Thursday, March 05, 2015

On Writing and Goals

This picture* has nothing to do with anything
except wow so much snow this year!
I recently switched up my writing game. Previously, I was writing with a daily minimum word count in mind. 7 days a week, no allowance for a weekend, just write the minimum (usually 1000 words, though on days when El Husband was home I would settle for 500) EVERY DAY.

Daily writing had worked for me in the past -- it's a great habit to form and I wanted to keep it up, because I'm a firm believer that as a writer, discipline is my friend. The only problem with the daily wordcount minimum? The stress. I had constant writer guilt. "I should be writing" was my refrain at all times, and there was even a certain amount of resentment toward anything that took me away from getting my words in (social activities, errands, meals, ANYthing!) It didn't account for off days, or needing to recharge with a good book, or achy wrists or anything that might mean I needed some down time. And even if I got my minimum daily words in, I felt like a slacker. On a good day, when I'm really into my book and in the middle of a scene full of dialogue, I can write 1000 words in an hour. Easy peasy. But of course that wasn't good enough. I needed to keep working. Because 1000 words a day is not FAST enough, for me, when I know I'm capable of killing a first draft in 6-8 weeks, if I really put my mind to it and abandon all other distractions/life. Which meant I wasn't committing, even if I had the discipline of the daily writing. I didn't feel like I was putting my mind to the job.

This January, I changed that. Instead of giving myself a daily minimum, I'm now giving myself a WEEKLY word count goal, and including a two-day weekend in my plans. I aim for 10,000 words for the week, generally with the expectation of writing 2000 words for five days. 2000 words a day is more of a challenge. If I'm not in the middle of an easy scene, or I have to do research, or I'm up against a wall with the manuscript, I can GENERALLY still push through to 2000 words (or more!), but I feel like I'm accomplishing something significant and building momentum. And when I get ahead early in the week, it means that on my Friday (which is Saturday because we keep strange hours at the House of Dillin), I can kick back a little bit early, if I want to, and enjoy my evening doing something social. It makes the social activities and the relaxing a reward for a week's hard work, instead of an interruption to my workflow.

The writer guilt? It's minimized. Of course I still have some days, particularly if I don't make it to 2K and it's the start of my week, where I feel like I should be killing myself to get more words in and write instead of letting my brain work things out while I focus my attention elsewhere (sometimes that's the only way to break through and figure out what comes next!), but my goal is weekly, so I have room for those less productive days, particularly when I write more on the days when I'm in the groove.

And man, it is so much less stressful, knowing I have the weekend to kick back and relax and not think about whatever is driving me crazy within my manuscript. I have two whole days for my brain to work on things in the background while I just have fun, and I come back to work on Tuesday (my Monday) feeling refreshed and ready to go. Two days of guilt-free, stress-free bliss.

So far, it's working like a charm. But I'm curious -- how do the rest of you schedule your writing time? Daily? Weekly? Monthly goals?
*Photo taken by and belongs to me!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Theseus and Democracy, or The Adopted Son and Popular Rule

Antoine-Louis Barye - Theseus and the Minotaur (Second Version) - Walters 2764 - Profile
Walters Art Museum
[Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons
What if Theseus is the first Adopted heir? And the reason he's credited as bringing democracy to Athens is because he was claimed the "long lost son" of Aegeus as a political necessity, to appease the people of Athens and Attica?

I mean, Theseus had a purpose -- he was going to Athens to claim (or make?) his place there. He built his reputation along the way in such a manner as to make it virtually impossible for Aegeus to turn him away. When he arrived, according to some myths, Medea advised Aegeus to kill him, because he was obviously seeking to usurp Aegeus's power.

And maybe she was right. Maybe Theseus was a champion of the people of Attica, intent on upsetting the status quo, to over throw the king (and his sorceress mistress?) and reassert the peoples' power -- to speak with the peoples' voice? And maybe, Aegeus, realizing the error of his ways, (was he a tyrant? he might have been!) instead of being overthrown, used it to his advantage to preserve his own power while at the same time giving his people the appearance of winning, by adopting Theseus as his son. He didn't have any heirs, after all, and if the people were revolting against the current leadership, whatever Medea's plans were, they weren't going to work. And there was always the hope that Theseus might end up dead in Crete anyway.

And maybe that was even a condition of the adoption -- maybe to be declared Aegeus's heir, Theseus had to go to Crete as tribute, and IF he survived and returned to Athens, he would then be given the kingship, free and clear.

And maybe when Aegeus leaped from the rock to his death, it wasn't grief that drove him. Maybe it was the realization that he'd lost the gamble, and Theseus had returned -- and knowing he'd lost his kingdom, maybe he wanted to save face. Rather than being removed, he made a statement, and shadowed Theseus' ascendance with his suicide.

All of this assuming, of course, that a man named Theseus might have lived, and a king named Aegeus might have died.



Available April 1, 2015 
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.





Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Sunday, March 01, 2015

HELEN OF SPARTA available NOW for Kindle First Readers!

Helen of Sparta has been selected for the Kindle First program -- and that means you can read it NOW, before it's Official Release on April 1st!!

So! If you've been dying to get your e-book reading paws on Helen of Sparta, head on over to Amazon to learn more about Kindle First, and grab your copy! Read it! (And hopefully also review it!) this month. With your help/purchase/review love, maybe Helen can roll into her April 1st release at the top of the charts!

And all the hype aside, when Amazon called to talk to me about including Helen of Sparta in the Kindle First program, I was beside myself. (And there's a whole other post to be written about how publishing is hard leading up to Helen's sale, which I won't get into now, but believe me, it was an intense journey.) That Helen has come this far feels like a dream come true, and I would be truly remiss if I did not thank PROFUSELY my editor, Jodi Warshaw, for being such an amazing champion for Helen's story. (She has totally been the Theseus to my Athens!)

I hope you all love it as much as we do!

Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.



Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Affairs of the Gods: How Could These Victims Have Been So Clueless?

There are two ways to approach questions like this:
1) The Events of the Myths Really Happened
2) The Events of the Myths Are Stories/Propaganda/Explanations/Metaphors/etc

If you've been hanging around me or my blog(s) for any length of time, you probably know that the fiction writer in me favors the first approach -- and imagining these characters and trying to discover their motivations and understand the choices they might have made is where a lot of the fun of writing about them comes from. So with this question, it's only natural that I'd start with the more literal perspective. (It's more just more interesting guys!)

The Short Answer:
I suspect that they were less clueless and more just uninformed.

The Long Answer:
The Flight of Europa by Paul Manship
photo by me!

Here's the thing. Today, if some king's daughter were kidnapped by a really pretty bull, the whole world would know about it. Or at least the part of the world that pays attention to that kind of information, anyway. (She'd also be found and returned home, probably, rather than dumped in another country to marry into their royal bloodline, but I digress.) Back in Europa's time? It was probably more of a quiet, regional event. Why should she expect the bull of being a god in disguise, intent on stealing her away, if she'd never heard of Zeus pulling that kind of stunt?* Maybe, possibly, some kind of rumor of Zeus coming down as a shower of gold to... make sweet love? to Danae** might have been making the rounds somewhere in the Peloponnese, but it is REALLY unlikely the story would have made it as far as Phoenicia, where Europa was hanging out with her maiden friends, enjoying the attentions of a particularly tame bull.

Now maybe these two examples are cheating, because both of these women were earlier victims of Zeus' proclivities, but the fact remains that there are no guarantees that any one of the  importuned women who followed would have had extensive knowledge of the god's other exploits. There's a couple of exceptions of course. Alcmene, for example, was the granddaughter of Perseus, so the story of Great-Grandmother Danae could easily have been part of family lore before her run in with Zeus and the subsequent birth of Heracles. But since Zeus took the form of Alcmene's own husband, Amphitryon, there is really no possibly way that forewarning might have helped her avoid his attentions.

It's easy for us to see all these stories laid out neatly and chronologically, with repeated themes of Zeus putting one over on some poor beautiful girl, and wonder why these people couldn't figure it out. But the truth is, those stories weren't assembled into the written word at all until centuries after the fact. If you consider that the Trojan War was basically the end of the Age of Heroes, and all the philandering that entailed, then the majority of these events would have taken place during the Greek Bronze Age -- the Mycenaean and Minoan periods. At the end of which, civilization kind of collapsed and the Greeks not-so-promptly forgot how to write for several hundred years.

Oral history is a lot more limited, regionally, though Homer provides us with evidence that even oral stories could be spread -- if the bard thought the audience would be interested. But if he didn't?

Well. It sure makes me appreciate the bounty of the internet for self-education, that's for sure.


*Europa was mother to Minos, which means she was at least one, maybe two generations before Theseus and Heracles.

**Danae was the mother of Perseus, who was himself the very FIRST of the Greek Heroes. He did not actually ride Pegasus, and the Kraken is a sea monster out of Scandinavia. Just for the record.



Available April 1, 2015 
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.





Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wrapping TAMER OF HORSES

Antonio Canova-Theseus and Centaur-Kunsthistorisches Museum
Theseus and Centaur (photo by Yair Haklai
[CC BY-SA 3.0  or GFDL], via Wiki Commons)
In January, I finally finished TAMER OF HORSES, a historical novel about Hippodamia's marriage to Pirithous, and the war with the Centaurs that followed. I started writing TAMER in 2012 -- prompted by an anthology call for ancient Greek themed romances. At the time I thought that turning a tragedy into a romance was just a question of picking the right end point in the story. There was no way I was going to turn the war with the centaurs into a happily ever after, if I included it in the novella. There was just too much death, too much destruction, and too much STORY to pack into anything with a 40,000 word limit.

So I wrote the romance novella and submitted it. Lucky for me (no, really!), I got the big R. Finally, I had the time and the words to turn that novella into a full length novel and cover the WHOLE story. And I am so stoked that I did. The more I wrote, the more I loved writing it. Hippodamia didn't have to be a typical Greek -- she'd been raised by Centaurs, after all. And with Pirithous came Theseus, and even better, his Amazon wife, Antiope. There is nothing not awesome about getting to write the four of these characters, particularly after I'd written HELEN OF SPARTA. I got to explore what Pirithous and Theseus were like in their glory days, and meet the women who had the strength not only to match them, but even to exceed them. Together, the daughter of the centaurs and the daughter of Ares make a very formidable team!

It was a stop and start struggle to figure out the path of the book and pull all the threads together. When I started during the summer of 2012, I never expected that it would be a two year journey. But I'm pretty proud of the nearly 110,000 words I ended up with! Hopefully my early readers will feel the same way, and after that... well, publishing is unpredictable at the best of times, but whether or not Hippodamia's story sells, I'll never regret having written it!


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hippodamia (The Centauromachy and Art II)

I'm not sure why Hippodamia's abduction by Centaurs is such a popular motif for artists -- just like I'm not sure why Leda and the Swan is even more so -- but this particular sculpture (at the National Gallery of Art) is one of my favorites.

I love the contrast between the grace of Hippodamia's form, all smooth lines and curves, and the emphasis on the Centaur's pure muscle mass, brutish and physically powerful. His shoulders ripple, his flanks and forequarters dimpled and defined. In comparison to Hippodamia, he's massive!

Unlike the centaur in the previous bronze (which was far more Art Deco in style) there isn't anything elfin about his features. Hollow-cheeked and thick-nosed, this centaur is rawly human. A man lost to madness, made all the more clear by the fallen amphorae, spilling wine beneath his hooves.

Hippodamia on the other hand, seems either to have fainted from the shock of her abduction, or else she's flopping like a fish to make herself as awkward to carry as possible. Generally, she's portrayed as helpless -- a damsel in distress. But I can't help but think it must have been more than wine which provoked the centaurs to kidnap one of their own. And I really have a hard time believing that a woman referred to as "kin" to the centaurs and tamer of horses would just give up without a fight.

If the centaurs are uncivilized, brutish and barbaric, how civilized was Hippodamia herself? Why should she have been anything less than wild (by Greek standards), as well?

Maybe that's why I like the myth of Hippodamia -- because there's so much potential there, to build a strong woman from the bare-bones account of her life. What's more, it strikes me as something of an untold story, because the depictions of Hippodamia tend toward the hysterical woman, despairingly throwing herself about while waiting to be rescued by her pirate-hero-king husband, Pirithous.

After all, no "ordinary" woman could really hope to cope with such an outrageous personality as Pirithous possesses, and I'm willing to bet he wouldn't want to be saddled with just any woman for a wife. Hippodamia must be something more, something greater, than what we're given to understand by these works of art, and that is definitely a story worth telling.


Photography in this post © me.


Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
Amazon | Barnes&Noble