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Sunday, July 27, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #39: DILEMMAS



Mount Olympus

"As Eos spread her yellow robe across the earth,
thunder-loving Zeus smmoned an assembly of the gods
on the highest crest of many-ridged Olympus."
Homer "The Iliad"


While my own writer's life has been going along fairly well, with a couple of new job offers for the Fall (Life Writing classes) and a recent publication on a travel 'zine, (www.intheknowtraveler.com/2704) there have been a few dilemmas to face. The major one is the fact that all the ads were removed from my travel web site as a result of "suspicious activity" -- and just when I was starting to make a bit of money to help pay for the web site costs! I know the source, or I'm pretty sure I do. It was probably well-meaning friends clicking the ads too often in their effort to help me out. So, a lesson learned. Be sure to tell you friends to be discreet if they intend to click. Now I am looking into other alternatives, because if I can't find a way to subsidize the web site I'm not sure how long I can keep it going and it's just been going so good, with lots of positive comments and praise from my readers and contributors. Check it out yourself and see at
www.travelthruhistory.com (New stories will be posted in another week or so for August and there's some very interesting ones including a 'tour' of Beijing.)

Other than that (and the problem will be solved soon) there hasn't been much to complain or worry about. The weather has been good; I'm enjoying the summer. Less distractions would be good but I have been able to do some writing. I recently posted a new story on my travel blog
http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com "The Ecstasy of Food". I still have a couple more travel stories to finish in order to catch up with the backlog. And I am s-l-o-w-l-y working on Shadow of the Lion. My characters are facing a number of dilemmas themselves, and I'm helping them work through one crisis after another. Here's an example of what's going on:





Shadows on a forest stream

THIS IS WHAT HAS HAPPENED: The Regent, Polyperchon has agreed to a truce. Olympias is given an ultimatum by Kassandros offering her safe passage to the island of Euboeia if she surrenders the fortress of Pydna. Of course, she refused.

Once back inside the fortress, Olympias summoned her council. She did not intend to ask for advice, but dictated her wishes. The commanders and soldiers sat mutely listening to her commands.

“We will fight them, “ she said. “We will repel any attack by Kassandros. Pynda is well fortified and soon our allies will join us with ships.” She reminded them of their bloodless victory at the border of Epiros when their enemies had fled.

One of the elder veterans cleared his throat and dared interject, "Madam, there’s no question you command respect as Alexander’s mother, but Polyperchon’s army has had many desertions, and now we can no longer be guaranteed support from your own people in Epiros.”
Olympias stiffened and glared at the man who had dared speak out so boldly. She would remember later to relieve him of his post.

Commander Kronos stepped forward and pleaded with her to reconsider the terms of the truce for the sake of the safety of the royal household.
“Madam, our troops here are no match against Kassandros’ forces. Let’s be honest. We can’t win where we are now. The best we could do is to harry Kassandros men and then get out. Unless we get more troops, any strike we make on land will be ineffectual.“

“Then,“ she countered swiftly. “When the ships come we will strike by sea. With a navy and land troops, we will block them inside the garrison at Dion. They would not dare force a fight inside the holy sanctuary.“

“Without Polyperchon’s help and the reinforcements we have waited for so long Eumenes‘ to send, we stand no chance against them should they attack us, ” Kronos insisted.

Olympias was adamant. “No! Never! And do not dare again to make such a suggestion or I will consider you a traitor too, and will have you put in chains.”

A rumble of voices spread through the gathering. Some looked to Kronos and nodded in support of him. Others looked at Olympias and glowered. Still they dared not disagree with her. She was haughty and irascible, yet she had proven in the past to be a
formidable leader. She was more than a queen. She was Alexander’s mother, the same to many of them, as a mother of a god.

The debate grew noisier. Some argued for accepting a truce, others protested acrimoniously, determined to hold out until Spring when surely Eumenes’ navy would arrive and Polyperchon would bring troops over the border from Thessaly.
Still Kronos resisted. “We have no guarantee that Eumenes' ships will come in time.. .or that Polyperchon will break the truce he has made with Kassandros.”

Olympias cut off his words with a sharp retort. “They will come, Kronos, and we will
win!”
The men glanced at one another, but Kronos said no more. No one spoke again either to agree or argue. The council was dismissed and they went out.

After the men had left the council hall, Olympias went up on the ramparts to look out beyond the siege lines and fields toward the wild slopes of Mount Olympus. A sharp wind blew from the sea and she pulled her robe closer around her. Looking toward the splendid massif of the holy mount, she called upon the gods, beseeching them for a miracle.

She drew a slow breath and spoke: “Give me a sign!”

The sky was clear, but over the mountain dark clouds had gathered obscuring the snow-clad peaks. A prophecy? she wondered. Deep in her bones she felt an icy chill of doom, as if the gods were mocking her.
* * *



Mountain river
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Monday, July 21, 2008

New post for Technorati ID

Technorati Profile

Check out my ID at this site (name Kalypso)

PROGRESS REPORT # 38 : BACK TO NOTES AND EDITING


REFLECTIONS ON THE LAGOON

I've been enjoying some quiet leisure time in between all the business. But this week I'm back to notes and editing again, during the early daytime anyway, though I hate to miss any of this glorious, hot, summer weather.

I took my own advice, though, and have taken a few days where I go to the park or beach and spend time meditation. My favorite thing to do is head for Stanley Park, walk through the park gardens and along the Lost Lagoon trail to the beach. I usually take my camera along and have been collecting some beautiful photographs of the park's flora and fauna which I will post from time to time, here and on my other two blogs.


MY FAVORITE SWIMMING PLACE

Here's Second beach where I usually go swimming. The pool is large so it never gets too crowded, especially as I usually go later in the afternoon and stay til early evening. Then I walk along the seawall back to the buses on busy Denman St. Always lots going on down around English Bay.

I find that being in the water or by the water helps me quieten my mind and focus on the things I want to think about such as my writing. And if I am concerned about something (such as I've been the past week) it helps me sort out my thoughts, priorities and calm down. What bothered me last week was the news that the Mighty G. , Lord of the Web, has removed the ads from my blogs and website -- just when I was making a little to cover the cost of paying writers and web master. They didn't say why. Just "suspicious activity". I can only guess. It's like being charged with a crime you have no idea what you committed. I kind of think it might be that too many clicks were showing up from well-meaning friends who wanted to help things along. Anyway, I have appealed and will wait awhile before enforcing Plan B. A weekend away this week really helped me sort out my thoughts on this and now use dwelling on it.

Lots of other things going on as well. Last week was the yearly gala of the B.C.Travel Writer's Association. (No, I didn't win a thing although I was vying for the 4 days in Istanbul. Oh well...) And then I went to the Island for this weekend for a reunion picnic with my cousins. Next weekend is the Summer Dreams Festival (put on by Pandora's Poetry Collective) in Stanley Park. I'll be helping out with that and was supposed to do a workshop at it but so far noone has registered. At any rate, it will be a lovely day in the park with poets and other spoken word writers.

And...to put the icing on the cake...I got offered yet another "Life Writing" job, this time at another Community Centre. Previously I was given the job of Life Writer for a prestigious group at a centre called Brock House which is mainly retired university people. I'll write more about these later as they don't start up until September and are only 2 hrs once a week. But it's more feathers in my literary cap which pleases me.



BEERS WITH PEERS

Along with all this, I've been enjoying some fun with friends, and, as I said ...in the Park or by the ocean. The weather has been to incredible to stay indoors all day long tied to the computer. But, starting this morning I am back a t work on SHADOW again, making notes and doing some editing. I have some fragments of a new chapter started and want to carry on with it, not lose momentum like I did a few weeks ago. I also managed to finish another piece for my travel blog (see it at
http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com Titled "The Ecstacy of Food".
And...just found out another story is being published on-line (for pay!!) about Monamvasia, a Byzantine treasure in the Peloponnese.
Check it out at www.intheknowtraveler.com/2704
Oh yes, and I even prepared two blurbs for travel stories on Venice and Chile for that travel website syndicate that invited me to join. Now I have to write the stories and it doesn't pay peanuts but at least I'll have them done. Been procrastinating about that far too long now.

So now...back to SHADOW OF THE LION...setting up the scene for the big kill!
BACK SOON...
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Friday, July 11, 2008

BUSY AS A BEE!


I've been so busy these past weeks and still haven't had time to get back into my novel writing. A page of notes has been sitting on my desk staring me in the face but between job interviews, preps for new night school classes, appointments and social events, time is slipping by. I'm literally as 'busy as a bee!'

The week started out just great. I had an interview with people from the Brock House writing group. I'll explain "Brock House". The house itself is a grand Tudor-style mansion on the beach in the university area of Vancouver. It serves as a kind of 'community centre' for retired university folk: professors and other professionals, as well as local residents. The Brock House Writers are renown in this city. Each year they have an anthology of their stories published and a couple of years ago they had an interesting project called "Rest and Read" where stories were posted on park benches along the beach area. For many years they have had a very well-loved instructor, but unfortunately he passed away and they've had a hard time finding someone who would fit their needs. I was recommended by the Vancouver School Board for their one-morning-a-week Life Writing class.
I was, needless to say, thrilled at the opportunity. So last Monday I went for my interview with a lovely woman who is a retired professor herself (Education). The interview went very well and I was so warmly received with hugs and hand-shakes. So I will start this new group in September, paid through the VSB too, as they support the Brock House in the programs that are offered there. I'm so pleased to become involved with this group and it will certainly be good on my writer's resume.

The next night (Tuesday) I began a new series of Creative Writing classes for the VSB summer night school. This one is called "Breaking Through: A Creative Writing Workshop" and I was pleased to find a full class of enthusiastic would-be writers. I will be teaching two nights a week thru July. So this has certainly kept me busy again with class preps and the travel to and fro which takes me quite awhile (3 buses to get there!)

Now the weekend is here and more events. Tomorrow is the B.C. Travel Writer's Association annual gala which I'll be helping out with. There's a lot of cool door-prizes offered so maybe I'll even get lucky!

The weather has been exceptionally lovely except for a sudden wind storm yesterday. I want some beach time, and hopefully that will happen on the weekend. That always helps me sort out of my thoughts for writing. I did manage to get to waterfit twice this week (part of my stepped-up exercise regime) And I even had a delicious hour-long massage the other day, followed by a fun afternoon of browsing shops along the Drive with my pal M.J.
We ended up in a Gourmet Warehouse that was like two kids being turned loose in a toy shop. We were both agog at the shelves full of goodies and kitchen gadgets. I must return when I have money in my pocket!

Of course, it's Salsa dancing this weekend too. (also part of the exercise regime. Ahem!) Do you think I'll get back to working on my novel?
Well, it's almost 11 a.m. and that's my usual time to stop procrastinating and start working. I have a late afternoon coffee break schedule to meet with another writer friend in Gastown. So I'll get busy right now and if I can avoid any further distractions, I might even get that new chapter started! Bzzzz bzzzz bzzzz...
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Monday, July 07, 2008

WHAT DO WRITERS DO BESIDES WRITING? PART 3: FUN WITH FRIENDS

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY

"A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends." Cecily James.

It's been a few weeks of holidays and celebrating. The best parts of it were some of the times I spent with my friends. On Canada Day several of us met in the park at Granville island and spent the afternoon listening to music. It was the end of the jazz festival (I missed most of those events) and a big day of celebrating Canada's 141st Birthday. The sun was hot and the crowds all enthusiastic as they waves flags and enjoyed the day. A real show of patriotism. And a fun day for me with my friends, beginning with lunch at an Indian restaurant, then the music in the park, then a late bite to eat at our favorite jazz venue on the Drive.

Mid week my pal Andrea and I went to see an art exhibit opening at the Yaletown Gallery (www.yaletowngallery.com) The paintings were by a well-known BC poet and a good crowd showed up. My friend Jabbar is the gallery curator so we always try to go to the exhibits. It's a small gallery in a prestigious part of the city (Yaletown). Now, here's the part of this story that connects with my writing. Jabbar asked me about Shadow of the Lion. When would I finish it? Then he suggested something that certainly served as a huge inspiration. He said that perhaps when it is finished, I can do a reading at the Gallery. He would invite Iraqi and perhaps Greek artists to display. And I said, "Yes, considering you are one of the characters in the novel!"

The story is this: I have a fictional character named Nabarzanes who is a Persian court advisor from Babylon. I had written a lot about Nabarzanes and had a vision of him in my mind. But one day when I was in the L.Q. where my friends and I hang out, I saw this man and immediately I did a double take because HE was Nabarzanes. Eventually I got to be introduced to this tall, dark stranger (who I was sure was from the Middle East) and it turned out he was a refugee from Iraq, a well-known artist from Baghdad who had to flee Sadaam's regime. He and I have become good friends and that's our little 'in' joke -- that he is the embodiment of Nabarzanes.

Whether or not this 'reading' ever happens time will tell. But it was certainly a jolt of inspiration that I needed. "Hurry up and finish it!" Jabbar said. And I will!

I went out to the suburbs on Friday to spend a lovely day with my sister and catch up on family news.

So then the weekend came and it was salsa dancing time again. Every weekend 'the gang' gets together at our favorite haunt, the Latin Quarter, to enjoy the excellent Latin music of a group called Sumalao. This Friday was one of those nights full of high energy and fun.
People showed up who we haven't seen in awhile and everyone was in a merry mood. I was even given a yellow rose, a very sweet gesture from one of the Latino men. My friend Anibal used to play percussion with this group and of course there are always moments during the evening when I really miss him and start to feel nostalgic. But this was a night for being happy. It was the weekend. And life is good.
Saturday a group of friends and I met at the Heritage Grill in New Westminster to hear my son's band play. Here's Steve singing the Blues. We always like to go and support him when the band is playing. You can hear some of his music if you check his website at
www.myspace.com/stevekozakswestcoastbluesrevue

Today, Sunday, I finished tidying up my apartment and cleaning up the balcony. Then I went to buy new plants and meet my good friend Astarte for coffee. We ended up hanging out together all afternoon, bought the plants, then went to her place to drink mojitos and eat some snacks. It's been a good week, and now it's time to start some serious writing again. I'm feeling much better in mind and body.
The acupuncture has really helped my painful back/foot problem; I have managed to quieten myself and feel I am more centred once again but I still intend to keep on the regime of diet, exercise and meditation. The weather is supposed to be great all week. And even though I'll be busy teaching two night school classes a week for the month of July, I will still enjoy my outings to the beach and my social get-togethers with the wonderful group of friends I have. Yes...and for sure...I'm going to be working on the novel again. You'll see another snippet posted soon! And oh yes...tomorrow I have an interview with a prestigious writers group of retired people who need a life writing instructor. And more writing-related events are happening in the next 3 weeks.
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Sunday, July 06, 2008

WHAT DO WRITERS DO BESIDES WRITE? PART 2: MY QUEST FOR TRANQUILITY

STRAWBERRY FIELDS WITH MT. BAKER IN DISTANCE
"Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace..." Tao Te Ching 16

And so, after the visit to the Buddhist Temple, and since reading that inspiring book "Eat, Pray, Love", I decided it was time to withdraw into a more peaceful space; meditate; keep centred; and be still...if I could be in this busy life of mine.

So the day after the two-day eat-a-thon, my two friends and I drove out to the country to get fresh strawberries. What a lovely day it was, and how sweet those strawberries, all freshly picked. We had lunch by the river first, then a stroll around the little town of Steveston (where I'd been two days before); then we went to get the strawberries. It was such a clear, beautiful day there was an amazingly clear view of Mt. Baker which is south in Washington State.


On my quest for solitude and relaxation I also went to the park one day. I strolled through the rose gardens, all the pretty flowers in full bloom. Now I have a collection of rose photos. So exquisite!
And then, of course, to my favorite spot on the beach where I went for a picnic after I'd had my swim in the pool (I do swim in the ocean sometimes but I enjoy the swimming pool then I usually come and sit on the beach. I find that being near or in the water, it seems to wash away all the tension and helps me relax my mind so that crystal clear thoughts come to me. I often do some of my writing while I'm walking or sitting on the beach.








So now I am trying to keep myself back on a program that will be condusive to create thoughts so I can proceed with the rest of the novel. I have been taking acupuncture treatments for my back and foot problems and it has helped a lot. Now I can walk again without pain, and I am feeling more limber each day. If I can swim a few times a week, do my fitness walking, ride my bike and dance! then I will feel physically better and more able to concentrate on my creative thoughts. I'll have lots of these solitary picnics this summer, plus little outings to parks and beaches. The clearest and best thoughts come to me when my mind is relaxed and free of the daily clutter and negativity that can sometimes clog it up. That's why meditation is so important for a writer.

"Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity." Tao Te Ching 9

WHAT DOES A WRITER DO BESIDES WRITE? PART 1

GATEWAY TO THE BUDDHIST TEMPLE

What does a writer do besides write? Well the past two weeks have been so filled with extracurricular activities that one has to wonder where this writer has found time to write at all. The week after I returned from California I had a two-day media culinary tour of two suburban municipalities of Vancouver: Steveston and Richmond. This was a most extravagant marathon of incredible eating that I've ever experienced and of course I will be writing all about it on my travel blog as well as posting on my travel web site. The itinerary was most inseresting starting by about 9.30 each morning, and one of my favorite excursions was to this fabulous Buddhist Temple in Richmond.



INSIDE THE TEMPLE

Having been under a certain amount of stress due to a painful foot and back problem, and most of all, struggling to keep negative forces out of my creative space, I found this visit to the Temple most gratifying. In fact, we even had our oracles read, which was an interesting experience. And one thing I realized from the visit was the need to begin meditating and trying to centre myself again so that I can proceed with my writing without any further negative distractions. So, besides eating my way through two full days, there were some benefits and food for the soul too.

ME, DRINKING BUBBLE TEA

We ate our way through six places that day. The first day, it was five restaurants with seafood and Mediterranean style food. The second day was Mandarin dim sum, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Japanese and finished off with a full course Thai dinner that was simply the most fantastic feast I've ever seen! We finished off by going to the grand opening of the Night Market. Ah...the life of a travel writer!

So what have I been doing since those two days of tantalizing food tasting? I'll continue on my next blog entry. Yes...my writer's life has been full of fun and very busy. And have I managed to do any writing? Well...soon you'll find out what happened to poor old Polyperchon.
And I've started to put together 3 different travel blogs about the recent eating experiences (including the one my friend had over in Victoria in April). **note: I decided to blog them first and then they will be ready to fine-tune for publications.
And then there was the feast of music with the International Jazz Festival, followed by other interesting social activities.
Yes...I really MUST get back to the writing, and I promise you I will, this week, for sure!
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