Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Here, Hold my Beer and Watch This!

Stymied by not wanting to write yet another ho-hum replay of the Iliad.

Finally one book led to another led to another led to "Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones"(UPennPress). And there it is:

"Predatory, parasitic, retaliatory, and expansionist modes of warfare virtually exhaust the known practices of warfare in antiquity, regardless of how intermingled in their modes historical incidents of warfare have been. Insofar as organized sexual violence against women and girls is integral to the first three modes, and prominent in the fourth, it follows that the violent subjugation of women and girls through sexual assault and torment has been an integral and important part of Western warfare over the two millennia from the Bronze Age to late antiquity."

Not to mention more recently: Tanzania, Bangladesh, Bosnia, China, Vietnam...

While modern feminists and psychologists beat the 'rape is never about sex' drum, some researchers simply don't believe it. After all, if rape isn't about sex, then why are the overwhelming number of women who are assaulted in any way raped at all? And yet they are. Even if it's true that rape in war is somehow different from more ordinary, daily rape all over the world, it is still rape that prevails in uncontrolled conquests: even if the women are later killed, they are raped first.

This discussion is far larger that a blog space will accommodate and than any reader would want to stick with, and my thoughts are still jelling. But at the base, as a writer, here is my issue: how to keep overheated modern readers' sympathies firmly with a rapist, and his rapists friends and fellows?

This is gonna be a wild ride. As so many Americans headed directly for disaster say, "Here, hold my beer and watch this!"

Friday, October 23, 2015

Yes, But Why??

The big question still looms unanswered: Why?

Why did the Greeks pack up all their most able, powerful young men and attack Troy and its territory? A woman snitched? Oh please. Their history of sniping each other? Yes, in part, but what was the origin of that sniping? Another woman saved from a sea monster? Oh please. No single incident involving a woman could ever logically justify these mass movements of disrupted men and the dogged, single-minded violence they perpetrated.

The campaign makes me think of the Crusades, initiated in greatest part in order to get the mass of landless, war-trained young men out of a Europe that no longer needed them and feared the trouble they were beginning to make, now that the local wars were settled. It was also at the front of my mind while reading Adam Gopnik's article "Blood and Soil" in the September 21 New Yorker. At one point he writes, "Frightened soldiers in foreign lands murder the locals without mercy or purpose. One wishes that this happened rarely. In truth, it happens all the time." As it did more than once in Ilium... Ilium that never came to Greece as far as we know, yet suffered ferocious Greek incursions again and again. There was a set of reasons for those incursions, but no one knows or has ever, apparently, tried to figure out what they are.

It is not myth or legend that will solve this puzzle; that glib, oversexed silliness. These weren't fairy-tale characters, but actual people who reasoned their way out of their own complex lives, away from those who depended on them, across a sea to war and slaughter. The reasoning can't lie in snippy interpersonal relationships. The purpose had to have been as immediate and logical as - just one example - the US's reasons for going to Vietnam. But, again, no one has ever addressed it from a grown-up POV.

This is why I'm stopped again, and hunting information on the political, geological and economic events of the old Levant, especially Anatolia. Much work has been done and is being done; for my purpose, I don't need to know it all, but certainly need to be able to provide a few sound, logical reasons for what happened. And Helen simply doesn't work.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Agents and Edits

My agent told another client (not me directly, of course) that she can't sell 'Peryton' because it's 'too smart.' It appears that I have been fired without actually being told so.

What does that even mean, anyway? It requires the reader to remember things from one page to the next? It poses questions and doesn't answer them immediately? It uses the occasional four-syllable word? The characters are not dreamy, sulky, moody, weepy teenagers? A dear, rightfully successful friend wrote that "...because you're transcending sub genres and writing for all adults with just half a brain didn't stop the book from being such a page turner that I literally still dream scenes from it."

At the same time I found a smart, attentive reader whom I can trust to read 'Warrior' and note every spot she finds a hiccup, or has a question that should be answered right there. Three steps forward, only two steps back?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Frustration, They Name is ... Frustration

I wrote the Iphigenia episode because it is - to me - a major part of the pre-War activity, says a great deal about interpersonal relations, and is the best way I could think of to introduce Achilles and his character. He, at least, is delighted. I am far less so.

Those don't seem to be reasons enough. Why? Why not? Mulling, fiddling, dithering, indecision. As with Peryton, nothing that happens, happens in isolation. Everything that happens must resonate through the rest of the story. But how does the marriage and death of this young woman do that?

Oddly, the picture I chose at random to depict her in the previous entry might hold the secret. Somehow it must be that her mother brought her to Aulis because she is desperate to find her a husband before all the husband material leaves Greece for uncertain fates. The girl is rather unmarriageable because of some personal defect, and because the reason that all the Greek men are in Aulis instead of their own homes was a marriage into the Pelopeid morass. The men look at Menelaus and see how he is living like a shadow of himself, crowded around by people to whom he is in unpayable debt. What sensible man would choose to step into that?

Achilles would, because it tickles his fancy and because he feels himself immune to the sucking of that morass. He has bigger intentions, and genuinely doesn't care about anything but his own glory. To marry into the High King's mess doesn't bother him. To immediately lead the woman to her death doesn't bother him; he is still Agamemnon's SIL, without the trouble of a wife

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ajax Arrives

See the rough draft segment, the new post in the Warrior tab. Ajax has arrived at Troy. Rough first draft, but I like it so far.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Notes From a Ship at Sea

Wrangling with characters who want to do what they want to do, and with conflicting legends, finally got the Greeks to Aulis and away again. Blood sacrifice is always best written briefly and without judgement. Achilles shines as the psychopath he is, Odysseus steers quietly from the engine room, Agamemnon is the one that history will blame, and Clytemnestra will have her revenge.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Here We Go Again

Oh lord, not Odysseus again. And I'll bet anyone a dollar that - as always - he will be depicted again as a 'hero' rather than as the sociopathic snake in the grass that he really was.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Whom Can You Trust?

The best "Oh shit!" moments come in the middle of the night. THREE extremely picky and meticulous readers missed two huge mistakes on page nine of "Warrior." Both of these had to do with only two sentences: Odysseus, in the background, telling how he tricked Achilles into joining the expedition against Troy.

In that often-told story, Achilles' mother dressed him like a girl and put him in among the many daughters of the king of Scyros, so that everyone could claim that he wasn't there, so that he couldn't be recruited when Agamemnon came looking for him. The trick was that Odysseus had someone blow a war horn, and the boy jumped out of the crowd of girls, ready to do battle.

Okay, so everybody knows that story, right? Wait.

Achilles, a genuine psychopath, would never have consented to being hidden that way. The story absolutely does not suit him as he is depicted in the Iliad. It does not lead to the implacable warrior hero who never set a foot wrong in battle, had very little mercy, etc, etc, etc. Such a man would not hide among girls because his mother told him to, or for any other reason. Also, no psychopath would do that; it would offend his sense of his own grandeur to pretend to be a girl - his natural prey. Yes, he ran to his mother when Agamemnon insulted him, but only to demand that she intervene with Zeus and let the Trojans start winning (killing off his brothers in arms) until everyone would see how they couldn't possibly manage without him, and Agamemnon would have to beg him to come back.

Second problem with this? Odysseus would never tell how Achilles was tricked into joining the expedition because HE was tricked into joining the expedition, and he's going to keep that very, very quiet until he can figure out how to avenge it.

This is NOT Henri Vidal's Cain. It is Magan, the god of dismay.
See? Sometimes 4AM can be a writer's best friend. And whom can a writer trust? Nobody. Including herself.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Post-Bath Society

When just flipping innocently through channels, how can we be certain, with only a moment's glance, that whatever is on is supposed to be some sort of historical or pseudo-historical (as in GOT) drama?

 Because nobody on screen looks as if he ever, in his entire lifetime, combed his hair, let alone washed his hands, changed his clothes, or trimmed his face.

Do whatever you want, but please do it downwind

  There were bathtubs in the Bronze Age. In any respectable Mycenaean palace there were scores of ladies working as bath fillers, water warmers, laundry maids, seamstresses, lice scrubbers, and barbers. Clearly something even more important than the safety pin (fibula) was mislaid between millennia. Or else the costume and makeup departments have been allowed (encouraged?) to enjoy themselves far too much.

Dirty fingernails? Not a chance.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Okay So Far

Spent the month of December writing, rewriting, editing, negotiating, arguing, discussing, rewriting again until the whole vocabulary of promotional material for The Peryton was satisfactory both to me and to my agent, Italia Gandolfo. There is a tag line, a log line, a short synopsis, a longer synopsis, the cast of characters,  the four manuscripts themselves, the epilogue - an entire panoply, complete with horses, snakes, monster bugs, and midgets. (All right, no midgets. Saving them for Samson.)

A collection of that material was then submitted, in mid-January, to a few publishers whose names made me blink: Holt, MacMillan, Hachette, Penguin and Grove Atlantic.

Well, okay then.
Even before ThePeryton is accepted by a publisher, work must go on. Next will be Warrior, the autobiography of Ajax, which is making itself into the verbal equivalent of a magic box: it can only be told, it seems, in two different voices, that of the young, naive, idealistic Ajax in the present tense, accented with past-tense commentary from the disillusioned, cynical old suicide.
If these Egyptian ladies can do it, so can I

After that, The Samson Midrash is waiting, and not patiently. Yes Samson, with the lion and the bees and the jawbone of the ass. And Delilah.

Watch this space. Or, better yet, check the list on the right side of this blog for progress on all three projects.