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Friday, March 28, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT 32: SLOW-DOWN

It's supposed to be Spring in my coastal city. The cherry blossoms are out in full bloom. So are the daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and other spring flowers. Who would have imagined that today I'd wake to a blizzard! Yes...snow at the end of March...just when we thought that Spring had arrived in full bloom!

I've had a set-back that has slowed me down with the progress on the novel. The unseasonably cold weather has brought along a lot of nasty 'bugs' with it and unfortunately, I caught one. I was at the doctor's for my annual last week, bragging more or less about my 'perfect' health, how I never get sick when those around me are falling prey to the viruses. By that evening my chest was tight and my throat sore. I rushed out to get some strong vitamin C fizzy tabs which usually do the trick when I feel a cold coming on. But by the next day it hit me full and hard and right in the chest. I managed to get myself through the next two days with fits of coughing, and hoped it would all go away. But by Saturday I felt worse. And Sunday I had to drag myself out to the 'burbs for the Easter dinner I'd been invited to with my friend's family. I made it home to bed that evening and there I've been pretty well all week long. By Monday I felt so ill all I could manage to do was go to the pharmacy and ask for some cough suppressant, then I went back home to bed. Tuesday I was worse and feared I might have pneumonia. Friends have been most helpful and caring. I hadn't been able to do grocery shopping but my pal brought me chicken noodle soup and herbal teas and a bag of lemon, ginger and garlic. Another friend brought me ginger ale. I just lay there coughing and choking and couldn't care less about food or anything, least of all the writing I wanted to get done this week.

On Wednesday I managed to get myself to the doctors, for by now I did fear I might have pneumonia. I got some heavy-duty antibiotics and they seem to be doing the trick. Yesterday I felt somewhat better, though still had some problems sleeping as I couldn't lie down without coughing and choking. But last night I actually slept well. Two nights in a row I dreamed of Anibal or his family. On Tuesday when I was so sick I dreamed I was in a big farmhouse with his daughters and ex wife (my friend in Santiago Chile). He was a shadow figure in the dream. It was a very pleasant dream and I woke feeling as if it had all really happened. The next night, because I had been to the clinic which had misdiagnosed him, saying he had pneumonia when it turned out to be lung cancer, I went to bed and dreamed he came to visit me, playing his guitar and singing for me and my friends. The next morning his daughter wrote on Facebook how she missed her Dad so much. I emailed her about the dreams and she had dreamt of him as well. He must have been hovering around to check up on us.

Last night I slept well and was dreaming of walking along a sea wall trying to catch up to two of my friends. It was peaceful and beautiful, a bright sunny day and sparkling ocean. We were going to visit an island. I woke up and opened the blinds and my gosh! There was a blizzard blowing outside. I couldn't believe it! So I stayed in all day today, not daring to go out in this freezing, cold weather. Not that the snow stayed -- it never does -- but it's just too cold for nearly April! (and more predicted for tomorrow!)

So, instead, I did some editing for a friend's novel which I found brilliantly amusing and fun to work on. And then a bit more editing for a travel piece one of my students needed help with. Perhaps tomorrow I'll have the mental energy back enough to delve into Shadow again.
I always feel guilty when I leave it too long. But really, I haven't been this ill in quite some time and it hasn't gone away yet. I think I'll be house bound at least for the weekend until this cough breaks up and my head clears. Two more antibiotics to go. If I'm not better by Monday it may mean a chest x-ray is in order.

Meanwhile, we all wait patiently for Spring to really arrive!

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

CELEBRATING NOROOZ, THE PERSIAN NEW YEAR


Originating back several 1000 years, predating the Archaemenian Dynasty, Norooz (Nowruz) begins the first day Spring for Persians, symbolic of two ancient concepts : The End and the Rebirth. Good and Evil.

One the eve of the last Wednesday of the year bonfires are lit in public places. With the help of fire and light it is hoped for enlightement and happiness throughout the coming year. People leap over the flames shouting "Give me your beautiful red color. And take back my sickly pallor." Special foods are made and distributed. The ceremonial table is called Sofreh-e Haft Seen (cloth of seven dishes) The name of each dish begins with the Persian letter Sinn. (see http://plateauofiran.wordpress.com)

Some time ago, early in the second part of my novel Shadow of the Lion the Persian characters in the story celebrate Norooz, but they have to do it in secret because the Macedonians have prohibited them from worshipping and celebrating their own customs. This is a chapter segment from the novel describing the way the celebrated Norooz.

The new moon of March heralded Nowruz, the Persian New Year. To celebrate,
Roxana had planned a lavish feast and invited all her household. Persian delicacies
were imported from the coastal trading ports. A caravan of mangy-furred camels arrived at
Ilion from Damascus bearing wares from the East. Nabarzanes took the child to the
bazaar and he watched with round, curious eyes as the merchants unloaded their wares
and dickered with Nabarzanes over the quality of their merchandise.

There were leather flasks of fine Shirz wine from Persia; baskets of pistachios,
almonds, dates, pomegranates and citrus fruits from the Land of Rivers; clay vessels
painted with dragons and tied with hemp chord that contained gigner and spices. Nabarzanes said these came from beyond the Singing Desert And from Damascus, bolts
of gossamer cloth dyed all the virant hues of a beautiful garden to make garments for his
mother.

Nabarzanes inspected the contents of each cask and bundle. Waving hands,
tapping fingers and pulling their long bears, the khajas haggled with him over every shekel
until, after much shouting, the price was agreed upon.

As they returned to the citadel, Nabarzanes explained the customs of the New
Year’s festival to the child.

“Tonight, just as in Persia, we will light a beacon fire. In Persia at Nowruz, we
light fires on every high place, fires as high as towers. Then there will be offerings of
flowers, food and milk, and a bounteous feast with foods such as you have never seen
before. Everyone exchanges gifts. It is the custom to bring gifts to the Shah and in old
times, before the Macedonians came, the Shah always granted the wishes of his guests.
Nowruz is a jubilant time, Iskander-shah,” he said, “And this year you are old enough to
participate.” He squatted down beside the child, his brow creased with a worried frown.
“Have your Guardians questioned you about this? They don’t celebrate as we do. This is
their festival of the Departed Ancestors, a solemn time for them. If your Guardians ask,
do not tell them about our rites because they do not approve.”

“Why?” the child asked, regarding Nabarzanes solemnly.

“They only want you to honour their customs,” Nabarzanes explained. He took
the child by the hand and looked candidly into his eyes. “We must be careful from now on,
Iskander-shah. Peithon will be angry if he finds out we have disobeyed him. He has
forbidden us to speak about Persian things to you, so you must remember everything we
have already taught you.”

The child scuffed his toes in the dirt and tried to understand Nabarzanes’ words.
His world was changing. He had often overhead the whispered secrets and witnessed his
mother’s violent rage when she spoke about his Guardians. Whenever Peithon and
Arrybas came to visit there were quarrels about him and after these visits, his mother
would be in such a temper that everyone in her household would cower in fright. He
worried that something dreadful might come to pass, but he dared not speak of his fears,
especially to his mother. She would only remind him who he was and slap him for
whining. Nor did he speak of them to Nabarzanes and Leila whom he loved most dearly.

At the door of his mother’s Bedchamber, Nabarzanes kissed him farewell and saw
that the Warder let him inside. She had just come from her bath. The room was warm and
scented with bath-oil and musk. She was surrounded by her servants so she did not
notice him enter. He waited politely, half-hidden by the high, carved sideboard, not
making a sound, though he was bursting with news and questions. He had learned long
ago to be patient and careful with his mother.

He watched as her handmaidens dressed her in her favourite Soghdian gown, a
blaze of red and orange with an embroidered bodice and flounces hung with crescents like
tiny moons which jangled as she spun around. She let out a little laugh as she swirled the
skirt. She seemed in a gay mood.

Roxana sat down at her dressing table and admired herself in a mirror while her
handmaiden combed and twisted her hair into coils, pinning it up with sparkling jeweled
hair ornaments. Her hair was black as a horse’s mane, much darker than his own.

He poked his fingers into the basket of figs on the sideboard and helped himself. He had eaten three of them from the basket before she finally noticed him. When she did, she put down her mirror and waved away her lady. “How long have you been hiding there quiet as a cat? Who let you in?” She gathered him into her arms and kissed the nape of his neck. Then she held him out at arm’s length to inspect him. “Where have you been? Down in the elephant pens?” She clicked her tongue. “I shall summon Leila straightaway to bathe you.”

“Camels,” he said. “’Zanes took me to see the camels.”

“The caravan has arrived from Damascus then? Good. Everything will be ready for
Nowruz.” She caressed the blood-red stones of her necklace. “It will be the feast of all
feasts. There will be dancing and lots of food.”

“And gifts?” the child hopped on one foot then the other excitedly. “’Zanes said
so. When shall I have mine?”

She tweaked his chin and smiled. “Come along then. I’ll show you what I have for you. Something truly worthy of my little Shah.”

She opened the tall sandalwood chest that kept her garments and took out a little
suit made of shimmering cloth a bright shade of purplish red embroidered with flying
serpents. It had a tunic with wide sleeves and a sash with gold threat in it. To match,
trousers and kid slippers dyed saffron, decorated with gold tassels.

“This is the rare Chin silk that comes over the Hindu-Kush from beyond the Land
of Encircling Ocean,” she said. “I had it made especially for you. Only an imperial child
wears clothing of such fine fabric. Truly, when the Macedonians see you they will know
you are such a child!” Roxana liked to pamper her child and took great pleasure in
dressing him in fine things. She insisted he should never be seen looking less than
a royal child. All the motherly affection she denied him was made up by lavish gifts and
pretty clothes.

“Tonight we will be together with our friends,” she said. “We must all be merry.
Come now, why the glum face?”

He felt somewhat crestfallen, having hoped for a new toy. He managed a hesitant
smile. It wouldn’t do for her to see that he was displeased.

When Leila came to fetch him he went happily even though he disliked the fuss of
the hot perfumed bath and the anointments of almond-scented oils.
He usually chattered incessantly to her, plying her with questions. Today he was
silent.

“What is it, dear Lamb?” she asked as she coaxed the tangles out of his hair.
“Come. Make a better face for me! Tonight is Nowruz and such a celebration you have
never beheld!” She set the comb down and gazed at him sadly. “Perhaps it will be our last
time...”

He shivered under the damp towel she had wrapped him in after his bath. She
padded across the room to fetch his clothes. He stared after her saying nothing. He
watched her as she moved away from him, the ample curves of her body swaying as she
moved, the braid of her chestnut hair hanging thick as a rope down her straight spine. He
had understood more than what she had said. But still, he refused to believe that
everything would not be this way for all times, just as it had been for as long as he could
remember. He stood patiently while she dressed him in the new red coat. Her plump
fingers moved nimbly as she fastened the loops over the little jeweled buttons.
“This is a fine coat! You’ve outgrown all your other clothes. You’ve sprouted up
so tall over the winter. You’re not a babe anymore.” She set the round braided gold hat
on his head and tucked a stray curl under its brim. “There now! How beautiful you are!”
She gazed at him adoringly.

He felt stiff and formal in his new clothes. He stood still while she straightened the
sash. “When I go to Macedon,” he said. “I shall not have to wear clothes like these
anymore. And I won’t have to live in the women’s rooms either. My Guardians said so.”

“Where will you live then?” asked Leila.

His voice sounded gruff because of the lump in his throat. “Arrybas said I shall
have a room of my own in the palace. The same room my father lived in.”

“Then you will not need a nurse after all,” Leila replied ruefully. She took his face
between her hands and gazed into it for a long time. “Even though you are the Shahinshah,
you are still my Precious Lamb,” she said. “I could not love you more had you been my
own son.”

He studied the toes of his slippers and blinked hard so she would not see his tears.
But suddenly they burst in a torrent and he throw himself into her arms, sobbing against
her breast. “If you leave me, who will I go to when I’m sad?” He was shaking all over and
could not catch his breath.

She rocked him in her arms. “Is that why you are afraid? Are you afraid of going
to Macedon?” She took his hands and held them between her warm, moist palms. “Hush
now, sweet Lamb. Your tears will spoil the cloth of your fine new coat. You must not
grieve. Whatever happens, the Good Wise Lord knows His children and looks after them.”

He caught his breath and let her wash his face with a cool, scented cloth. His nose
was running and his throat ached. “My Guardians say you can’t come with us.”

She stroked him and kissed him again. Her eyes glittered. “Hush now. Tonight we
will be together, and tomorrow too. And if it is the will of the Benevolent Lord, we will
be so for always.”

Then, because she always knew how to cheer him, she said brightly: “I have
brought you a gift, which I shall give to you now instead of making you wait for the feast
to begin, because you have kept out of mischief and been so agreeable today.”

She reached under his bed and produced a packet wrapped in scarlet cloth. He
unwrapped it eagerly. Inside was a little chariot made of gilded wood, pulled by a white-
glazed horse with golden hooves. In its centre on a tiny pole stood a sunburst emblem set
with a small diamond globe. He stroked the horse tenderly and ran his fingertips over the
rims and spokes of the chariot wheels.

“How beautiful it is, the Horse of the Sun.” He inspected the chariot reverently,
lifting it into the lamplight so the diamond globe dazzled in a prism of rainbow colours.
“When I am the Great King...after I’m grown...I shall ride in a beautiful chariot like this
one!” He smiled at her. “”Zanes says at Nowrus the Shah must grant wishes to everyone
who brings him gifts. What is your wish?”

“That was long ago, the granting of wishes...” Leila replied.

He pressed his cheek against her hand. “Truly I love you, Leila, and I will give you
anything you wish for.”

“If only you could, my precious One,” she said softly.

“I will tell the Regent he mustn’t sent you away!” he stated bravely.

“Alas, Iskander-shah, you are just a little boy and the Regent is the most powerful man in your father’s kingdom.”

“But I am the Shahinsha,” he insisted. “Mama and ‘Zanes said so!”

She stood looking at him a long time. Finally she said: “All that I wish for is that you are happy and live a long, prosperous life.”
* * *
The ceremony began at sundown. A ram’s horn sounded the summons for the
Persians to gather in the courtyard. Everyone came dressed in their finery for the occasion
and took their places in order of rank. Roxana and her ladies, including Leila, who were all
from noble families, sat on carpets on one side. Nabarzanes, the stewards, the Warder,
and visiting envoys stood in a circle around the stack of juniper logs for the New Year’s
pyre. The eunuchs, servants and slaves stayed behind them.
The chanting started with a single voice but soon others joined in. As if in answer
came the soft beat of a tabour and the thin wail of a reed flute. The Magus entered the
courtyard, accompanied by the child and two acolytes who bore the sacred fire altar. As
the people shouted loud hosannas and spread palm branches in their path, the Magus raised
his wand to bless them. Everyone laid on the ground and pressed their foreheads to the
stones in obescience.

The child shone like a jewel beside the dignified snowy-bearded priest who was
garbed in ceremonial garments of pure white. The Magus moved toward the altar and
washed his hands three times in the basin of clean spring water held by an acolyte. On the
altar was a small bowl containing grain roasted with salt, and seeds. Beside it were placed
baskets of figs, dates and dried herbs. Another dish held honey and another
contained milk. He offered the grain and seeds at the altar and burned them for the God.
Then he poured the honey and milk into a bronze offering dish ad set it on the ground in
front of the altar, placing the baskets of fruit and herbs on the ground beside it.

In a clear, pious voice, the Magus sand the anthem. There was an absolute silence
as he sang the sacred words.
“He is the God of all things,
The Fire of heaven and earth, sky and wind.
He is the power of life and the power of death.
All things that grow and fill the universe are His.”

The old priest’s hands shook as he lifted the flask of purified water and drank from
it. As he blessed the oil and poured some for the God, a sudden sound from beyond the stone walls stopped his voice. There was a long, murmuring hush, then a sigh of
relief as the marching footsteps of guards calling out their rounds for the night watch
retreated. The Magus stood in an attitude of prayer, his hands on his forehead.

“We must pray for peace between all nations, food for the hungry, and
steadfastness in the face of many hardships,” he said. He bowed to the child, hand to
forehead, and spoke the words of worship and adoration.
“Lord, O light of all mankind, O Lord who sees all things, Upon the Shah who stands in awe of Thee, Confer they bountiest blessings...”

Then he broke pieces of sandalwood and placed them in the fire holder, drank
again from the consecrated water, and emptied the flask to east and west, sprinkling some
on the door lintels.

“Rejoice with the fruits of the earth,” he cried.

As the sacred offering burned, the thrum of a harp shimmered around the
courtyard. An acolyte threw a torch into the pile of logs. Jubilant cheers filled the courtyard.
Cymbals clanged and tabours rattled. The blazing logs drenched everything in
gold. Even the walls and pillars seemed to be burning. The Magus raised his wand and
the people lifted their hands to sing the anthem of praise to the sky, sun and stars.

It was a glorious night. The air was blue with smoke and fragrant with the resin-
scent of burning juniper. Above, in the clear- star-filled sky, the new moon hung like the
curved blade of a shimshir. Just next to it, Venus shone brightly as a beacon.
The child drank in everything: the bright flames, the dazzle of light reflecting off
gold and jewelry. His ears rang from the din of the music. He looked around and saw
his mother standing motionless, sparkling in the firelight. A strange power seemed to
radiate from her that made a tingling sensation prickle down his spine. He felt like crying,
but did not know why. He looked over at Leila and gave her a hesitant smile. If he could
have, he would run to her for reassurance, but it would not be seemly to behave like a
baby.

The the music of flutes and strings began. Hands clapped, drums and cymbals beat.
Dancers began to twirl to the skirling of reed pipes and the rich lilting tune of the ivory
flute. In the midst, with skirts and jewels swinging, arms entwined, the women wove and
twisted, swaying to the beat. He saw his mother, laughing as if she had no dread, no cares
in the world, as she lead the dance.

Suddenly he was nudged forward, caught in her beckoning hands. She whirled
him round and round, his feet flying over the stones as he laughed with delight, caught in
the rhythm of the joyful dance.

Some of the men began to leap over the flames, calling on Atar the Fire, to bring
them good fortune. Mesmerized by the hypnotic cadence of the music, the child held his
breath as they jumped and twirled, daring the flames to scorch them. Their ululating
grew louder and the dance became more frenzied, until finally the flames burned down to
embers and the drum-beats slowed to a faint thudding. The fire dancers sank to the
ground in a trance, beads of sweat streaming down their faces, their eyes glazed with
rapture.

Then the kitchen slaves announced that the feast was ready. The child took his
place beside the Magus seated on a dais raised above the heaps of pillows where the
guests reclined. The entire floor was covered with dining cloths except for narrow spaces
where the servants moved about carrying trays heaped with food.

There was pheasant cooked in pomegranate juice; whole roasted lambs; piglets
stuffed with apples and pistachios; marrows and melons and fruits of every variety;
pastries drenched in honey and little cakes made with almonds, dates and cloves. Before
the feasting began the Magus blessed the special Nowruz foods: the sprouted grains; the
purple hyacinth petals; the sweet puddings; the ripe black olives in their brine of vinegar
and herbs; the russet apples saved from the autumn harvest.

“This is the time of thanksgiving and bestowing gifts,” he announced in his high,
ancient voice. “It is the way we have celebrated the New Year since the old days when
Shah Kyros proclaimed it to be a festival of friendship.” He laid his hand on the child’s
head. “The Shah, our Honoured One, is always the first to be served.”

Nabarzanes tucked an embroidered napkin over the front of Iskander’s coat.

“Iskander-shah, I won’t even scold you today if you spill anything or talk with your
mouth full,” he whispered good-humouredly. “This napkin has been used by all the Persian
Shahs since the time of the Great Kyros, Father of Persia.” He stood, and addressed the
banquet guests. Voices grew silent as he began his speech.

“Our Shahs, the First Darius and Xerxes the Destroyer, were hated by the Greeks.
The Greeks say we Persians stole sacred treasures from the High Place in Athens and
drove their priests out of the temples. Because of this, Persians are not tolerated in
Greece, so when we go to Macedon, we will be prohibited from practicing our customs.”
He spoke in the high-bred Elamite tongue of the Persian royalty, in a voice deep-toned as
a nefer. His brows were drawn over his nose in a stern expression. “Shah Kyros, the
Lord’s Annointed, ruled over many nations. Even though they did not speak the same
language or worship the same God as Persia he believed that all men are God’s children,
so he made those whom he conquered -- Medes, Assyrians, Babylonians, Soghdians,
Bactrians -- one kingdom. We must try to live in peace and accord with the
Macedonians.”

He looked down upon the child with a compassionate smile. “Iskander-
shah, your father the Invincible Alexander, also believed in the union of all nations. He
honoured our God and paid tribute to the Great Kyros. You are a fortunate child, for you
have been born into the best of two worlds. May you always be proud of who you are,
and rule as wisely as your father and the Great Shah Kyros.” He bowed low before the
child in a gesture of respect. In his eyes were both pride and grief. “The people of Persia
look to you as their Shah now. You must live well and endure, for the sake of us all.”

Unable to comprehend everything Nabarzanes had said, the child put down the
candied apricot he had been nibbling, then went back to arranging the apricot pits around
the edge of his silver plate.

The Magus spoke to him like a kindly grandfather. “You have been taught how to
live a good life, my child. These things you will remember long after you have forgotten
the rituals. There is a divine spark within you. You have nothing to fear so long as you
trust the Good Wise lord and honour Him.” He stood and lifted his hands in a gesture of
blessing. “Let us be joyful. This is the beginning of a new life for Iskander-shah. As he
goes to the homeland of his father, he will be honoured and welcomed, for truly he is a
worthy child.”

After the meal was finished, the guests got up one by one to present their gifts.
They knelt and bowed their heads and placed their offerings on the dais before the child.
There were drinking cups of exquisite cloisonnes and embossed gold; ceramic plates
painted with entwining vines and many-coloured birds; jeweled brooches, tiaras,
and a gold bracelet with two pairs of lion cubs lying face to face. After the tributes were given, the child stood and bowed and thanked everyone politely. As it was the custom for the recipient of a gift to give one in return, each guest was presented with medallions or vases or fabrics of silk and linen.

Then the wine was served. The stewards broke open flasks of wine that had been
sent from Damascus, the fabled wine of Shiraz, thick, amber-coloured, sweet as nectar.
The child was given a little egg-shaped cup and Nabarzanes poured some wine into it,
mixed it with water.

“You must take the first drink, Iskander-shaw. It is the custom that nobody is
allowed to touch their until you do.”

The child looked over toward where the women sat to get a nod of approval from
Leila and his mother, but Persian women did not partake in drinking parties so all of them
had left and he was alone with the men. He sipped the wine while everyone watched. It
tasted cloyingly sweet. He tilted the cup and swallowed a mouthful. Everyone smiled and
raised their cups to drink.

More food and drink was passed around; the musicians played and a band of
acrobats performed tricks and contortions, leaping on and off each others shoulders to the
beating of drums and timbrels. The child shrieked with pleasure at their antics.

“This was all planned for your amusement,” Nabarzanes said, passing him another
sweet cake.

The Magus leaned toward him relating a rambling tale of things remembered from
his long, venerable life. He rhapsodized over Persia’s past glories, described temples and
cities that shone with gold, wept over the desecration of royal tombs and the burning of
sacred testaments in a fire that he said was set by Alexander and the the rioting Macedonians.
As he told of an ancient prophecy etched on bricks, that foretold the coming of
Alexander and the destruction of Babylon, his voice quavered with emotion.

“All this has come to pass, I fear,” he said. He covered his eyes with his hand and
gave a long, weary sigh.

The child did not hear his words because he had fallen asleep.
* * *

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TIME OUT

I've been very busy lately with this and that -- not working too much on the novel, just a little. And doing other things like editing, attending classes for professional development and winding up the class I teach at night school. Whenever there's a break, like now -- Spring break -- I like to get out and about. A little R&R. One thing I do is walk about the neighbourhood. Just down at the foot of my street by the port-side road there are three little parks. This one (above) is a Meditation Park. There's little bench where you can sit looking out over the inlet and North Shore mountains. This is view (below).

I've been enjoying some special events the past two weeks, besides the classes I attended at the Simon Fraser Uni. downtown campus. I took an all day class in editing fiction (most useful for the task ahead with my novel and also helpful with my other editing tasks such as class papers and the submissions I get for my travel web site. This past Friday I attended another all-day course put on by the Writer's Union of Canada. It was a writing/publishing workshop with three interesting lectures -- one for non-fiction, one fiction and one for the technical aspects of publishing such as contracts etc. Very useful information. Next month I'll be doing another editing class on fine-tuning your writing. My aim is to get more experience editing so I can use this to supplement my income as a writer. One thing I've learned is the importance of writers having websites and/or blogs where there are samples of their writing. Most editors these days like this as a reference point when people submit manuscripts. I've got my blogs. I used to have a fairly extensive website which, unfortunately went into cache mode because I neglected to activate it after 40 days (was busy and forgot). Now I'm considering reopening it but it's hard work with the http coding and all. Still, I did it before and I'm sure I can do it again. Just a matter of finding the time.

I am poking away at my novel. Got a little stuck (usual do on transitions) but ready to go again now. My March issue of Travel Thru History is almost ready to publish so there isn't much editing to do for that until next month. Time to focus totally on the novel again.
Class are finished until next month and Spring is just around the corner. There are lots of flowers blooming in gardens now and in another week most of the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom. Yet it's feeling cold and wintry still. In Eastern Canada they're still up to their armpits in snow. Here on the Coast at least we have the signs of Spring. Like the lovely daffodils (below).

On the weekend I attended a very interesting play by a French-Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay -- title "Hosannah" -- a strong, beautifully written work about two gay men, one very macho (a biker) who is struggling to accept his feminine side. And the other a transvestite obsessed with Liz Taylor being Cleopatra, who is struggling with his male side. A wonderful play and the acting was simply superb. A friend of mine who had a starring role in my own play "The Street", was the director.

Sunday there was a dinner party at my friend's with a delicious meal of lamb -- all cooked and served in elegant Argentinian style by her boyfriend. Afterwards we all went up to the Drive and took in an evening of Latin jazz. I was supposed to go to a very early Monday morning breakfast for France tourism next day but when I woke at six a.m. and heard the rain pouring down I decided it was best to stay tucked under my cozy covers. Sorry I missed it though, as it wasn't just breakfast but lunch as well, all French cuisine including wine.
The next travel writer's event is a get together with the BC Association of Travel writer's folks this week to discuss the 2010 Winter Olympics and what role we media people can play. Frankly, I don't care about the Games. It will all be too expensive for the average Joe to afford anyway and they should be spending the money on the vast numbers of homeless folk who are living on our streets. However, there will be tourists coming to our town so it's a chance to write local stories to promote Vancouver and environs.

So, in spite of taking "Time Out" from my more serious endeavors, there's lots going on and most of it focused on writing anyway.
And, by the weekend I'll be back in the full swing of things and the next series of dramas involving Alexander's world.
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT 31: SIDETRACKED!

These are the first of the Japanese cherry blossoms heralding Spring


It wasn't so much 'procrastination' as it was getting sidetracked the past week or so that kept me from getting back to work on Shadow of the Lion. It seems I had no end of editing to do on things for my travel website as well as for classes etc. I attended an all-day editing for fiction course at S.F.U. last weeks too, which provided me with inspiration and advice on how to go about editing my final draft of Shadow, as well as the other editing I do for other people. I'm taking another all-day course this coming week too and one again in April. My aim is to take as many editing courses as I can to give me more credentials for doing this as private work.

There were also media shows these past weeks which I went to : a breakfast for European Travel; a preview showing at IMEX of "Whales and Dolphins: Tribes of the Ocean" which was amazing! and the same day there was a briefing for media on local points of interest to write about for the coming 2010 Olympics. At that one a 5***** chef had made all the canapes and finger-foods which were bountiful and delicious and the wine pourers kept pouring. I managed to do my share of schmoozing too. There was another one the following day but I passed on it because I had a class (memoirs) in the morning and another class (travel) at night. Just as well as I heard they were serving mojitos. (This is one of the bonus points of being in the travel media!)

As for the novel, I managed to sort out the discrepancies in locales without having to really rewrite anything -- mainly cutting & pasting with a few small adjustments. That was quite a relief! Then I set it aside for a few days which turned into a longer time due to other distractions and commitments. But today I finally resumed the work on it, sorting out what comes next and getting Olympias and the royal household settled in the sea fortress at Pydna. (It's sort of like the "Last days of Pompeii")

My classes end this week so there will be more time now. And I have all the newest stories ready to publish on my travel website, so
Shadow will have my undivided attention.

By the way, last week I tagged a couple of people for a memoir meme on my "Conversations with myself" blog at http://ruthakik.blogspot.com Check it out and join the fun!


An afternoon of reflection at Central Park, Burnaby B.C.
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