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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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