with other travel writers, some quite notable folk.

Both events also gave me a chance to tout the new travel website that I have been planning, with the help of my friend, to launch. The response was so positive, I decided I better get right on it. My web-master guy and I had already met earlier in the week and discussed the format etc. Last night we secured the site. So today I spent most of the day working out the text for the home page and submission guidelines. As soon as it is officially up and running I'll post a notice here so you can take a peek.

The purpose of this site is to give some new writers a chance for publication and also to put up a few of my own stories rather than 'give' them away to other places like seems to be the way it is these days. Of course any of my new pieces I will try to market elsewhere first. But I got so tired of just posting my previously published stuff up for free, that I figured I may as well have it on my own site.
This also provides a venue for the new writers I find in my travel writing classes who have a hard time these days getting their names in print. The free-lance travel writing business is certainly not like it used to be.

I also spent a lot of time earlier this week sorting out the handouts for my night school classes. That done, I'm now looking forward to the Winter classes which begin in two weeks. I decided not to teach novel writing this term, instead plan an in-home workshop which has proved successful in the past. And yesterday I started the Memoir writing again downtown which looks like it's going to be another dynamic group.

So, although I haven't spent too much time on Shadow this week, I have accomplished quite a lot.

Besides that, last weekend I attended an amazing performance of Eurypides'
"Hecuba". It was so stunning and inspirational, I'm going again tonight.
More to reflect on. And I'm sure by this weekend I'll plunge right back into work on the novel again!



Autumn Leaves
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Sunday, January 06, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT 24: A LITTLE BIT OF DIVERSION

DIONYSOS


I've been spending most of my time since the holidays at home, indoors out of the rain and cold, slowly reorganizing myself, clearing out the old and making way for the new year. And I have been spending time writing, as well as prepping for my winter classes which will begin in two weeks. After all the holiday fun it's been good to just stay in by the fire and contemplate my next moves. Same goes for Shadow of the Lion. I just finished writing a whole chapter of violence and revenge so I needed to slow down the pace somewhat before the next chapter which will be one of the violent anti-climaxes to the novel. I have been puzzling over these next chapter segments, wondering if they would actually end on the cutting-room floor once the novel is completed, but decided to go ahead with them anyway. Both the segment I'll include here and the one following it I had written long ago and now I'm sorting through these bits and pieces to see if they fit in the tapestry or need to be scrapped. However, after a discussion with my good friend Susan yesterday I realized that yes, they could be strengthened to forward the plot, so perhaps they aren't excess baggage after all!

Then, last night I went to see a remarkable production of Euripides' "Hecuba"
and I was totally inspired. Hecuba's monologues, as well as the monologues of the lead chorus character, and the dramatic way the play was presented were the big injection of inspiration I needed to really build up this last part of my novel. Because in many ways, Hecuba was similar to Olympias in that she wanted revenge for the death of her children, just like Olympias wanted revenge for the death of her son. And the destruction of Troy was in some respects parallel to the violent ending of Alexander's dynasty. So I got a lot out of watching the play, and feel much more inspired now, clearer in my mind on where I need to go next. It's the strength of the women in the story now, not the men as it was in the beginning. Just as in the story of Troy, it was the strength of the women that was so remarkable, faced with disaster, destruction of their city, the deaths of their husbands and children, enslaved by their invaders. And throughout Shadow I have made references to the story of Troy. (Olympias' bloodline came from that of Andromache and Achilles' son Neoptolemus.)

Just as I needed a bit of diversion from my writing (which has helped me forward the plot), so my characters needed a small diversion from the dilemma that they have been plunged into.

In this scene, Olympias has invited Roxana to attend the Dionysian Mysteries. This is the first time she's really shown an acceptance of Alexander's Soghdian widow by including her in these secret rites.

The autumn harvest was ready for reaping, the olives ripened and hung dark on the boughs, the grapes picked and trodden. It was time to honor Dionysus when the women answered the shrill Bacchant’s cry and ran wild through the forest . Olympias was a priestess of the cult, and held Dionysus in as much esteem as she did her god-gifted son.

“It is time you were initiated into the mysteries,” she told Roxana.

Except for her visit to Samothraki, Roxana had never participated in any of the rituals associated with the Greek pantheon of gods but had held fast to her own beliefs, worshiping Ahura Mazdah, the Wise Lord and the ancient gods of her Soghdian tribal people. She felt somewhat puzzled that Alexander’s mother insisted that she become part of the annual orgia of rituals and sacrifices honoring the god of wine and pleasure.

Just before sunset, a few women dressed, like herself, in the red robes of initiates waited with their unlit torches near the palace gate. The tall dark of the pinewood loomed beyond. In the shadows she caught a glint from the eyes of a small animal. From behind her she heard a sistrum tremble giving off soft jangles.

Olympias arrived, dressed in a gown of saffron gauze pinned at the shoulder with clusters of golden grapes. She wore an ivy wreath of hammered gold on her head and carried a thyrsos twined with a little jeweled serpent. One of her servants carried Wadjet, coiled in his reed basket. She never attended a rite without her sacred snake. Other women followed her, maenads dressed in fawn skins and dappled robes carrying wreaths of ivy and reed thyrsos with pine-cone tops. Olympias took Roxana in her arms and embraced her, then told her and the other women to wait while she and the maenads entered the grove alone, skirting the oleanders and tamarisks until they disappeared into the darkness of the forest.

The priest of Dionysos and his acolyte came to lead the others into the sacred grove. Roxana trod carefully on the stony path, following the priest and other initiates until they came to a little glade in the midst of the forest. A goat with gilded horns and a wreath of vine leave hanging round its neck, was tethered in the shadows, its face like a wicked mask, its topaz eyes glinting.

In the clearing the women formed a circle A torch bearer came round lighting their torches from her flame. When all were lit, the women stuck them into the ring of sconces that had been speared into the ground. In the center of the circle of flame was a garlanded altar and a small trestle table set up with wine cups and a mixing bowl. On a plinth, standing above the altar, an idol of Dionysos looked down on them with a beckoning smile. He was life-sized and youthful with the trim muscular body of a dancer. The sheen of the polished marble made his bronze skin seem real. He wore ornate gem-studded boots and a leopard skin, draped over one shoulder. In his right hand he held a thyrsos and in his left, a gilt wine cup raised in a gesture of greeting.

Roxana recalled when Alexander once had dressed himself as Dionysos for one of the feast days at Babylon. Had he not come to her in her mountain home in the East and enchanted her, just as the god Dionysos had come from Hellas? Now she comprehended, understood Olympias’ passionate zeal, why she gave herself so freely to the god. Were not Alexander and Dionysos one?

The women stood in a ring, hands joined, and sang the invocation. Roxana watched in quiet fascination as the goat was brought up for the sacrifice. It did not balk, nor make a single sound except one plaintive bleating wail as the knife sliced its throat. She winced and looked away as the blood was caught in a shallow dish and mixed with the wine, an offering for the god. After the sacrifice, the priest and his acolyte poured the wine and passed the cups around the circle.

Roxana’s hands trembled as she took the cup. She looked across at Olympias. The fine wreath of gold in the old queen’s hair sparked and trembled in the torchlight. She appeared to be already in a trance, her eyes half-closed, moaning softly as she swayed to the soft sounds of the sistra and flute. When the
priest handed her a wine cup she lifted it to her lips and sipped it, then glanced over the rim at Roxana, her brows drawn into a frown. Following Olympias’ silent command, Roxana drank the strong, unmixed wine quickly, catching her breath at it’s sharp acrid flavor, tinged with the sweetness of the goat’s blood.
As priestess of the cult, Olympias began to sing the sacred hymn, the dithyrambos telling of Dionysos, son of the mortal Semele, fathered by Zeus. The song told of his birth, how he had been hidden in Naxos with the nymphs who saved him from the jealous wrath of Hera, how old Silenos had taught him wisdom and how he had found power in the purple juice of the grape. The song had many verses, telling adventurous tales of the wild young god who roamed through the country and across the Hellespont far, far away to the East. The maenads raised the chorus and after each verse, the cymbals clashed and the sistra rattled.

The tempo of the music increased, the women’s finger-drums throbbed, and the sistra rattled in time to the beat. A double flute wailed the mystical tune, and the women began to sway, arms linked behind waists, their feet beating the ground. Roxana closed her eyes and let herself move to the rhythm. The music had a twirling lilt and was as intoxicating as the wine. The maenad’s movements became more suggestive, bodies arching, bending, feet beating the ground. Roxana, hypnotized into a kind of frenzied madness, began to dance with the maenads and the other initiates, her mind carried far away to the mountains in India where the god had found refuge and wild creatures like lions and tigers came meekly to him.

Invoking the god, the maenads snatched at the blood-drenched chunks of the goat that the priest had butchered on the altar, devouring raw the pieces of kidney, tongue, and legs of the sacrificed animal, an orgiastic feast in honor of the god.

As they lept and danced, their faces smeared with wine lees and blood, they cried aloud and tore at their clothing, calling on the god, crying “Euoi, Bakcheia! Euoi! Euoi!”
treading over the place of sacrifice until their feet and pelts were stained red with blood and wine. The whirling torches, the skirling of the music, carried them to heights of ecstasy, as they surrendered themselves unconditionally to the god.

When finally the orgy ended, Roxana fell exhausted to the ground and lay face down on the sweet-scented pine needles, panting, her head swirling from the dance and the wine and the pulsating beat of the music.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and tried to raise herself up but everything still spun and her stomach heaved. Olympias bent over her and gently helped her to her feet. She seemed oddly calm. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright, almost glowing, and in the torchlight she seemed to shimmer as if she was aflame.

“My dear, you have met the god,” she said. “Now you are one of us. You have been initiated into the Mysteries. It is a secret rite, so you must never speak of it to anyone else. ”

The flames had burned low in the sconces and the music had ended. Arm in arm, the women were slipping away together into the pinewood. Was that men’s voices she heard calling out in the inky depths of the forest?

Olympias picked up the basket with her snake, and beckoned to Roxana to follow her.
“Come now. You must get some rest. Ordinarily, we would go with them,” she said, with an enigmatic smile, “But this time, we won’t. We have many things to discuss, you and I, about your son’s future.”

As the walked back down the path and entered the palace grounds, the first light of dawn streaked the eastern sky with rose. Roxana could not help but feel a stir of destiny, a change in her fortune. By including her in the Dionysian mysteries, Olympias had accepted her, making it clear that now she was indeed part of the Macedonian royal household.


Vase painting of a woman dressing
for the Dionysian Mysteries
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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

SEVEN THINGS ABOUT A CHARACTER: a meme


Philip Arridaios

Gabriel challenged me to this meme so I decided to write seven things about one of the most pathetic characters in my novel, "Shadow of the Lion", Philip Arridaios, a half-brother of Alexander the Great who became a victim of the Wars of Alexander's Successors.

PHILIP ARRIDAIOS

1. Arridaios was the illegitimate son of the Macedonian king Philip II and a Thessalian woman named Philinna -- one of Philip's many 'conquests'. Arridaios was probably a year or two old when Philip's lawful wife, Olympias, gave birth to Alexander. To make certain that her son would be recognized as the crown prince, heir to Philip's throne, it is alleged that Olympias had the little boy, Arridaios, poisoned. The poisoning didn't kill Arridaios, but it stunted his mental development so that he did not advance past his childhood age, although he grew physically in the likeness of his esteemed father. It also caused him to have epilepsy.

2. Philip was always protective of Arridaios and provided him with a keeper who attended to him for all of his lifetime. Once Philip proposed to engage Arridaios to the daughter of the satrap of Karia. This was purely a political motive, but Alexander saw it as his father's attempt to reject him. Alexander and his Companions intervened and the 'engagement' was annulled. But Philip was furious and threatened to expel Alexander and his friends and execute the famous actor, Thetallos, who Alexander had sent as an envoy to stop the engagement. It turned out the girl was only a child, and fortunately Alexander and his friends were spared punishment by his irate father.

3. After Philip's assassination in 336 BC, for which Olympias was also implicated, Alexander , who had then inherited his father's throne, engaged Arridaios by proxy to one of Philip's granddaughters, Adeia, who was the daughter of Philip's nephew who was executed for treason after Philip's death, and Philip's daughter Kynna by his Illyrian war-bride Audata. This engagement was later annulled by the Regent, Antipater. When Alexander left on his conquests against Persia, he took Arridaios with him for safe-keeping.

4. When Alexander died under mysterious circumstances in 323 BC in Babylon, he left no heir. Under normal circumstances, because the generals of Alexander had to choose a new king, the most likely candidate was Arridaios. However he was illegitimate and mentally unfit to rule. At the same time, Alexander's Soghdian wife, Roxana, was about to give birth. If she had a son, he would be the legitimate heir to the throne. This created dissension among the Successors, some of whom supported Arridaios because he was of pure Macedonian blood. When Roxana gave birth to a son (Alexander IV) the generals decided to name both Arridiaos and the newborn as titular kings. Arridiaos then assumed the royal title of Philip III.

5. Now that Philip Arridaios was officially the "king" it meant that General Perdikkas, who had assumed the role of commander-in-chief of the Macedonian army, was able to issue his own orders under the king's name. Meanwhile, Adeia and her mother, disguised as men, were en route to Sardis where Perdikkas and his army were camped, with the intention of her marrying Arridiaos. (This was a ploy for her to regain control of the throne and avenge the execution of her father.) Perdikkas sent men to stop them. The royal women were ambushed and Adeia's mother, Kynna, was killed. But when the Macedonian soldiers discovered who they were, they rescued Adeia and took her to the Macedonian camp insisting she should be allowed to marry Arridaios. After the marriage, Adeia assumed the royal name "Eurydike" and proceeded to use her idiot husband and control his affairs, in an attempt to rule in his stead.

6. A year later, when Perdikkas was murdered by his own officers, the royal family King Philip Arridaios, the baby Alexander and Roxana, were placed under the guardianship of the regency of Antipater. Adeia-Eurydike continued to use her husband as a pawn in the game of kingship, but was prohibited by Antipater. A year later, Antipater succumbed to old age and Adeia Eurydike again took control of her husband's affairs, siding with Kassandros who had been rejected for the regency by his father, in an attempt to oust Polyperchon the new Regent, and get rid of Roxana and her child.

7. Philip Arridiaos was still under Polyperchon's guardianship however, and was used to pass royal edicts, until finally in 317, Polyperchon persuaded Olympias and her Epirote troops to invade Macedon to drive out the usurper, Adeia-Euryidike, who had attempted a coup to oust him and the young Alexander IV. This impetuous move by Adeia-Eurydike resulted in the beginning of a civil war that would bring tragic results to the royal family and the entire country. Arridaios was imprisoned and cruelly treated by Olympias. Eventually Adeia-Eurydike, who had fled in hopes of amassing more troops, was also arrested. Both she and Arridaios were killed on Olympias' orders making the way clear for her only grandson, Alexander IV, to be the sole legal heir to Alexander's throne.

I would like to tag SCOTT, MEGUMI, MARIE, ADRIAN, EILEEN, SAM and DEBRA
This was actually kind of fun and a good way to get into your character's background quite thoroughly if you haven't already done so.





Tuesday, January 01, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT 23: WEAVING THE TAPESTRY



Persian tapestry: the battle


I look at the construction of my novel "Shadow of the Lion" much as if I am weaving a tapestry. Each thread (like each word) must be placed carefully, in order to form the pattern until the picture unfolds (just as a story develops). I see each character in the story as a coloured thread woven throughout this vivid tapestry. For instance, the 'shadow' and spirit of ALEXANDER is the golden thread that weaves through the entire tapestry. His young son, Alexander IV, (ISKANDER) the titular child king who inherits his throne, is a silver thread. His Soghdian wife, ROXANA is magenta , while his mother OLYMPIAS is purple murex. PTOLEMY, who established Alexandria and the first Ptolemaic dynasty, is royal blue. KASSANDROS, Alexander's rival and eventual nemesis, is a black thread. Each of the other main characters (some who are fictional) are also 'colour coded' : NABARZANES, the Court Advisor is peacock blue, while the MAGUS is ivory. The differences between the opulent, aristocratic Persians and the rough highland warriors of Macedon prove a colorful contrast in the warp and weft of the prose. I must stand back once in awhile and look at this creation to make sure that the pattern is clear, the colours balanced, no threads are left unwoven leaving gaps in the picture. When it is finally finished, I hope it will be a masterpiece.


Tapestry reproduction of a winged bull taken from Nebuchadnezzar's palace, Babylon
You could also look at the story as a mosaic made of carefully placed tiles or, as Macedonian mosaics were, made from various colored river pebbles. Either way, the story and the words and characters that fill the story, compose a panoramic picture.

I have managed to complete another chapter and start a new one even though the Christmas season was busy and distracting. Now it is 2008 and the novel is almost done so I must stay 'at the loom', so to speak, weaving away until the last thread is tied in place.
Or, as in a mosaic, the last pebble or tile is laid.


Mosaic of Alexander battling King Darius.
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