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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #57: TYING UP LOOSE ENDS

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY BLOGGER FRIENDS
and
HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL WRITING IN THE NEW YEAR




As the year draws to a close, it's time to tie up loose ends, the unfinished business of 2009 so there will be a clean slate to begin the New Year, 2010.

I have set a goal to write THE END on my novel by the last day of December, 2009. Of course, because I am working under a deadline it makes the task seem harder than usual. The only way I will achieve my goal is to make sure I write a bit each day, and so far I've managed to do that. However, I'll be away over the Christmas holidays so at the best I'll just make notes. This means that next week (from the 28th) there's going to be a big push on to finally finish it.

It seems more complicated now, although I took time to sit down and carefully map my way, untangle the time-lines with all the plots and sub-plots. Now I'm tying up the loose ends so there won't be any gaps in the story (holes in the tapestry). I realize some things can be left ambiguous, but others need some kind of conclusion.

It's like the end of an affair, really. I'm saying goodbye to friends, people I've created or those (historical) who I've breathed life into. And some of them I love very much. So I don't want to leave the reader feeling as if the last chapter of the story was ripped out of the book -- the way some affairs end (at least, one of mine did!). Of course, when I finish, and go back to do the final editing and cutting on this huge manuscript, I will have a clearer picture of how I have woven the tapestry, and if there are mistakes, I can correct them. For now, I want to finish but just like I'm weaving on a loom, I don't want to drop any of the threads and spoil the pattern.

So this is the way I am working: I go through what I've written, see if there is anything missing. Yes? Then I map out a scene to add. Just like I'm filling in pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, I can see where I need to add something. And I make notes. Then I work at the computer. Then I edit. Then I go back and do the same. I'll eventually workshop each of the new scenes and then go back to do more edits/adds/deletes. But at least, if I can write THE END by December 31, I'll feel as though I have accomplished one of the biggest, most important projects of my life so far.

What then? Then I will go back to my Celtic novel, the one that has been sitting in a box waiting for me to complete Shadow of the Lion, and I will try to finish it for next year's project.










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Saturday, December 19, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT # 56 : MAPPING YOUR PATH

AMPHIPOLIS



I used this illustration because this is where I am now, and this is where my story ends. I am only four chapters from the finish and most of that is already written. But coming to the end is not easy. If you leave holes in the tapestry, it will spoil the pattern. So you have to tie up the loose ends. It's okay if some things are left somewhat ambiguous, but you need to make sure that the small details are dealt with: characters can't just 'vanish' off the map. Where are they now? What will (or might) happen to them?

So I had to stop, look at the "map", see where I was going for the last four chapters. Where are the gaps? (I found a couple.) What do I need to add to clarify certain actions/scenes? And how much?

This kind of break in the action slows you down and makes you pause for thought. So I had to take a careful look at the last bit: time-lines, completion of scenes and episodes, all the time remember that I must not let the tension falter because even though I know how the story ends, I don't want to give it away too soon to the reader.

This little pause helped me to see things more clearly. Where I am heading. what needs to be added to complete the pattern of the tapestry.

Four almost completed chapters and two weeks to "THE END". Can I do it?


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Saturday, November 21, 2009

ANOTHER CHAPTER ENDS

LALA, Evvia, Greece

This week another chapter ended. Yes, I finished one more chapter of SHADOW OF THE LION,but this is a chapter in my book of friends and memories of my idyllic life in the village of Lala, Evvia where I spent many happy summers. It has been confirmed, a 'rumour' first heard about a month or two ago, that my Greek/Can. friend Antonia has passed away. I found out the details this week from one of her neighbours who confirmed that Antonia had died in June after choaking on her food, due to her Parkinsons. I later learned from her daughter that they had taken her body back to Greece to bury it in the little graveyard at Lala, the same graveyard where my shepherd friend Mitso had been laid to rest five years ago.

Funny thing, I was in Lala this past June and it was a strange journey back. It seemed as if the village was deserted, a ghost town almost, like aliens had come and taken away the people. Nobody was around. Many houses were obviously locked up for good and abandoned, some had signs of life, but I couldn't find a soul around. I went to the graveyard to put a sprig of pomegranate on Mitso's grave and noticed the graveyard was in a state of disrepair, lots of the graves broken. And when I went to find Mitso, he was gone! I'd forgotten that after a couple of years they remove the bodies to an ossiary. It seems very strange now, that just a month later my friend Antonia would be interred in this very same little graveyard up on the hill overlooking the tiny village.

MY SPITAKI (before renovations)
I knew Antonia from the late '70's when she and her family ran a cabaret called "The Waterfront Corrall" that catered to the many Greek sailors who came to the port. We became friends and later, when I went to live in Greece, she invited me up to her village where she loved to spend her time. Lala is a tiny mountain village 5 k. up the mountain from the port of Karystos on the island of Evvia (Euboeia).
They had a house there and next to it was a deserted little stone spitaki, a shepherd's cottage built originally in 1754. It was full of junk, used for storage, but Antonia told me if I wanted to clean it out I could stay there. So began my pastoral life in the village which lasted up until 1989. I lived there part time during my years in Greece in the '80's. As soon as I moved out they renovated, and sadly spoiled the ambience. "They have destroyed an archaeological site", their son told me. It was true. The spitaki was never quite the same as it had been when I lived in it. Now there was an addition added (right where you see the low wall in the pix above); electricity installed, the house crammed with used furniture and junk that Antonia loved to collect, except for one room - the bedroom -- which was sort of a museum of antique Greek furniture once belonging to her mother.

After 1989 when I went there to visit I usually slept out on the porch as I couldn't bear to be inside the house any more. The magic was gone, and the harmony was definitely missing. And finally I just quit going up to stay altogether and would drop by only for visits from the city (Athens). But this cottage, this village, the people and my friend Antonia and her family had become part of my life. So it seems very sad that now this chapter is finished, the book closed. Only the memories remain and they are indelible in my mind.

Antonia was an interesting character. I could write a book about her and in fact when I write my Greek memoirs, she will have a leading role. And perhaps next year when I return to Greece, I'll make yet another 'last' trip to the village to pay my respects at her grave site.


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Friday, November 20, 2009

SAYING GOODBYE TO FRIENDS

MY FRIEND JABBAR


As I come close to the ending of my novel, SHADOW OF THE LION, I am saying goodbye to friends (characters) who have been with me for a long time, many years in fact. So it's a nostalgic time for me. Perhaps that's why writers find it difficult writing those last few chapters, knowing that when they come to THE END they will have lost those 'friends' who have lived with them and taken over their lives, for such a long time.

It's that way with real-life friends too, who have to leave whether they leave by their own choice, or if you have had to part from them by your choice, or if for some sad reason they have departed this earth.

For about ten years now I have been friends with a very talented man, an Iraqi artist, Jabbar al Janabi. From the first moment we met I knew he was actually a character I had written into my novel, the character of Nabarzanes, the Court Advisor from Babylon. Nabarzanes is a fictional character but one I have grown to love, so when I had to exile him (rather than kill him because of Olympias' jealousy), it was a difficult goodbye. Now, my real friend Jabbar (who I always call "The Babylonian") is leaving, because of the drastic cuts to the Arts in my Province. It will be our great loss, Toronto's gain. An interesting typo on the program of his show last night said he was 'going to Toronto for god" and perhaps this was an omen of good things to come for him.

Jabbar is an exile from Baghdad (Babylon) and has lived here since the '90's, a very talented artist who was well known in his own country before he had to escape from the evil Sadaam. He always says he is Sumerian, and if you see the ancient wall carvings you will see the likeness in him -- a regal figure, gentle, kind and handsome. Every year for the past several years he has directed a show called ANU, which is symbolic of the Sumerian sun god. The performance takes place in a circle with visual artists, musicians, singers, poets and dancers spontanteously performing when the spot-light shines on them. It's a unique form of theatre. Each year it has a new theme. This year's ANU, which will be Jabbar's last (although another person is taking over for him) was "With Love from Iraq" and featured all Iraqi performers.

THE ISHTAR GATE


There was traditional music and singing, poetry and visual artists creating while the performance went on. I was delighted to see that one of the artists was actually rebuilding the famous Ishtar Gate that was a feature of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon. The Gate is mentioned in my novel too. And there is was -- blue and gold, with the guarding lions and bulls. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw this, along with the haunting music and the spoken word. I was, in my imagination, transported to the Babylon I have written about, and connected with my character Nabarzanes. When I thought of him, and how I have now said goodbye to him -- a character I had become so fond of -- and how now I must say goodbye to my real friend Jabbar, I felt so sad that it was hard not to start crying.

It's difficult saying goodbye, whether it's to your written characters or the real friends you have made over the years. I am full of nostalgia and melancholy these days as I come to the end of Alexander's world. But at least my characters will still live on the pages. And I know that my friend Jabbar, The Babylonian, is going to a city where he will be accepted and successful as the truly great artist that he is. Goodbye, my friend. I will cherish all the memories that I have of our wonderful friendship. And when I get the novel published, you (Nabarzanes) will be sure to receive a copy of it because you have been such an inspiration.





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Sunday, November 15, 2009

FIELD TRIPS

AT THE BUDDHIST TEMPLE

It's been a busy time for me between classes, house guest, field trips and writing. As of today things will slow down and I'll be able to catch up on my work on SHADOW OF THE LION. I am preparing to do some editing today and finish another chapter segment.

One thing that keeps me on the move is being a "Roving Reporter" for Planet Eye. I must write four stories a week for The Vancouver Guide. www.planeteyetraveler.com/travel/north-america/vancouver so this keeps me on the go looking for new subjects and going around town on field trips. The other day Patrick, my friend from Germany, and I went to the International Buddhist Temple for a lovely afternoon. It's such a tranquil and beautiful place to visit. I wrote about it in the Vancouver Guide and I also wrote about visiting Victory Square cenotaph as it was November 11 and we went downtown to take photos of the wreaths in remembrance of our soldiers.

I've also been writing a story a week to do with the 2010 Winter Olympics which will be here in February 2010. I'm not a huge supporter of this because frankly I believe it's become more about money than sports and the phenomenal amount of money spent on building venues should have gone partly to housing the hundreds of homeless folk who live on our streets. I had planned to go to Cuba during the Winter Olympics, however I can't afford to do that so I'll be here caught in the chaos that is going to happen during that time.
Anyway, I trip to write about it as objectively as I can, doing my part for local tourism. But there's a whole lot of grumbling going on here about the way things are being run and the way we are being dictatated to in the name of 'security' etc. A sign of the times, for sure!

My Fall classes are finished as of yesterday, but I've started a new group in New Westminster on Monday mornings and I'm running writer's workshops at home on Wednesday evenings. This will all come to an end mid December, giving me a little break in which to catch up on my own work. I am desperately trying to finish SHADOW but falling behind due to my busy schedule.

I've had a lovely time visiting with my friend Patrick. He came here a few weeks ago, then went down to Chile to visit our friends there, and then returned here for a week. So it's been a whirlwind of social events and family visits. He just left to fly back to Germany so the house is very quiet and my bird is sitting up on the bookshelf content now that his Mommy's attention is no longer diverted away from him. He's such a possessive little birdie and doesn't like it when there are other persons in the apartment, especially men. He's the 'writer bird' and likes to sit on my wrist while I'm working at the computer.

Very soon I may post more about SHADOW OF THE LION. So watch here for the updates.






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Friday, October 30, 2009

"WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THE STORY": Questions & Answers with author Steven Pressfield

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I have been a fan of Steven Pressfield's writing for a number of years now, especially the books he has written about ancient Greece: "Gates of Fire", "The Virtues of War" "Tides of War" and "The Afghan Campaigns" to name a few.

Steve has been generous in his encouragement for me in my own work. He's also been a great mentor to many other writer's. His "The War of Art" Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" is a popular book with techniques on writing (available on http://www.amazon.com/)

Recently I was privileged to be asked to contribute three questions to Mr. Pressfield about writing, and he would reply to them. Here's the questions I posed:

1) RE: FACTS vs FICTION and RESEARCH.
How close to the historical facts do you stick? Aside from the initial research before starting a story, how much do you do while the writing is in progress? (I know even the historians have conflicting information and I sometimes have found this really inhibiting when trying to be as accurate as possible.)

STEVE: Ruth, I'm not trying to be lazy but here's a blog piece from the site that's right on this subject. Look for Writing Wednesday #4 "A Single Sheet of Fool's Cap" It tells you all I know.

http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/category/writing-wednesdays/page/2/

This link takes you to Writing Wednesday #9 so scroll back to see page Writing Wedensday #4

Read this page. It is full of helpful suggestions and advice. "The more research you do, the less writing you do" and "The answer is 'As little as possible!". "WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS THE STORY!"

2) WRITER'S BLOCK: I find that chapter beginnings and transitions between scenes can often slow me down. When you find yourself up against the wall what is your technique for overcoming 'writer's block'.

STEVE: I never mention that term. It's dangerous to even think about it. I banish it from my mind. Just keep writing. If you're stuck in one part of the story, work on another. Momentum, I've found, is a big help. If you can get rolling in one part of the story, when you come back to a 'sticking point'[, sometimes that mementum will carry you through it. Another trick is to give yourself only so long to lick the problem. Ten minutes. One hour. Something short so you don't get hung up driving yourself crazy. "We're gonna lick this between now and lunch!"

3) THE FINAL DRAFT: I'm almost finished my novel and already know it's far too long. How do you decide what to cut? Do you do the cuts and rewrites and then do the line editing (spell check, etc) as the final touch up?:

STEVE: This is tough. Sometimes you have to split yourself in two: the boss and the worker. The boss says, "Ruth, I want you to get 10% out of this sucker!" This gives you something to shoot for. But there's no substitute for skill and work. I was just working on a screenplay with Randall Wallace, who wrote "Braveheart". He is much better than I am. On the final day, he went through 'my' pages and whacked out massive amounts. To my amazement, everything got better. A lot better. I have yet to try that on my own stuff, without help, but it sure taught me that being ruthless can really work.

I am very grateful for this opportunity to pose these questions to Mr. Pressfield. And I know you will get as much as I do out of following his "Writing Wednesday" blogs. You can read more about him on his website http://home.stevenpressfield.com/ and order his book, "War of Art" from there as well as from Amazon.com.
http://home.stevenpressfield.com/books/war_art.asp

Monday, October 26, 2009

FIELD TRIPS AND WRITER'S CONFERENCES

I've been very busy the past weeks with various writing projects. My four stories a week writing for The Planet Eye "Vancouver Guide" (www.planeteyetraveler.com) keeps me on the go with field trips in order to get new story ideas. One real fun trip was to the Pumpkin Patch where I spent several pleasant hours browsing around the fields, plowing through corn stalks and taking photos of lots of pumpkins. This is really a Hallowe'en field trip so the Patch wasn't officially opened, however the farm workers didn't have a problem with me poking around the fields having a look.

It's been quite a bit of fun going on all these field trips and it certainly keeps you alert to what is happening around town. It is time consuming though, and because I have to keep my four-story quota each week, it has cut into some of my novel writing time. Plus I teach writing classes several times a week. But these are winding down for the Fall season so my time is slowly freeing up.

This weekend I spent Friday to Sunday volunteering at the annual Surrey International Writer's Festival, one of the biggest and best in North America. I have been volunteering there for a number of years now. It's a bit expensive for my budget to attend as a guest, but I find it very fulfilling working there as a volunteer as I still get to attend workshops, introduce the presenters and meet lots and lots of writers, editors and agents.

This year I was especially thrilled to be the introducer for Annabelle Lyon, a local writer who has had her first novel nominated for three very prestigious writing awards: long listed for the Giller Prize; short listed for the Royal Bank $25,000 Writer's award and nominated for the Governor General's Award. What makes it especially exciting for me is, her novel is about Aristotle when he was tutoring the young Alexander. ("The Golden Mean" ) This puts historical fiction back on the genre map and brings special attention once again to the story of Alexander the Great (my favorite topic!)
She was presenting a workshop for short-story writing as she's had two other books published of short stories and novellas (plus a kid's book). She was such an interesting speaker and I learned many valuable things from her workshop.

That afternoon I also sat in a workshop by Richelle Mead who writes serials on Vampire themes
and although this isn't a genre I'm interested in, her points about writing were really valuable.

There were a lot of well known authors presenting at the Conference. Some of them, like Diana Gabaldon, come back every year. I always enjoy seeing her as she makes her way around the hotel lobby in her trade-mark diaphonous rainbow coloured crepe shawls. She's a lovely woman and very personable.

Other old favorites are there too, some Canadian writers and several American. I enjoyed Anne Perry's opening talk on Friday. She's a prolific writer from Scotland and a couple of years ago I had the thrill of introducing her at a workshop. There's also the amusing Scottish-Canadian writer Jack Whyte, and a popular crime writer from the States, Robert Dugoni, to name just a few. Of course there are agents and editors there too and you can make 10 minute appointments to pitch your stories, or sit in on blue-pencil cafes with writers and editors. Donald Maass and his wife Lisa Rector are popular Conference presenters. I've got his workbook for "Writing the Block Buster Novel" and find his writing/editing tips extremely useful.

On Saturday I attended for half a day as I had to teach a class in the morning. It ended up that I didn't have much volunteering to do so I sat in on a workshop with Robert Dugoni "Sinning 101". He is such a dynamic speaker and his workshop on the 10 deadly sins of writing was excellent.

Sunday morning I was a timer for the Blue Pencil Appointments. Writers get 15 minutes to sit down with editors/authors who go over their manuscripts first few pages. Then I slipped into a workshop "Scenes that Can't Be Cut" with Donald Maass. It turned out to be a lot of writing exercises to demonstrate how to tighten and improve scenes, which was useful for me but I had expected something different and probably should have stayed in Lisa Rector's "11th Hour Checklist" workshop. At any rate, I got lots out of the workshops I attended and just wish I'd had a chance to see a few more of them. I also miss attending the genre lunches and couldn't afford to stay for the big dinner with the keynote speaker on Saturday evening. Volunteers get a buffet sandwich/salad lunch and we are not given the privilege of making editor/agent appointments which is one disappointment. But perhaps another year I'll be able to afford to pay for at least one day of the Conference so that I can do this.

I do recommend attending these conferences. I'd love to be able to afford to come down for the San Francisco one next February, but I doubt seriously that my bank account will allow it. You get a lot out of just being around so many writers and published authors and most of them are so open to little chats and are very encouraging to us emerging writers.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

AUTUMN THOUGHTS

Autumn Leaves

It was a lovely autumn day today. I enjoyed a walk through the neighbourhood, scuffing up leaves on the sidewalk. The colours seem more vivid this year and after a few days of rain and gloom, the sun was bright. All the colours looked brighter than usual. And, after a couple of stressfull days, feeling out-of-sorts and very tired, today I felt mellow and calm.

Magic Mushrooms


On my walk, I discovered these Amanita mushrooms growing on the curb. These are poison "magic" mushrooms, just like the ones you see in kid's fairy tale books. I was on my way to take some photos for a story I was writing about the newly restored Vancouver Cultural Centre, "The Cultch", which is a turn-of-the-century former Church, now one of the best venues for the Arts in the city. You can read about it in the Vancouver Guide, www.planeteyetraveler.com


I'm in a habit of taking my camera with me most of the time now to capture the moments. Ever since I took the Field Photography classes during the summer, I'm getting the most out of my camera, trying different angles, subjects, settings etc. And for my weekly stories that I write for the Vancouver Guide it makes me feel more like a roving reporter.

City Scape


Here's a nice view of the city with the autumn trees showing it off. That's a view down the street where I used to live. And that tall, thin building in the centre with the green dome roof is the old Vancouver Sun building where I used to work when I was a copy-runner who had dreams of being a reporter. (Now I'm the 'roving reporter' taking photos around the city.)

This weekend is the Surrey International Writer's Conference. I'll be volunteering all weekend as I usually do, and introducing writers who are doing workshops. I'll write more about it later on. It's always an exciting event and a chance to talk to writers, editors and agents. Unfortunately Shadow of the Lion isn't quite completed as yet, though I had wanted it to be all finished by this time. I was disappointed to find out that being a volunteer meant I couldn't make an editor/agent appointment. So I am hoping I can get to talk to one in the hotel lobby or at one of the workshops, just to send out some feelers about my novel. One thing I'm happy about is that one of the presenters I'm introducing has just had her first novel, a historical, nominated for three top literary prizes. That means historicals are back in the limelight, and that's good news!




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Saturday, October 17, 2009

LIVING MY DREAM

Me, Junior High Grad. age 14

It occured to me tonight as I was making my way over to the East side to take photos for a story I want to write for the Vancouver Guide, that there are some parallels to my life at this time as there were when I was a kid in Junior High, dreaming of being a writer. Back then, and all through high school, I was more interested in writing my stories than anything else. I didn't usually date boys and all during my high school years spent hours alone in my room typing on the old Underwood typewriter I treasured so much. (It was like the one Ernest Hemingway used and he was my writer hero).

I was on my way to the Latin Quarter tonight, alone. I haven't been there for weeks (either broke or busy) but the last times I was there I felt isolated, and solitary. That's often the way I felt when I was a teen-ager. I didn't have boyfriends like some of my school mates. I was a dreamer who was always thinking in another space, my mind drifting to other worlds. I was always romanticizing, living in my fantasy world. All I really ever wanted to be was a writer. And I had wanted that since I was a small child.

Me, High School Grad. age 17

I spent my last year of high school writing my first Alexander themed novel. I was captivated by Alexander the Great from the instant I heard about him (briefly) in a history class. I had been writing historical novels since I was twelve, starting with Pioneer stories written in pencil in lined scribblers, to novella sized manuscripts with Biblical settings. I wrote a few plays too, and sometimes they were perfomed for friends at home or church.

My teachers scolded me because my grades were not what they should have been. I dropped science and math after grade 10 because I simply didn't get it and couldn't care less. It was words that meant something to me. Words, and historical facts, and the lives of people who lived in other times.

I lucked out with my first job after I graduated, and went to work as a copy runner at the Vancouver Sun newspaper. I wanted to be a crime reporter; ended up a news librarian. But the writing bug had really bitten me and I was determined.

Then the usual distractions diverted me. Marriage, children, and being removed from the artsy atmosphere of the city that I loved, to another part of the country where I didn't have the same kind of inspiration or encouragement to write. So I quit for awhile and took up dabbling with paints instead. (That made my husband happy as I didn't stay up all night bashing away at the typewriter keys).

Then a few years later, moving back to the Coast and finding myself a single parent, I decided to take a creative writing class at night school. That set my creativity on fire again. I repeated the class for a couple of seasons, long enough to get me writing seriously again.Then, through the writing classes I met other writers and began to get involved in the writing community.

All this time I was working as a daycare supervisor and writing in my spare time. Then I started traveling and found that my journalism skills could be used to write travel articles. I sold the very first one I sent out and that marked the beginning of my writing 'career'. Since that first article in 1982, I have sold many others and ten years later started to teach travel writing for the School Board continuing Ed.

I had started a novel, (My Celtic novel) before I took up travel journalism as a means of getting publishing experience. Then I went to live in Greece and did more writing. And my interest in Alexander was renewed. I shelved the Celtic novel when it was half-way through in order to write a juvenile historical about Alexander's little-known son. But that turned into a major work which is now almost complete. In the meantime, I've had a play produced that I first wrote in 1953 when I was 18 (rewritten in 2000); published lots more travel stories; started my own travel 'ezine www.travelthruhistory.com ; I write for the web (The Vancouver Guide at www.planeteyetraveler.com And I'm instructing lots of different writing classes as well as editing and critiquing manuscripts. I 'retired' from thirty three years of daycare work a couple of years ago. I am now a full time writer!

I thought all about this tonight as I set off for the evening after a day of editing, attended a life-writing workshop, and headed off to do photos of an event I want to write about for the Vancouver Guide. Then I ended up (solo, of course) at the Latin Quarter. Just like when I was a teen, any 'romance' I have is all in my head. As I sat there sipping my crantini I felt strangley out of place. Guess I've been spending too many hours at my computer, isolated and living in my writer's world. But it's a world I like to be in.

Yes. I am now a full time writer! I am living my dream. My next big achievement will be to get the novel published. And that will be another dream come true.

The thing is, you have to hold on to your dreams and don't give up. Because eventually, they will come true. It takes hard work, patience, and perseverence though. And a whole lot of dedication! And sometimes it means spending a lot of solitary time in that other world you are busy creating.


Me, toasting my contribution to

the Downtown Memory Project at S.F.U. downtown campus


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Monday, October 12, 2009

I'M BACK!



Me, at the Pumpkin Patch

It's been ages since I've had time to blog anything although I've been thinking about it and missing everyone on blogspot.
I've been busy this Fall organizing my classes, writing for the Vancouver Guide (www.planeteyetraveler.com North America: Vancouver) and working on my novel. Not to speak of lots of other things.

I am getting ready to post more news about my novel soon. Progress has been sometimes slow, but I'm still accomplishing quite a bit. Now and then I get bogged down with the tangle of threads that I have to stop and unravel so the story can proceed, but I am very close to the end now. Perhaps that's why I've slowed down a bit, knowing that the end is near.

So, look for more news here soon. And I hope everyone out there in the Blog World has been enjoying the Autumn and the Thanksgiving season.


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Friday, August 14, 2009

MAKING PROGRESS WITH THE HELP OF THE MUSE

I'm finally getting caught up with my writing tasks, including the work on SHADOW. Yesterday I completed another chapter which is now ready to workshop at my critique group next Monday. Without this weekly group I would lag far behind, maybe would have never completed much at all. They keep me inspired and without their excellent critiques I might not have got this far. I've been work shopping SHADOW with them since I first started writing it. Except that several are new members now and weren't in on the first chapters, several of them were and their commentary (well, everyone's) is what keeps me going.

Besides SHADOW, I write my weekly Vancouver Guide (http://thevancouverguide.planeteye.com) for which I get paid and I'm pleased to say that once again this month, because the site is getting lots of traffic, I got another good sized 'bonus'. It makes the effort all the more worth while. Check out this site and see what's going on in and around my city.

I'm also getting caught up with my belated travel blogs, which you can read here at my other blog: http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com

And earlier this week I spent a couple of days editing and preparing the August issue of my on-line travel 'zine TRAVEL THRU HISTORY. www.travelthruhistory.com

That brings me up-to-date and now I might even find time to read other people's blogs which I have been sadly neglecting to do over the past months. I am also busy editing an interesting, well-written manuscript about Peruvian cooking for a friend of mine who is an excellent chef and wine connoisseur.

I saw that my writer friend Steven Pressfield has a Wed. writing workshop blog posted with some very useful advice. This week it was about getting bogged down with research, which for someone who loves researching, is easy to do. "Just get the story written" is his advice. Then with your future drafts pay attention to the research details. I have tended to get very bogged down with research during my writing of SHADOW. It seems to be never-ending. And I also do some research for the little bits I write in the Vancouver Guide, in particular if there is something historical regarding the place I am writing about. Or if I have to get extra details by googling. "Get the fact's, Ma'am". That comes from my youth when I worked in a newspaper editorial dept. I always wanted to be an investigative journalist (and/or crime reporter). I find that kind of thing fascinating!

So, here we are -- only two months to go before the Surrey Writer's Conference, and I am determined to finish SHADOW by then so I can meet with an editor/publisher. Of course the final polishing won't be done, but the final chapter must be! My wine rack is stacked with good Greek wine, the champagne is chilling in the fridge and I have grand plans for a 'wrap party" when all this is over!






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Thursday, August 06, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT # 55 : MOVING AHEAD


A DOUBLE RAINBOW

After a busy few weeks, some little trips around and lots of social activity, I'm finally back on track and moving ahead. The other week I was on Vancouver Island attending a family beach party and when I got off the ferry coming home there was a storm with lightening, rain, this double rainbow, and in the west, a blazing tangerine sky. It was phenomenal. I felt it was almost like an 'omen' , because during that weekend away I had time to think and plan my next moves when it came to the stalemate I'd been in with the writing of Shadow of the Lion.
TANGERINE SKY
That weekend my cousins and I had been discussing several books and movies that were written from historical (past or near) facts but in which some of the facts and characters were changed in order to make a better story, adding tension and keeping it a page turner. One that I'd seen recently was "The Last King of Scotland" about Idi Amin, in which the main protagonist was his doctor. In reality, there were about five doctors attending Amin, but the author had chosen to make a composite character for the sake of the story. "The De Vinci Code" is another one where the author skewed the facts but people bought it.

These authors are writing Fiction based on Fact, which is what I'm doing in Shadow. For the sake of a good story-line sometimes you have to twist the facts and unless it's something glaringly wrong, fiction writers get away with it. Most people read historical fiction to enjoy the story and learn a few things about past times. Historical fiction is not meant to be like a thesis or history book in which facts need to be 'proven'.

That same weekend, reading a book review for a novel about Charles Dickens' wife, the reviewer stated: "A historical fiction writer can take any number of liberties with the facts."

That was the statement that freed me, so that I was able to go back to my writing without being so concerned over every little detail. I've always tried to be meticulous with my research and putting the correct facts and details in my story, however as there is so much conflicting data it becomes confusing. Who to believe? And anyway, who was actually there to tell the truth of what happened in these events? Most of the histories about Alexander, for instance, were written hundreds of years after his death.

I had consulted a Classical scholar friend who has been in on this project for quite a few years, because I was upset over some rather harsh critiques I was getting on this site in regards to 'the facts'. For one thing, she set me straight by telling me that in those ancient days 'dates' as we know them, were not used. Times and events were recorded according to festivals or olympiads etc. Dates like "316 BC" are the numbers recorded by modern historians. She encouraged me to ignore the critiques and go ahead with my plan for the plot. Up to now I have tried to keep major events as exact as possible, but this particular event concerns a minor character, and what happens to him foreshadows very strongly what is likely going to happen to my main characters, Roxana and her son, Iskander.

So, when I came back from my weekend away I began to go through my recent chapters and see if I was too far astray enough for it to be a major flaw. And it wasn't. I decided to change the order of a few things and add some new bits. So I've spent the last few days editing and rearranging and moving forward. If the 'historians' don't like it that I have this episode concerning a minor character happen on a date they don't find 'exact', well, that's too bad because I am NOT writing a history book. I'm writing Historical FICTION, so whether a minor character dies in "315" instead of "316" shouldn't make a huge difference on whether the story is well written, and a page-turner. Who was actually there to say this is wrong anyway? Diodorus certainly wasn't there and neither were the other ancient historians, so I doubt that what they wrote was actually accurate or the 'gospel'. And who knows how 'accurate' all the info in the Bible is for that matter? (We celebrate Jesus' birth in December, but that's probably not when he was really born. And that was a major event in history.)

And so, I am trying to stay focused now and not let any further conflict deter me. My scholar friend also advised me not to post any further segments of the novel on my blog. She's probably right. But I'll see, as time goes by whether or not I should. I don't want any further commentary on my work to deter me enough that I stall again when I'm so close to finishing!


SECOND BEACH AT SUNSET

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #54: AT A STANDSTILL

MYKONOS SUNSET

I've been busy working on a couple of assignments for Planet Eye lately, as well as trying to post a few pieces for The Vancouver Guide and catch up with blogging. Unfortunately this means my time for writing on SHADOW has been badly depleted. And not only that, I seem to be lacking the inspiration and incentive to really discipline myself to get back into it.

So tonight I looked back over some emails I've recieved in the past from one of my writer heros, Steven Pressfield, and here's what he told me some time ago when I had just started on the last lap of the journey:


"... the end is always the hardest. Resistance really rears its ugly head. I heard a great phrase the other day to describe that feeling -- 'escape velocity'. It's from "The Artist's Way" and what it means is that, like a satellite trying to break from from gravity and earth's orbit, the last few miles per hour require an expenditure of rocket fuel WAY PAST normal. So hang tough, baby! What's you're experiencing is just what every other artist goes through at this point. "

Just reading this right now has given me a boost. I need to be around friends (like the ones I have in Athens) who enjoy talking about the book, inquiring about it, discussing Alexander's world with me. That gets me motivated more than anything. But Steve's words also are a great motivator.

NAXOS SUNSET

I was supposed to read at my Scribbler's group last night but didn't get any time to do the revisions on the last chapter that I need to do before progressing. Instead, I found a few pages of my old novel "Dragons In the Sky: A Celtic Tale" and I read that. Wow! I hadn't read any of it for literally years, aside from the introduction, and the words just sang to me. It's sheer poetry. I was amazed. And that in itself is incentive to finish SHADOW so that I can go back and finish "DRAGONS".
SANTORINI SUNSET

And I found an encouraging horoscope for myself today too:
"You have way more going for you than you realize. Your hard work will pay off and even your worst critic will have to back down and honor what you have been able to accomplish. The sky is the limit if you focus on achieving your goals."

Now, isn't that enough to light a fire under your bum and get you focused and back into your serious work? At least I know that the time I took off to write all those hotel and destination blurbs for Planet Eye have paid off monetarily big-time which pleases me. It wasn't as if I was 'wasting time' or deliberately ignoring SHADOW. It was a chance to make up the money I lost by having my July classes canceled. And I did it! So now, for the rest of the summer I should be able to relax, concentrate on the novel and take myself back into Alexander's world.

Watch for updates here soon!


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