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Friday, August 29, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #41: THE GATHERING STORM


Ebb Tide

It's raining here on the Coast putting a damper on the finale of summer holidays.
I always try to make the best of it, and managed to have a swim the other day when there was a break in the clouds, but it's disappointing when this happens on a long weekend and people like to be out enjoying the last of their holidays. Hopefully the sun will make an appearance by tomorrow. Meanwhile, I take advantage of the inclement weather to stay at home at the computer and have managed to accomplish quite a bit this week. There seems no end of the writing tasks to keep me occupied. And a lot of social activities as well.



Last night I went to Bard on the Beach and saw one of Shakepeare's plays that I was unfamiliar with, "King Lear", done in a modern setting. I can't say I was able to follow the grim story that well, rather convoluted plot, but the acting was superb. And it certainly put me in the mood to carry on with the part o
f Shadow of the Lion that I am working on right now. Lots of murder and mayhem!


CLOUDS
I have been working on a part of the novel that is rather difficult in that it is high drama, lots of tension, and as it's the death of a couple of my favorite characters, it's like doing harm to your friends. It takes some thought and choreographing to make it realistic and appropriately tragic. Shakespeare was good at that, and so where the Greek dramatists, so I appreciated seeing the play last night for inspiration.

Besides working on Shadow, I've been writing up little fun pieces for Planet Eye. Be sure and take a look at the Vancouver Expert's page (moi!) www.planeteye.com This is a new site and deserves some publicity. I'm feeling pretty honored at being in on it from the beginning and I hope it's a great success. This little side-dish is allowing me to be the 'roving reporter' that I always had aspirations to be in my early years of wanting to be a reporter. It's fun and doesn't take up a lot of my time and it certainly is making me aware of all the things happening around town.

Of course I have some other travel writing to catch up on as well, so in between deal with the crisis in Pydna where Olympias and the rest of the royal family are awaiting their doom, I have to take my mind back to Venice and Chile and Greece, many pleasant memories to divert me from the doom and gloom of ancient Macedonia.

And there's lots of social activities happening here too: tomorrow a BBQ for my writer's group, a visit to the yearly P.N.E. (exhibition and fair); dinner with friends, and...hopefully another visit or two to the beach! Where's that sunshine?!


SUNSET OVER FALSE CREEK


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #40: SCHEMING


Panorama view of Thessaloniki, Greece
I've been busy lately trying to keep up my writing schedule in between enjoying summer fun.
There's been a lot to do -- juggling my genres -- getting some travel writing done, edits, the new web site entries for Travel Thru History, and recently the Planet Eye contributions I am writing each week. But I am also not losing sight of my goal to finish "Shadow of the Lion" and
so I am slowly forging ahead with it, plotting and scheming along with my protagonists and antagonists. As always I love taking my mind back to Greece, and these days I'm "visiting" sites I'm familiar with. Above is a photo of Thessaloniki, which will figure prominently in the novel very soon.

The other weekend I went to see Mama Mia with my travel companion Ingrid. We later went for a Greek meal and rhapsodized over our movie 'trip'. Seeing the country, the little details of the village and the houses in the movie brought back so many wonderful memories. (For me, memories of my life on Euboea). I long to be in Greece, but for now I can only be there in my memories and visual it through my writing. (A lot of my travel writing is also about Greece).
But I look forward to next summer and the Assembly of 2009. Even my sister says she's coming to help celebrate my birthday on the hill behind the Pnyx. It's going to be a big one.

I've been 'scheming' too, trying to figure out how to save money again for that proposed trip to Chile that Patrick and want to do in January. So far, though, it seems a bit futile. However soon I'll be teaching again so we'll see what can be done about it. As always, though, Greece is my top priority.

So while I'm doing my planning, so is my antagonist, Kassandros. Here's the latest bit of chicanary my villain is cooking up:

Map of Macedonia
(Pydna is about a third of the way down the coast, and Dion is located just below)


NOTE: Kassandros and his army are at the holy sanctuary of Dion, not too many miles south of Pydna. He has just learned that Olympias has refused his offer of a 'truce' and safe passage to Euboeia. And so...the plot thickens...

As the envoy captain shuffled out of the hall, Kassandros called over his general, Kallas,from the couch at his right hand. “It seems that the time is propitious for us to advance on Pydna. We’ll make the old witch sorry she refused my offer. I want you to leave straightaway tomorrow. Go stealthily, and approach by night, so the guards won’t be alerted. The Epirote refuses to treat with me? Starve them out or bombard them. Just make sure nobody gets out alive. That old fool, Polyperchon, believes the truce he signed is enough to protect the royals. By the time he learns we have captured the fortress, it will be too late for him to act.”

He leaned back on the couch and smiled. Everything was set in motion and he was assured of victory. There was only one more thing he needed to achieve in order to obtain control of the throne and take his rightful place as Regent of Macedon.

He called over his personal squire, Glaukis, a sturdy boy, loyal to a fault.
“Bring the woman, Thessaloniki, here,” he commanded.

Glaukis cast a sidelong glance at him and shrugged. “Sir, the hour is late. Surely the lady is asleep.”

Kassandros caught the edge in the young man’s voice and looked at him with irritation. “Then wake her!” he ordered.
He had never doubted Glaukis’ unswerving loyalty and admiration but he recognized the petulant look of jealousy on the squire’s face.
“You’re a good boy, Glaukis!” he smiled, lifting his wine cup. Glaukis studied him with narrowed eyes, then spun on his heel and left the banquet hall without saying another word.

He had brought Thessaloniki here from Aigai promising to protect her from the Epirote and the Soghdian. After she arrived he had moved into the villa, expropriating it for a decent sum from its former owner. It would have been unseemly to expect the princess to board in an army barracks. She was, after all, one of King Philip’s daughters.

The banter and merry-making of his guests hushed suddenly and he heard the outbreak of whispers as everyone’s eyes turned toward the doorway. He put up his hand to silence them. “Gentlemen, here is Philip’s daughter, a true-born Macedonian princess.”

Thessaloniki paused in the entrance. She was simply dressed in a white shift, her auburn hair unadorned as if she had just come from her bed. Kassandros saw her face flooded with colour; she had a frightened look, like a startled deer.

“Come here, my Lady” he beckoned her forward.
She composed herself and took a hesitant step, then obedient as a dog at heel, she came to stand by him. “My Lord?” Her dark eyes studied him warily.

His gaze met hers. Thessaloniki was thirty-five, but carried herself well for her age, a quiet, civil girl, one who would make a suitable wife, and would be grateful for her position. She wasn’t a great beauty. She was of a slender build, with dark hair and she had inherited the broad, strong features of her father. When the time came, she would make a proper wife, one whose offspring could claim royal status.

“Prepare yourself and your servants,” he commanded. “ You will leave here tomorrow for Pella, while the ships can still sail.”
“Leave Dion, my lord?” Her voice quivered.
“I’m sending you back to Pella,” he responded gruffly.
“But Sir... my lord...” Her face paled. “What about the queens...Olympias and the Soghdian? ”
“No fear of them. They’ll dare not trouble you so long as they are in Pydna. You’ll wait for me in Pella. You must prepare things -- make the palace ready.”
“Ready for what, my lord?”
“When I return in the Spring, triumphant, we will be married.”

She drew in a sudden gasp of breath then threw herself on her knees before him.
“Marriage, my Lord?”

He took her hand and kissed the palm. “As I promised you,” he said, smiling. “When I return to Pella victorious, we shall wed. I have already sent an edict to the citizens of the coastal villages to let them know I intend to consolidate their rural towns into one metropolis. Just as I promised you, my dear, when you agreed to marry me. And, as I promised, the new city will be named Thessaloniki, in your honour.”

She inclined her head. “Sir, you have been most generous with me. Thank you.”

He was amused at her naivety. He reached out and took her by the wrist, pulling her toward him. She looked startled. Could she read his thoughts? His relationship with her was business, nothing more, though she was not unpleasant to his eye, and he could not deny that because of her innocence she possessed sexual allure. Her cheeks flushed red and he felt her hand tremble in his. “You’re a good girl,” he said..

He raised his wine cup and addressed his guests: “It is Thessaloniki who shall reign as queen of Macedon, not the Epirote or the foreigner.”

A pleased murmur went round the hall and his guests lifted their cups in a congratulatory salute.

“Long life to you, Lady!” everyone cheered.

He kissed Thessaloniki lightly on the cheek, then dismissed her. After she had left the banquet hall, he turned back to his squire, Glaukis.

“That’s done! Now, let’s take a stroll by the river.”

They went outside together to the courtyard. Inside the guests were singing again; they would keep it up all night. Kassandros and his squire walked to the gate and stepped outside onto the long deserted avenue. After the noise of the hall, the quiet outside seemed abrupt. The road ran between a stand of eucalyptus and sycamore trees. The light of the moon glinted on the river. They stood in silence awhile watching the night mist rise from the reeds.

Kassandros took a deep breath of the damp pin-scented air. “By Spring we will be in Pella!” he said. “Or would you rather I send you to Athens after the wedding? I’ll need
new men like you to man the garrison in Athens.”

“No Sir...I mean...” Glaukis stammered. “Do you mean to send me away, Sir?”
Kassandros put his arm around the youth’s shoulders. Glaukis spent all his days in the gymnasium and the tautness of his athlete’s body next to his sent a warm surge through Kassandros’ belly. “Don’t look forlorn, my boy. You know who I prefer for a bed-fellow. Believe me, the thought of bedding a dowager princess serves only to make me long more for you.” He winked, and squeezed Glaukis’ bicep. “You know what this is all about. She’s King Philip’s daughter. I need her royal title.”

* * *
NOTE: So now you know where the city of Thessaloniki got its name.
Stay tuned for more scheming!



Statue of Alexander riding Buchephalus
Thessaloniki





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Monday, August 18, 2008

THE FESTIVAL OF WRITTEN ARTS

This weekend my friends and I went for a weekend on the Sunshine Coast to the Festival of the Written Arts at Sechelt, a small town on the Sechelt Peninsula. It's been a number of years since I attended this writer's festival and I was so pleased my friend Dianne suggested we go. For one thing, the location is one of my favorite places on the Coast. When my family had their cottage on an island nearby I fell in love with this part of the Province. Being back there again reminded me of those days, and of all the other fun festivals I've attended in the past. One year I spent a week at Rockwood Lodge at a women writer's retreat, another unforgettable event in my writer's life. The lodge isn't there now (too bad!) and I do hope they might rebuild it. There's just the performance hall and admin. buildings on the grounds which are surrounded by gardens and trees. It's quite an idyllic setting, and close to the seashore too.
Being part seal or probably dolphin, I love the sea so this was an excellent way to spend a weekend. Besides the sun (which was beaming down full-force all weekend) and the inspirational company, there was the long stretch of pebbly beach and the forest all around. My kind of setting! Here I am on the rocks, just before sunset not long after we had arrived there on Friday night. We eventually got to swim, but went to the wrong beach and it was too stony. It was refreshing to dip into the ocean though and to smell the fresh sea air. Luxury!

We took in a couple of of events but some of the best things were sold out. However the night we arrived (Friday) we sat outside the performance hall and listened to an interview with writer Elizabeth Hay ("Late Nights on Air"). The next morning we took in two events. One was with Mike McCardell, a well known TV figure formerly NYC crime reporter. His latest book is "The Blue Flames That Keep Us Warm: Mike McCardell's Favorite Stories" He's a very entertaining and personable guy. He usually appears after the news with a human interest vignette that he shares with viewers.

The next reader we heard was Lorna Goodison, a Jamaican/Canadian writer who read some touching excerpts from her memoir "From Harvey River: A memoir of My Mother and Her People" I will definitely buy her book! She is also an accomplished and well-published poet and winner of an award for Canadian Non-Fiction. In the afternoon we heard Claire Mulligan an award-winning short fiction writer who wrote "The Reckoning of Boston Jim", her first novel. She was being interviewed by Sheryl McKay, host of CBC Radio's "North by Northwest"

That evening we sat outside and listening to the keynote speaker, Chantal Hebert, a French-Canadian political writer.

What we missed this time was the lack of the lodge because after the performances in the past, there was usually a reception held there and you could schmooz with all the writers and sometimes get chances to chat personally with them. I also missed the lodge as that's where I'd stayed when I was at the women's retreat. They also used to house the guest readers there. Other than that one small disappointment, it was a super weekend and I returned to the city Sunday afternoon feeling quite revitalized and ready to launch into more writing. (Which I did today and polished off four more stories for the Planet Eye as well as editing a recycled travel story of mine that is going to be published again. Then in the evening, I met my friends at the Yaletown gallery for a poetry book launch and reading by poet friend Diane Laloge. There was music accompaniment and wine and cheese. In all a very rich and inspiring weekend!

And yes...I have completed another chapter segment of my novel besides all the other writing I've been doing. So I'll be posting another "Progress Report" very soon.




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Sunday, August 10, 2008

LOTS OF SUMMER FUN

I've certainly had my share of fun so far this summer. A couple of weekends ago it was the Summer Dreams Literary Festival in Stanley Park but on by the Pandora's Poetry Collective. Here's a photo of us gals: Me and the two poets, brunet Diane Laloge, red-head Irene Livingston and me, the blonde. Both Diane and Irene were reading and interviewing at the festival and I was helping out with registration and other things like being a photographer. A very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The following weekend I went to the Theatre Under the Stars in the park to see "Jesus Christ Super Star". I have been attended this outdoor theatre since the '50's but it had been quite awhile since I'd seen a show there. It's always a lot of fun, especially on a warm summer night. We had good seats close to the front. The production is all local singers/actors/dancers and was very well done. In a couple of week's I'll make my yearly visit to the Bard on the Beach to see a Shakespeare play. Vancouver is lucky to have these two out-door theatre venues. The Bard is under the tent with an open backdrop of natural scenery so even if it rains you can still attend. But I'm hoping this hot sunny weather will continue a few more weeks!

Last weekend was the annual Gay Pride parade and I went along for the fun although this year I went alone so it wasn't quite as entertaining as usual. I took lots of photos and enjoyed it -- amusing and all good fun. Later I met my old friend Tom at our long-time haunt, the Dover, for a few pints. Then we went to another old-time haunt, The Rooster's Quarters and met his wife there for chicken dinner (Montreal style). Always yummy.

In addition to the fun I've attended some other interesting artistic and theatre events. My friend Jabbar had an exhibit of his paintings this week, then Friday I went to a Cuban movie and reception. Saturday I finally got to see "Mama Mia" (the musical) and later went to a play about Zimbabwe "Super Patriots and Morons" by Zimbabwean playwrights Raisedon Baya and Leonard Matsa. The play was eventually banned in Zimbabwe because of it's political content.

In between all this, I've been writing so there's be another Progress Report about my novel soon. I am also doing a bit of travel writing as I have the possibility of writing for an on-line travel trade publication. More about that later.

I've spent my Sunday (today) at home because I had to catch up on all the writing. The sun is shining again, after a brief rain, but I'm waiting for my neighbour to call as I'm hoping to meet a writer friend of his.

So, that's been my busy life so far, but most of it has been focused on things artistic. Once in awhile, though, we have to just enjoy the moment and have some fun away from the serious business of putting words to paper. I hope your summer has been fun too!


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