Friday, December 14, 2012


Mural, "Battle of Issus" Alexander the Great vs Darius, king of Persia.
When I first sent off my manuscript of SHADOW OF THE LION, the writer, Steven Pressfield, had some very astute advice for me.  In part, this is what he said:
I happened to have been talking to some fighter pilots recently and they told me one of the axioms of air-to-air combat. The most dangerous moment in a dogfight, they say, is immediately after you've shot down an enemy plane. Because in that moment, you may let your concentration lapse. And that's when someone jumps you and shoots you down.
I would say the same is true for writers. The dangerous moment is just after you finish a book and ship it off. My own ironclad principle is to IMMEDIATELY start another book.
When you're immersed in a new project, you're not as apt of obsess over the fate of the one you just finished. You don't check your mailbox or your Inbox compulsively. You resist the temptation to measure your worth and the worth of your work by the opinions of others.
The other thing I have found is that when you start Book #2, whether you realize it immediately or not, you are already working at a higher level than you were on Book #1. This helps too, when publishers, editors and agents (who are notoriously slow to respond, sometimes taking MONTHS) don't get back to you with the lavish praise you were so hoping to hear IMMEDIATELY.

Listen only to your own heart. Hang onto your emotions. The next weeks and months will be a trial, so be ready for it.  "Start the next one tomorrow."
I have carefully followed Steven's suggestions all the way through.  In fact, I actually hid away my manuscript of "Shadow" so I wouldn't obsess on it. And yes, I started that new novel. Well, actually it was the one I had started before I decided to write "Shadow" so I brought it out of the archives, dusted off my research files and started to retype it into the computer (it had been written on a manual typewriter).  So far so good. My writer's group loves it and I am having a great time renewing the research and getting to know the characters again. 'Dragons in the Sky" is a Celtic tale set in the 4th century BC with an Alexander connection told in the first person by a young Celtic girl, almost a past-life regression kind of story.
Meanwhile "Shadow" has been in the hands of an agent for several months.  But finally, in spite of saying how much he'd enjoyed reading it and that it was a 'wonderful' story, he decided against signing me on.  What to do next?  I knew this was the way things go with submissions so I did have a list of possible publisher to pitch it to. Immediately my mentor Scott Oden suggested I send to the assistant publisher of a publisher company he is familiar with. So I did. And that's where it is now.  And if that try fails, I'll go for another, and another.  Because what is required when you are trying to publish a book is PATIENCE and DETERMINATION. 
Detail from the mural: Alexander showing his determination.
Alexander the Great and, before him,  his father, the formidable warrior, King Philip of Macedonia, went fearlessly into battle and never had one defeat. Their bravery and determination and skill as strategists made Macedonia the ruler of the world, dominating Greece and defeating even the mighty forces of Persia who had dominated the Asian world.

I am lucky to have an army of supportive friends and admirers who are cheering me on and backing me up.  So I will keep on pursuing my dream until it is realized. I KNOW "Shadow of the Lion" is a worthy cause.  I put my whole heart into it and gave it my best.  So in the end, if I persevere, I know I'll eventually win the gold.

16-pointed Star, Emblem of the Macedonian Royalty.



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Friday, December 07, 2012


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Me, at work on "Shadow of the Lion"
I was  recently invited to participate in a meme questionnaire about my novel "Shadow of the Lion" which is currently in the hands of an agent.  My on-line poet friend Marc Latham nominated me to join the other writers who took part in this interesting survey called The Next Best Thing. Marc writes "folding mirror poems" and you can see his interview here:

These are the questions that were asked about my novel.
What is the title of your new book?
“Shadow of the Lion”

Where did the idea for the book come from?
I have been intrigued by Alexander the Great since I was 16 and in my final year of high school wrote an Alexander themed novel. I wanted to write one just about him but Mary Renault’s trilogy covered his life. However, I was disappointed when I read her “Funeral Games” and felt there was much more to the story – mainly the story about his son, Alexander IV, the only legal heir of Alexander the Great.  I started writing a novel about the boy aimed at the young adult market but realized it was too complicated and political a story, so after a year or more of writing I began again in a multiple point of view with the theme “How blind ambition and greed brought down a world power.” That is the history I cover in “Shadow of the Lion”. The boy, who I call by his Persian name “Iskander”, is still one of the major characters in the book. But I gave a strong voice to the women — his mother, Roxana, Alexander's mother Olympias and Alexander's niece Adeia-Eurydike  as well as the generals who played a role in bringing down Alexander’s dynasty. There are only a couple of fictional characters in the novel and they are also strong characters (Nabarzanes, a Persian court advisor, an old Chaldean Magus and a young Macedonian boy, Orion, who becomes Iskander’s best friend.)

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical fiction

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
While workshopping it one of the movie buffs in my writer’s group kept suggestion actors to play the roles.  One would definitely be Anthony Hopkins but I’m not sure of the others. In the beginning there was a precocious little boy in the daycare where I worked who I modeled Iskander after. While I was writing it, I ran across a number of people in Greece who fit the description of the characters. I saw a waiter at a taverna on Thassos who strongly resembled Alexander and a man working in a post office in Asprovalto who was a dead-ringer for Perdikkas. Some of the actors who played in the TV series “Rome” (especially the women) would definitely fit the roles. I actually visualized the story as being played out on a big screen while I was writing it. I think it would make an excellent TV movie series such as "Rome".

Will your book be self published or published by an agency?
It is currently in the hands of a New York agent and I intend to pursue traditional publishing first as I feel the novel is worthy of a world-wide audience.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I worked by chapter segments, writing early drafts, workshopping, rewriting  all the way through the novel, which is long and dense. It literally took me about 15 years to complete and then of course there was the final reading critiques, editing by me, and finally editing by a professional editor.

What other books would you compare to within the genre?
Anything by Mary Renault, especially her trilogy on Alexander the Great. 
Steven Pressfield’s “Virtues of War”  and “The Afghan Campaign”
I was also influenced by the writing of Scott Oden (“Memnon”)  and Dr. James Dempsey (“Ariadne’s Brother”) Margaret George ("Memoirs of Cleopatra

The Lion of Amphipolis
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Alexander did, of course. And the fact that I was terribly disappointed with Mary Renault’s “Funeral Games” so I wanted to write that same period of history and develop the characters and story more than she did. I lived for a number of years in Greece before and during the time I was researching for this book and had a lot of encouragement from Classical scholar friends and the Greeks themselves including the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Society of Macedonian Studies.

My Work Space
Marc suggested I invite several other writers to participate in this meme but unfortunately most of the writers I know (from the various groups I belong to) do not have blogs or websites.  You can find my website at and it will link you to my published travel articles, poetry publications and other published work.