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Saturday, January 30, 2010

PROGRESS REPORT #62: DI$TRACTION$


PICTURES OF CANADIAN OLYMPIC ATHLETES ON THE BAY STORE

Progress on my novel, Shadow of the Lion, has slowed down considerably over the past couple of weeks. This is because I was offered some extra work by Planet Eye http://www.planeteyetraveler.com/

in addition to the four stories I week in The Vancouver Guide.

www.planeteyetraveler.com/travel/north-america/vancouver

The 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games has created a hubub of activity in the city. Barricades have gone up on the venues, road closures, so much security you'd think we were living in a war zone, and downtown things are shaping up to a circus atmosphere. I have been invited to help compile a city guide for Vancouver during the Games with things like hotels and restaurants near the venues etc. In addition to compiling these lists (some I have started on already) I will have to post at least 1 item a day plus the four stories I post blog-style in The Vancouver Guide.

At first I was slightly overwhelmed when I assessed the amount of work I was getting myself into. But practicality told me "Writing is your work, and this is an additional 'job' -- with pay! So go for it!" As I stood there one evening clipping articles about events and venues from the newspaper I was immediately taken back to myself, age 19, working in the Vancouver Sun news library, clipping stories to file in the crime and biography files that I was in charge of. I've come full circle. Back then, I wanted to be a reporter. I ended up in the news library instead. But now, all these years later (still clipping newspapers) I am actually a 'roving reporter' snooping out news for The Vancouver Guide. And here's a whole new opportunity to add to my resume.

BARRICADE FENCES UP AROUND THE NEW CONVENTION CENTRE

Needless to say, I was not about to let this opportunity slip through my fingers. So I've had to put the novel on the back-burner for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile I am squeezing in a bit of time for editing and have the notes ready to write the next chapter segement. Then there will be just one chapter to complete plus work on the prologue and epilogue. I had thought I'd be finished by now, but practically speaking, I need to make money too. So I have accepted this new challenge.

I will be going around to as many venues I can get to, those will be the Free Live sites as I certainly can't afford to attend any of the sports events. I'd hoped they could get me an unacredited media pass but I don't think that's going to happen. So I'll just have to put on my Roving Reports cap and do as much snooping for news as I can. I've already figured out a list of stories I can write and pre-post for the Vancouver Guide. It's quite overwhelming when I think of all there is to do, but I gathered my wits and made an organized plan.

So keep an eye on The Vancouver Guide, and when the Vancouver Olympics City Guide is up on the site, I'll let you know. Let the Games begin!


THE OLYMPIC RINGS LIT UP IN THE HARBOUR


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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PROGRESS REPORT 61: Sidetracked with Research and Other Tasks

THE RUINS OF AMPHIPOLIS FORTRESS

This is the fortress of Amphipolis where Roxana and Iskander are being held by Kassandros. I visited these ruins several years ago. It's high on a hill (which would have been the towns 'acropolis' hill. A river runs below, forking off around it and eventually reaches a lake. There would have been lots of marsh lands - the perfect spot for boar hunting. So I'm trying to set up a scene where Iskander, Orion and the boys with their Greek tutor go on a boar hunt.

It's been a busy week and I am falling slightly behind in my plan to complete SHADOW OF THE LION. However I have been jotting down notes (bits of dialogue and thoughts). And I had an interesting time researching for a scene I am writing when the boys go boar hunting. Rather than go through all my notes, I decided to check into You-Tube and see if there would happen to be anything about boar hunting there. It turned out, there were a lot of videos. Watching them answered all my questions, including the feasible age of boys who might indulge in such a dangerous sport. The youngest I ran across were 8 years old (including the kid in the photo and one who actually killed a boar with a knife! The kid was 8, the boar was about 200 pounds! Imagine that! So boys back in Macedon hunting with javelins, bows and arrows were not even in as close that that kid was!

By watching the films I was able to observe, make notes including the sounds of the hounds baying, the boars squealing and shrieking, the men shouting (or whispering as the stalked their prey). It was quite a visual experience and saved a lot of time looking through notes I'd made some time ago. I also googled about the Boar hunt though and jotted down a few more details, such as "dos" and "don'ts" which will be helpful when I flesh out that scene.

This week my classes started up and as it takes me a long trip there and back to each of them, eating up my time, I haven't had much time at the computer to write. Today was a 'free' day but as it was pouring rain and I needed to catch up on sleep, I didn't get up as early as usual and ran behind, but that's okay, I did achieve bits and pieces and will now spend a few hours making more notes so I can complete that last little chapter segment. Then, it will be the final chapter of the novel (part of which is written). So I am pacing myself, not rushing it. Did a bit of editing today on a previous chapter and trying to focus and get a fresh start on this next part.


A NASTY-LOOKING BEAST! VERY DANGEROUS!


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Friday, January 08, 2010

PROGRESS REPORT #60: RETRACING STEPS



LOOKING BACK AT MOUNT OLYMPUS

Sometimes when you get stuck and find you are blocked by that old writer's enemy 'Resistance', just simply looking back at where you've just come from, retracing your footsteps, will help you sort out where you are headed for. I've had to do that a number of times while writing SHADOW OF THE LION, and the other day when I got stuck, that's exactly what I did. Sometimes it means reviewing your research (I did that), reading back over previous chapters (I did that, too) and rechecking your plot outline (it's definitely a help to have a road map when you're on a journey!)

In my case I have often got baffled with the complexity of the politics I am dealing with as I am not a political science student and the ancient politics with all the plots and sub-plots and twists and turns is often very confusing. So I go 'back to the drawing board' so to speak, bring out my research notes, read through them again and again, until finally I clarify just what exactly went on and when.

One problem with the last bit I'd written was that I had thought it sounded too similar to a previous chapter segment I'd written in the point-of-view of Polyperchon. However, when I read back I realized this wasn't the case. So instead of having to scrap what I'd written for my first draft I was able to keep it and proceed.

Another small problem was figuring out the dialogue between the Macedonian generals. What would they say in this particular situation? How would they react? How would Polyperchon, in particular, react when given the bad news he is about to receive. All the way through my novel this has been a challenge -- to make the voices of the Macedonians sound genuine, like the voices of rough warriors and not my own. As far as I know, I think I've nailed it, but often I have to stop and look through other novels of the same period (written by men!) to see how they handle the dialogues.

Another thing that often stalls me is figuring out the time-lines of events and trying to be as true as possible. I've run into this before and decided that as this is not a history book it isn't really necessary to be 10o% accurate because what is really 'accurate' according to those ancient time-lines considering that the histories were written several hundreds of years after the fact and the calanders of measuring time then is different than now. I still like referring to the line I read by another author in the National Post
"A historical fiction writer can take any number of liberties with the facts." Since running into criticism earlier on about this. I have now adopted this as my mantra.

So, with all these steps taken, I looked forward to see where I am going, and I found it really easy to complete the chapter segment that had stalled me on the road to THE END. Now I am ready to proceed with the journey. I even found myself jotting down random notes last night so I have a clear start for the next scene There's one more chapter segment to write and then one more complete chapter to finish. Then a bit of work on the Prologue and Epilogue. (Some of this has already been written.) So I'm that much closer to the end of my journey.

(NOTE: Some of the characters, such as Polyperchon, continued on long after the end of my particular story so their future activities will be mentioned in the Afterword so readers will know what became of them. Some died or were murdered. Some faded into oblivion. Some went on to become successful and famous. Amazingly a lot of the generals lived to very old ages. They were indeed a hardy lot of characters!)



MOUNT OLYMPUS


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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

PROGRESS REPORT #59: A LITTLE BIT OF RESISTANCE

VARIOUS GREEK HELMETS

I seem to have hit a wall. Steven Pressfield calls it "Resistance". If you read back in my blogs I think he talks about this in the questions I asked him. It happens a lot with writers but I didn't want it to happen right now when I am so close to finishing! The main problem has been (besides the fact I have been quite busy with other things this week), I thought I had this next chapter segement figured out. I did all my handwritten notes but yesterday when I planned to sit down at the computer and get it all written, first I got struck by a bad stomach upset and it as difficult to concentrate on new writing when I had cramps. I eventually gave up although I did get a rough first draft done. Then I got thinking it over and realized I had begun this chapter segment much like one I had used a bit before so I probably needed to change my tactics, get a new setting for this scene. I've spent a lot of time thinking it over but the ideas are just not forthcoming. So tonight I sat down (after resisting even beginning!) and tried to write a few more notes. Usually when I am hand-writing the ideas a lot of new ideas come and I'll end up with whole paragraphs. Not this time! I am STUCK!
Should I skip over this just now and proceed with another scene? Or should I just relax, think about it and hope that a brilliant idea will come to mind so that I can carry on? Or...should I leave the chapter beginning just the way I have it and not worry about it being similar to a former chapter? Ah...decisions...all part of the resistance movement that can quickly undermine a writer's flow of thought and stymie the progress. I hate it when this happens!
Well, I have a couple of days coming up that are pretty free of any other distractions so perhaps I will just let it stew for awhile and hope to come up with something brilliant to get me out of the quagmire. Meanwhile, I am stubbornly stuck with Polyperchon as he awaits his bad news!




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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

PROGRESS REPORT #58: THE END OF THE ROAD

ALEXANDER (close up of the painting below)




Over the past week, in spite of the holidays and round of social events, I've managed to complete a couple more chapter segments weaving new threads together to complete the tapestry of SHADOW OF THE LION. There's still a little bit of work to do but not much. Loose ends are being tied up, no dropped stitches. I have a resolution to write a bit every day on the novel although I realize that some days (like today) other things occupy my time. (However it does count that tonight I workshopped one of the new segments of the novel in my writer's group and got some good ideas on what I need to edit or add to make it complete.) And tomorrow another characters will come to the end of his road (for now as he will appear again in the 'afterword'). Every characters who has been given a 'voice' in this novel has to be accounted for. That's one of the more complicated things about writing in multiple point-of-view. And each character that I have to say good-bye to is like bidding farewell to a friend or acquaintance.

As I come to the end of the road, the finale of a very long journey, perhaps some of my hesitation is the reluctance to return to the 'present' world, having spent so much time in the 'past'. Alexander and his family and Companions have been part of my life since I was sixteen years old. This novel, SHADOW OF THE LION, has consumed my life for the past twenty. It isn't that I have been with them constantly, because I did other writing within that time including writing and producing a play (THE STREET: A Modern Tragedy), writing another play, House of the Muses (about Sappho), and many travel articles which I've published. Some people have thought that this novel was my 'life's work' but I have other irons in the fire: As soon as SHADOW is finished, while I am working on the final edits I will resume writing my Celtic novel, DRAGONS IN THE SKY and hopefully rework the Sappho play. And then I have another idea for a novel.

But time is running short for me, being one of the elders, so it means concentrating on my writing career and disciplining myself to write (hopefully each day) so I can complete these other tasks.

Meanwhile, I will strive to put "the end" on Shadow in a very short time. (I'm running four days later than schedule already so it means focusing and devoting every bit of my next week to putting the finishing touches on it.)




ALEXANDER BATTLE DARIUS AT GUAGEMELA

(It was almost the end of the road for Darius. He ran for his life.)

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