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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #50: KEEPING TO SCHEDULES


MY WORK STATION

It's been tough lately keeping to my writing schedules because of all the other things happening which include my new program of Winter classes.
I spent over a week just preparing for my courses, getting handout materials sorted out and delived to be printed, organizing my class plans etc. I have quite a few new classes this term. The school board asked if I'd like to do two kids classes (ages 7 - 10 and 11-13) I jumped at the chance, it being a new experience and challenge. So that took some time and thought to prepare for. It kind of cuts into my Friday night socializing though as I have to get up so darn early on Saturday morning to get across town to the school. But it's proving to be fun, and the pay is not bad. I also have 3 Memoir groups a week, plus one travel writing class and I am doing a novel writer's workshop at home. Iin addition, I'll be doing a night-school-in-one-day class in Prompting the Muse next weekend. Then there's my own Scribbler's writer's critique group that I attend on Mondays. Where do I get all the time? Consider that some days I am riding buses for long trips, maybe a total of 4 hours a day on the buses. That really takes up time! So when I am at home, like this afternoon and evening, I have to try and stay focused. It ain't easy!

So, I try and work out a plan. This picture below is my "planning board". On it I put down the chapter headings for each part of my novel. In this case, you see I only have a few chapters to write before I reach THE END. Some of the chapters are already partly written as I tend to often write things spontaneously and then piece them together. It's kind of like doing a jig-saw puzzle. I've actually had the end of the story written right from the beginning.

What's slowing me down now, more than my lack of time, is trying to get the right 'lead' for the first chapter of Part VII. I've been making notes and playing with it, but it's still not right. I need some time and these days, that's hard to find. But I'm sure I'll get it and then I'll be on a roll again.

Besides my classes and the novel, I am writing 4 short pieces for PlanetEye.com each week. Although they don't take me long to write, I sometimes have to do a bit of research and make some notes. Usually I try to do these on the weekend and then post them over the first couple of days of the week. It's only 'informative' writing (journalism) so it's not like I'm sweating over character descriptions and setting details or plot. But it is another task that has to be done (because I get paid to do it, so that's good incentive!) Forget about my other travel writing for now, although I should be preparing some things to market. And oh yes, I also edit and publish my travel 'zine TRAVEL THRU HISTORY. And as the January stories are now up that took up several days preparing.

I wonder what other writers do to set their own work schedules? Do you make a plan or an outline so you can see where you are heading? And how much time to you allow yourself to procrastinate before getting down to business? That's another tricky subject. PROCRASTINATION. I'm good at it and can be quite an expert time-waster. But once I start working, I pretty well get right into it and sometimes forget to stop even for something to eat.

One thing I know, and that is I want to finish this novel before I leave for my summer holidays in Greece. I have other projects on the back-burner waiting for me and I just want to see THE END as soon as possible!




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Friday, January 09, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #49: PLANNING THE NEXT MOVE

The Building of Alexandria

I did manage to meet my deadline to complete Part VI of Shadow of the Lion by the end of the year. And by January 1st I began planning my next move: the grand finale of the novel.
Aside from some editing on the previous writing, I haven't had chance to start Part VII as yet but I do have the time-lines figured out and made plans to proceed. Meanwhile, I had to stop and get preps done for my night school and memoir classes. In addition I'll be teaching two kid's writing workshops on Saturday mornings and that required some thought. I am familiar with pre-schoolers and the 11 - 13 age group, but 7 - 10 will be something new. I started writing when I was 8, by the age of 10 I was really hooked on it, so I understand the passion some kids can have. You can't 'teach' them to write. It is a talent you are born with and what I'll be doing is showing them how to develop that talent. Should be interesting and very challenging.

Artist's concept of the interior of the Royal Library, Alexandria

I went looking for books yesterday, in particular writing books. Found a good one for writing memoirs but none that gave tips on workshops for kids. I also saw a couple of the books Barack Obama has written and I want to buy them. And another by a writer from Afghanistan who has won an award. Then I also spotted a little journal for keeping track of your diet/exercise. Something I really need right now as I'm going to try and follow the G.I. Diet plan and see if I can shed some blubber. Unfortunately when I went to buy the books I realized I hadn't brought the gift certificate I got for Christmas, so I'll have to go back later and get them. Meanwhile, my friend brought me the G.I. Diet book so I'm making my plans to get started on that by Monday.
(Cleaning no-no's out of the fridge -- put the chocolate in the freezer. Gotta get rid of the icecream by Sunday night. Etc etc).

My 'resolutions' (which are usually the same every year) are more GOALS this time. I WILL finish Shadow this year and in a very short time. I MUST get back on track with the diet plan and exercise more. So far the nasty weather has kept me housebound far more than normal. First the snow. Now the rain. But yes...by next week the snow, slush and ice will be gone and some sun is predicted. And now I know that the pool that's walking distance from my place has waterfit EVERY day including two nights, I have absolutely no excuses. And I have my wallet full of gym tickets too. So...that's my game plan...and I'll try hard to stick to it!

The Pharos Lighthouse
One of the 7 wonders of the world.


Ptolemy had a game plan too...to build the city of Alexandria Egypt in honor of Alexander. The INTERLUDE (Epitasis) of Part VI takes place in Alexandria. Ptolemy has received a letter from his friend Seleukos that Antigonos One Eye has taken over the satrapies of Asia and forced Seleukos to flee into exile. In the following scene, Ptolemy hears that his friend's ship has arrived in Alexandria.

* * *
Ptolemy felt heavy hearted as he rolled up the papyrus scroll and replaced it in the cedar chest where he kept important documents. He was hot with rage. What megalomaniac madness had taken hold of old One Eye to make him think he could rule Alexander’s entire world?

“Damnation! Is there to be no end of strife?” He banged his fist on the table so violently it toppled the ink pots. Alexandria was a veritable paradise. It had been a relief, after the years of campaigning with Alexander, to retreat here to the Nile delta and oversee the building of this grand metropolis. And now it was being threatened.

He had at first regretted his alliance with Kassandros and Lysimachus against Antigonos One Eye, when the old general had threatened to invade Greece although for some months afterwards there’d been an uneasy peace. Now it seemed the Successors had no choice but to band together against him again. Without question, Ptolemy resolved that he must help his friend regain his satrapy. He knew Seleukos to be a man of great courage and integrity. They had been friends since their youth, served as elite Companions of Alexander, and had fought in all of Alexander’s campaigns. Seleukos had married the daughter of a Persian war-lord and embraced their customs. And when he had been given the satrapy of Babylonia, he’d been well received by the Persian nobility who liked him because he shared his opinions with them.

He folded his arms and rested them on the desk, taking a deep breath as he looked around his study with it’s alabaster lamps and shelves of scrolls and treasures from all over the world. This was his private retreat where he spent hours writing and reading, and planning the building of the city that had been founded by Alexander. The affairs of Egypt were mainly routine, so he had been allowed ample time to construct various buildings such as the royal palace and temples. The workers had already completed the long mole that connected the island of Pharos to the shore and construction had just begun on a monumental lighthouse. At present, he and his architects were developing plans for a Museion and Royal Library.

His reverie was disturbed when the chamberlain rapped at the door. “My lord, the
ship bearing Seleukos, satrap of Babylonia, has arrived and he requests an audience with you.”

“Let him in,” Ptolemy said. “ tell him I have been waiting for his arrival.”

Ptolemy stood to greet his friend, a courtesy he deserved. Seleukos was just as he remembered him. Both of them were now in their forties, and like himself Seleukos was clean shaven, his hair cropped to the nape in the style Alexander had made popular. It had been several years since they’d seen each other and Ptolemy noted that his friend’s thick coppery hair was, like his own, streaked with silver. Seleukos’ strong, tanned face looked haggard, his eyes lined with blue shadows. He was less lean than he had once been, but his body still had an athlete’s firm muscles. Seleukos had always been known for his brawny, wrestler’s physique.

Ptolemy laid his arm across his friend‘s shoulders. “So, you have been chased out of Babylon, have you?” He tried to make his voice light.

Always a man of great self-respect, Seleukos drew himself up and his brows lifted. For a moment Ptolemy glimpsed that same imperious face he had known in his youth. “I have not come running to you like a coward, with nothing to offer in return for your hospitality and companionship. You know me as a man who never threw down his shield in battle.”

Ptolemy smiled, remembering how Seleukos had once killed a bull with his bare hands. They’d had many adventures together and endured the rigors of battle while fighting in Alexander’s campaigns. Seleukos had commanded the prestigious argyraspides, the Silver Shields regiment, while he himself had been appointed somatophylax, one of Alexander’s elite bodyguards and deputies.

“Did you think I intended to forsake Babylon, once Eumenes was killed?” Seleukos said, scowling. “ None of us wanted to leave our satrapies. Antigonos lured Peithon from Media pretending he was offering him support as an ally. Instead he had Peithon executed. Then he ousted Peukestas from Persis -- Peukestas who was so well liked by the Persians.“ Seleukos’ face blazed red with anger. “Antigonos has taken everything for himself -- all the land, control of the satrapies, and the money from the royal treasury, 35,000 talents. I came here to petition you, as my friend and ally, to use your influence and provide your naval strength to help us stop him.”

“Of course, without question I offer you Egyptian hospitality, my friend.” Ptolemy knew Seleukos was a just man, and trustworthy. “Together we will forge a plan to prevent Antigonos from seizing any more of the lands. and force him to give back what he’s taken.” Ptolemy shook his head sadly. “I thought the warring was over. Now I see it is only the beginning. I did not foresee what would happen once Kassandros took control of Greece and Macedon. Now he’s married Thessaloniki and made himself Regent and I fear that little Alexander, the heir to the throne, is in grave jeopardy. At least when Olympias was alive, she protected the child.”

“Olympias had the heart of a viper,” Seleukos commented. “She committed frightful atrocities against the kinsmen of Antipater. She deserved her Fate. But what of the child and his mother?”

“Kassandros claims they are safe in Amphipolis.”

“But how can Kassandros be trusted?” said Seleukos. “You know how he hated Alexander and was eaten up with jealousy. Why would he now pretend to ‘protect’ Alexander’s son? Kassandros is like an adder in the grass. He’ll strike without warning.”

“The boy is eight now, and by all accounts a bright lad, precocious like his father was,” Ptolemy said. “I always regretted that I was not made guardian of the boy. It saddens me to think that little Alexander is fatherless and so often in peril, with nobody to defend of protect him from treachery. Here in Alexandria, my own boys play as children should. There is no treason here, no dangerous plots. I must confess, I am afraid for the child.” He remembered clearly five years before at the camp by the Nile after Perdikkas had been assassinated. He had spent a day with the child (against the Soghdian’s wishes) and taken him to his tent that night. He had sat little Alexander on his knee and told him about his father, read to him from his father’s favorite book, The Iliad. He recalled explaining the meaning of moira to the child. Little Alexander had asked if his father’s death had been his moira. And now he wondered, if the child of Alexander was destined to meet his father’s same fate at the hands of the very man who was suspected in his own untimely death.

“Do you think he’ll be fit to fill his father’s shoes?” Seleukos asked.

“Time will tell. Kassandros claims the boy will be given a proper education... if he lives...”


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Thursday, January 01, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #48: MAKING THE DEADLING

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
2009! Imagine that. How quickly the time goes. And this past week it flew by fairly fast because I was trying to meet a deadline. I had first set a goal to completely finish my novel by December 31, 2008, however due to seasonal distractions and various other reasons, I realized this was biting off a bit too much, so I contented myself to at least finish Part VI by that date. It was tough, but I made it -- more or less. I have spent most of the last week indoors at my computer. The weather co-operated by being terrible -- snow, snow and more snow and then some rain and then more snow! So it was a good incentive to stay put and get the writing done. I've tallied up quite a few hours over the last week and managed to at least complete a first draft of that Interlude part of the novel.

To explain the "Interlude" -- or 'Epitasas'
which I use at the end of each Part (or Act) of the novel. This is the part of a play (Greek drama) developing the main action and leading to the catastrophe. In Greek, the word means "increased intensity". So at the end of each Part of Shadow of the Lion I have an "interlude"
taking place in a different location than the main setting of the chapter.
In this case, the Interlude takes place in Alexandria, Egypt and in Ephesus, Asia Minor.
So, although I haven't been able to join my friends who have gone to warmer climates during the holidays, I have taken myself off on a trip to those other exotic places.

PTOLEMY SOTER

Ptolemy Soter was the alleged illegitimate half-brother of Alexander the Great who chose to return to Egypt and establish the city of Alexandria according to Alexander's plans. He plays an important role in my novel although he isn't always directly involved in the action. I have made him a sympathetic character although I know some historians claim he was self-serving and in his diaries, written later in his life, made himself out to be more heroic than he actually was. I have my own opinions of Ptolemy and his character from the research I've done, and he's one of the generals in this story who I have grown quite fond of. Unfortunately, due to the fact he was a kinsman by marriage of the antagonist Kassandros, he ends up siding with Kassandros in two of the wars of the Successors. But, he'll come through in the end.

SELEUKOS
Seleukos is another of Alexander's important generals and long-time Companion.
He took over the satrapy of Babylonia after Alexander's death. Unfortunately, when the war between the Successors broke out, he was forced to flee into exile and went to Ptolemy for assistance. This is the part I am writing now. These events are happening while Roxana and little Iskander have been sent into a sort of 'house arrest' at the citadel of Amphipolis.

The problem with this section of the story was the complicated political sub-plots that were going on. So once I wrote the first draft, I had to go back and do several hours of research just to sort things out -- what was happening at that point in time and what's coming up for the final part of the novel. Thank god for the internet as I was able to find pretty well all the facts I needed -- getting dates straight and locations of the key players.

So today I stayed in all day long either researching or editing what I'd written yesterday. I still have a bit more editing and rewriting to do, but the Interlude is pretty nearly finished in a satisfactory form. And next week I will be starting the final part of the story. Another deadline looming!

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