No NaNoWriMo For Me

 

October is nearly over, which is both a relief and an annoyance to me (I got all the way through October without being employed? It just doesn’t seem right – or fair…). November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, and I have plans.

I had considered participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but the way things have worked out, it’s not practical or indeed possible to do so. I need to focus on other things at the moment, not to mention the project I’m working on is likely to be much longer than 50,000 words when completed. So, with a hint of regret I have concluded that I won’t be writing a novel this November.

Still, it would be a good way to get myself to write a bit more often if I did something for NaNoWriMo, even if it means I have to make up my own, alternate rules. I have therefore set a few writing goals for November, which I will now list in bullet point form.

  • In my novel about Helen of Troy, finish the first three chapters, and post. That will, most likely, be the extent of what I put in this blog (regarding Helen). It’s a good stopping point. By that time, readers should have a sense of Helen (although the “backstory” i.e. things you could probably find out by looking up information on wikipedia – will not yet be revealed), and something interesting will have happened.
  • Draft/finish approximately 5-10 short stories, some of which will then be submitted to publications. If I there are stories I do not submit, they will become blog posts as soon as they’re done.
  • Complete a usable synopsis of The Universe Through Their Mouths, a collection of tales in which various mythical characters encounter the Hindu god Krishna.
  • Work on typing up/editing retellings of fairy tales, consider places to submit.

The first two bullets are my main goals, very good goals I think, and perfectly acceptable to finish them and not the others. The last bullets are things I really should just do already. They’re on this list for the occasion that I finish the other goals before November ends, or just need different writing projects to work on.

Thanks for your indulgence on this utterly logistical post. I realize that the complete lack of lyricism and style in the writing you see here is not likely to inspire your confidence if you have not read anything else I’ve written. If you’re new to this blog, I ask that instead of judging my writing on this post, you look at a few of my older posts. Perhaps the posts of chapters 1 and 2 of Helen? Thanks again!

The Spider

Outside the bedroom window, it comes and goes. I glance up from the bed and find it absent. I’m relieved for the moment. The first time, I thought perhaps it had fallen and might not find its way back, or it had simply decided to move on. Then it came back, and I knew that I would have to put up with a fat, 2-inch spider in my window for a while.

It will be gone for days, sometimes, but then one day I’ll settle onto my bed and the obligatory spider-check will find that the menace has returned. From the window in the hall I can see it from the other side. I can see its web, attached to the outer wall of the building. This is, clearly, a prime spot for a spiderweb, and it seems rather doubtful that it will leave of its own accord. There is no indication that the spider wants to come inside – the second it does, I’m going on the offense-as-the-best-defense. So, for now, it’s no more than the potential for a problem. So, for now, I’ll just live with it.

With night falling, the spider’s silhouette becomes less and less visible, until I can’t see it at all anymore. I don’t know if it will be there in the morning, or if it will be gone, giving me a bit of space and peace.

Write About Anything: Sayings and Aphorisms

~One good thing is a dangerous respite – welcome, but it can make you think you’re safe before it’s true. This respite helps, but if you think your problem is solved you’ll only end up in trouble again.~

 

“What goes up must come down.” This saying is based on the laws of gravity, which I won’t explain because we all know them. We know them instinctually and we know them intimately from all the times we fall. It’s hard to say whether this saying is comforting, a comment on faith in the predictability of the world, or pessimistic. You have a bit of luck, perhaps, but don’t worry, it won’t last. Then, of course, the other end of this is left unsaid. That is: What comes down will stay down unless forced back up. Doesn’t it take less effort to fall to the floor than it does to stand back up? Doesn’t it take less effort to spend your whole bank account than it did to make the money?

The only exception that I can think of, actually, is smiling. It takes fewer muscles and less energy to smile than it does to frown. Smiling widely for extended periods is tiring, but a normal, natural smile is easy. I challenge you – wear a comfortable smile for a few minutes, then frown for a few minutes. Let me know which one you prefer.

 

Here’s another one: It’s not over until the fat lady sings. Hmmm… maybe that’s why that choral ensemble didn’t accept me! Then it’d be over. (Just kidding…mostly.)

What a Nightmare!

I dreamed that a number of my friends/roommates were talking about my writing while I was sitting in the room, listening uncomfortable. They were very negatively critical of things, didn’t have anything good to say at all, and didn’t seem to be aware that I was the person responsible for this terrible writing. I thought to myself “I hope they don’t find out I wrote that.” It was a very uncomfortable dream. For a writer, it’s a nightmare. A very dull, subtle nightmare.

 

In other news, I finished reading Life of Pi. I’m not going to write a review, like I planned. There’s a lot that could be said about it, but it didn’t evoke a very strong reaction, aside from the completely adorable swarm of meerkats, and as it would be entirely for fun, I only want to review books that excite me. Logically, it might be a better idea to review something about which i can think detachedly and academically, but that doesn’t sound very interesting. The thing I most want to relate to other readers was that I never felt like I connected to the book. The writing style was not complex or overdone, making it a quick read, and there were a number of lovely passages and interesting anecdotes to be taken from the book, but on the whole I was less impressed than I expected to be. (That is not to say that someone else, who is not me, would not consider this the best book they’ve ever read. It won prizes, after all. It just isn’t for me.)

In the near future I will be reading Pale Fire by Nabokov, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Possibly at the same time – it depends if I become very absorbed in the first one I start. Following this I plan to read Paulo Coelho’s The Witch of Portobello, although that depends on how long the other two take me – I might squeeze another book in before the Coelho. I’m not sure what good it’s doing me, really, all this reading, but as they/I say, a good writer (or a dedicated writer) should read a lot throughout his/her life. I feel very literary.

 

I’ve changed the title for an older post, and I like this title much better. Have a look —->

 

(And in other other news, I’m still unemployed. See title of post…)

Helen: Chapter 2, part 2

Click here to read part 1 of chapter 2.

When the nurse finally accompanied Helen into the main hall for the celebrations, Clytemnestra was already there, but Tyndareus was not, nor were their new guests. Disappointed, Helen moved toward her sister, who was currently circling the hall in a half-hearted inspection of the room. Helen slipped her hand into Clytemnestra’s and joined her in looking over the festive additions to the room. Gauzy golden fabric had been hung over and between the usual tapestries – well out of the way of the torches, which had all been lit, as the sun was obscured behind thunderclouds – making the room seem to glow. Numerous polished platters of food covered every surface. Musicians tuned lyres and harps.

“There are more musicians than usual,” Helen noticed.

“They are going to great trouble with the entertainment for Hector, I imagine,” Clytemnestra commented sagely. “I heard that there will be dancers later tonight.”

“I don’t understand… no other land’s princes come to stay with us, and Father doesn’t usually stay so long away from us. Why do we do all of this for the Trojans?”

Clytemnestra sighed. “You were very young the last time Father voyaged to Troy. He was gone for a long time – not as long as this time, but longer than I can recall him being away in any other kingdom. I don’t know why any more than you do, but there is something about Troy that makes it special to him. And Helen, don’t ask such questions in front of the Trojans. It will seem ungracious.”

Helen did not understand why she should have to be so gracious, but she was excited to have a brother at last and would rather not insult Hector. With this in mind, she agreed to show only happiness and hospitability in the Trojans’ presence.

Lightning flashed. It must have struck an arm’s length from the castle, for the shimmering fabric decorating the walls lit the room to impossible brightness. It appeared like all lightning, powerful but fleeting. It was over before Helen had a chance to properly admire the effect. The room seemed unbearably dim in comparison, with torches as the only source of illumination, although she liked how everything seemed to glitter. While the gray clouds grew darker outside, the hall felt like a cozy, dreamy nymph-dwelling.

Clytemnestra and Helen, completing their first circuit around the hall, met their father’s brother Icarius at the main entrance. They each received a cordial greeting from him, then a warm embrace. Their affection for him was nothing like what they felt for their father, but still very strong.

“Is Father coming out soon, Uncle?” Helen asked, unable to contain her excitement.

“As soon as he can, little one,” Icarius answered, patting Helen’s cheek lightly. “He had a few matters to see to before the feast – needs to get caught up on the past year before he can get back to running the kingdom. It’s a lot of information to study, but don’t worry. He knows how much his daughters want to see him.”

Icarius excused himself, joining a group of the Spartans who had accompanied Tyndareus to Troy. He had grown up with them and missed their company in the past months. A goblet of wine in his hand, Icarius was soon exclaiming and laughing as animatedly as any of the Spartan warriors.

Another half an hour passed, and neither Tyndareus nor Hector had yet appeared. Helen wondered whether it would be more polite for Tyndareus to arrive first, making him present to welcome their royal guest, or for Hector to come out and wait for the king of his new host country. She wondered if their opinions on the matter would be the same.

She would have asked Clytemnestra, but her sister had claimed a sofa and was currently picking delicious-looking morsels from a golden plate at a leisurely pace. The plates of gold, Helen’s nurse had told her, were special and few, nearly always reserved for the royalty. Helen only saw them brought out for feasts; she was provided ceramic and silver dishes for everyday use. It distracted her momentarily, seeing that golden plate. They were so polished, bright, rare, that she loved to eat off of them. She began to wander toward the food, in search of her own golden plate. When she found it, she would, as always, briefly inspect her reflection. It was not often that she had the chance to see herself in a plate’s surface, and the novelty always amused her.

Helen had hardly begun her treasure hunt when she heard Tyndareus’ arrival announced. She did not wait to see him, but sprinted toward the door, weaving between bodies when they blocked her way. Her small, perfectly formed feet (her nurse had commented on the shapeliness of her feet many times as she did the laces on Helen’s sandals) carried her swiftly to the entrance, where she ran headlong into her father’s arms. He staggered back one step as her force hit him, chuckling deeply.

“I’m so glad to see you, dear daughter. You look lovely. What a pretty belt of ribbons.”

Her father always noticed things like that. Helen smiled broadly. “Thank you, Father.”

An especially loud crack of lightning resounded through the room, flashing several times before it was gone. Startled, Helen gripped her father’s arm until the lightning stopped. The scowl on his face made her nervous. It was the expression he always wore when a thunderstorm became particularly violent, or a lightning strike was especially close.

That one, drawn out bolt signaled the end of the storm. The rain soon abated to a few drops here and there. Once Tyndareus had said a fond hello to Clytemnestra, he made his way to the head of the long table in the room’s center. Some of the men sat with him. Tyndareus promised them his full attention once he had taken advantage of the food, and they laughed, their spirits no doubt lifted by the ceasing of the rain. In no time at all, the clouds had melted from the sky, leaving them with a view of a lovely twilight.

Twinkling pinpricks of stars were slowly dotting the sky, soon to be filled with thousands of bright lights, when Hector led the Trojans into the hall. …To be continued

Sweet Progress

The title of this post would have been so ridiculously appropriate if I had worked on “Creme Brulee: A Love Story.” I did not, although I’ve been planning on it for days.

 

HOWEVER!!! Happily, I managed to write a substantial chunk of the Helen story today – that is, a substantial chunk compared to what I usually get done, not in terms of the entire story. I wrote around two pages, which is more than I usually write in a week, these days…

As a result, I have enough to post the next section of Chapter 2, as soon as I’ve read it over. As I seem to be noting continuously, i.e. annoyingly, I’m only doing bare minimum editing, if that, at this time, so if things are far from perfect in these blog posts, that’s how I intend it to be.

I probably could have just posted the pages of the story, without this separate lead-in post, but I hope you appreciate the sense of anticipation when waiting for a promised story or part of a story. Look for another part of Chapter 2 before the end of the week!

Reasons to Get an Education

I still don’t have any new fiction available to post! I’m not sorry for it, because I am writing, and I technically have been more productive in the past week than I was for about a month before that…

So, back to the point. I have no fiction to post. It occurred to me, however, that I already have some pieces published online, and it might be worthwhile to refer you to them. They’re critical essays, one about the nature of historical fiction, the other about Shakespeare! If you don’t really want to read them, you could still just click the links and give them a quick look. It would be a favor to me. View the essays at these links:

http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/94/how-now-hecate-the-supernatural-in-shakespeares-tragedies

http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/83/the-passage-from-now-to-then-examining-historical-literature-through-marguerite-yourcenars-memoirs-of-hadrian

 

A self-evaluating note: The section on Romeo and Juliet in the Shakespeare essay is not as interesting or insightful as the rest, so you can skip over it and not miss all that much. However, if you read it, just let the juxtaposition make the observations on Macbeth and Hamlet seem even more interesting and insightful.

The Writing Life

Sadly, I don’t have any new work to post at the moment. I still haven’t written more in Helen since my last post, I’m only halfway through my latest short story, and everything else that is fit to see the e-sunlight will not be posted on this blog unless it’s rejected everywhere I submit it. With these unfortunate circumstances in mind, I’m afraid I’ll have to settle for posting writing-related personal news. Such a disappointment… or is it? I hope not.

 

As I was reconnecting with sites to which I had planned to submit writing, but had let fall to the wayside while I attempted to figure out life in Boston, I realized that it’s been a long while since I submitted anything. Luckily, I have now submitted one story to multiple literary sources, and I have plans for continuing submissions. Could this be it? Could this be the true beginning of my self-marketing endeavors? I have submitted writing before, but in a few-and-far-between manner. Never simultaneous submissions before, and never so close together even for different pieces. I’m excited about it. Even if these particular publications don’t opt to include my story in their collections, if I continue this way, something is bound to be published somewhere.

I have to admit that I have never felt so much like I have written stories that are truly good enough to submit to publishers, literary magazines, and/or contests. When I look back at a story I submitted to a contest 4 or more years ago, I shake my head at my naivety in thinking that it had a chance at winning. The writing was good, but the story was grossly incomplete. Now, I read the bios of the authors of pieces in online magazines and grimace to see all their publishing credits. It does make it seem as if you can’t get published until you’ve already been published – but that is just not true – there’s no way it can be true – and I refuse to believe it, or let it stop me.

I finally finished reading The Tale of Murasaki a week or two ago. It was a very good book, and I’ll leave it at that for now. I’ve just started reading Life of Pi, and although I know I’m late to the party (and I’ve only read about ten pages so far), I’m looking forward to finding out why everyone likes it so much. I’m considering writing a review of it when I’m done, just so I can pretend that I can actually spend time doing the things I really like to do. (e.g. Write critically about literature.)

My most recent peeve: I really, really need a workspace. I don’t have a desk, and if I did I would not have a place to put it – there is little enough space in my bedroom without adding more furniture, and no room anywhere else in the house. I could set up in the living room, where there’s an enormous table, but that table is usually covered in things and there is too much to distract me in the living room, like the television and the new feline addition to the house (she’s tiny and might have kitty ADHD). There are a few cafe/restaurants that have wifi and would possibly offer something like desk space, but as I am still very much unemployed, I cannot afford to use Panera as my office. What little money I have left would disappear in no time if I did. Now, it’s not that I absolutely can’t get work done while in a half-sitting, half lying-down position in bed with my laptop resting on my thighs – on the contrary, I’ve proven that I can. However, I would be many times more comfortable and productive with a work area, desk included, that I could depend on. If I had money, I would even consider renting office space. That, of course, would require a much more reliable income than what I’m likely to make outside of a full time job, where I would most likely have an office anyway.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. I suspect that, if you’re anything like me, you would rather read the creative pieces than blog posts about the writer. But then again, we live in a society that tends to be very interested in other people’s personal lives, so who knows. As you’ve born with this post, I will try very hard to have some creative work worth reading ready to post by the end of this week.

Helen: Chapter 2, part 1

I know it’s been a while, but here’s more at long last! I haven’t written much more, but I have every intention of devoting much more time to this work, and then I will be able to post some more. For now, this section ends at a good place, and moves the story along just a little. As this is the first draft only, I don’t mind not being completely happy with the writing. Also, just to quell the theory before it arises – no, Helen isn’t crazy, but only she can see the things she’s seeing. As always, I welcome any feedback.

Chapter 2

Forty men had accompanied Tyndareus to Troy, but fifteen more came off the ship with him. These men were Trojans, Clytemnestra whispered to Helen, and while several were academics or servants, six were clearly experienced warriors. Immediately curious, Helen tugged the end of her father’s tunic a few times.

“Father, why did you bring Trojans back with you? Are they going to live here now?”

“I was about to explain that, my dear – “ as Tyndareus began his answer, a young boy began his descent from the ship’s deck. His clothes were fine, his bearing regal if a little haughty, and his features handsome. The Trojans – aside from the warriors, who maintained a strong, intimidating stance – bowed as he passed them.

Tyndareus gestured toward the boy. “Allow me to introduce Hector, prince of Troy. He has come to study the traditions and battle technique of the Spartans. In one year’s time, King Priam of Troy, will visit us here and Hector will return home with his father. Until then, I will view Hector as my own son, and I have no doubt that you, my beautiful daughters, will treat him as a brother.”

Hector had paused before them, looking carefully at both Helen and Clytemnestra. “I hope we’ll be friends,” he said, his expression quite serious.

In response, Helen quickly stepped forward and flung her arms around him. Hector let her, but did not return her embrace, while Clytemnestra clenched her teeth at her sister’s impropriety. Helen took no notice of this. She laughed and said, “I always wanted a brother.”

Tyndareus hailed a servant and ordered, “Show Prince Hector to his chambers, and show his attendants theirs as well. Make sure he settles in properly, and then escort him to the main hall for the return feast.”

The servant bowed, then addressed Hector. “Please follow me, Your Highness. Your rooms are all prepared for you.”

As Hector and his Trojan entourage trailed the servant into the palace, Helen realized that the messenger who ran ahead of the ship must have informed the servant staff that Hector came with Tyndareus. “Father, why did no one tell me the Prince of Troy would be here?”

Tyndareus touched Helen’s cheek affectionately. “Because everyone knows how you love surprises.”

Thunder grumbled directly above them. Tyndareus looked up, startled. His face suddenly grew much darker, eyes narrow, jaw firmly set. With an arm around each of his daughters, he ushered them inside, leaving the ocean behind him. The clouds above seemed to churn with anger, Helen thought. They had been inside for mere seconds when the rain began. No more than a few drops at first, it quickly became a downpour.

“That was lucky,” Helen said, giggling. “My prayer must have worked. It looks like Zeus smiled on us.”

She peered up into her father’s eyes. He looked down at her, somber and distant, and responded, “Zeus does nothing but frown at me, Helen. He has smiled on you.”

As he headed for his room, looking to change out of the seafaring clothes he had been wearing for weeks or months, he muttered, “As usual.”

Helen tilted her head as she took this in. “What does that mean?” she asked. But Tyndareus was out of hearing, and Clytemnestra just shook her head and she followed her father down the hall. Everyone else was merely passing her on their way to somewhere else.

After a time, Helen’s nurse came to usher her back to her bedroom. The feast would begin soon, but not until Tyndareus, the returning Spartans, Hector, and the Trojans had some time to refresh their bodies and spirits. The nurse, knowing that Helen would be most restless until she could be near her father, brought out a shining handful of colorful ribbons and helped her to braid them prettily together. Helen lost herself in the task. When they had finished, she asked if she could replace her golden rope belt with the new, more creative option. Nodding and smiling, the nurse took the ribbons from Helen and helped her to make the switch.

“These colors are very pretty with that dress,” the nurse said.

“They’re like the ocean,” Helen breathed, gazing with wonder down at the purples and blues and greens of her new accessory. “I saw something in the ocean today.”

“I’m sure you did.”

Of course the nurse did not believe her – but she felt sure that she had really seen those lights in the water. Thinking that, just maybe, if she saw them again now she could point them out to the nurse, Helen made her way onto the balcony. She peered hard, scanning every visible inch of the ocean, but saw no lights. Instead, she saw, far out from shore and just below the surface, a grand and horrible bearded face with eyes even stormier than the ocean. Helen gasped – but the face was smiling at her.

“You’ll be soaked, Helen, and then you’ll have to change your dress. Come back inside,” the nurse insisted. Helen obliged, looking anxiously over her shoulder, but the face had disappeared.

Helen Update: More to Come

If you’ve missed my previous posts of this untitled Helen of Troy novel, you can read chapter 1 here.

All my inward debating about posting my Helen of Troy novel has led me to conclude that more is needed to capture the desired amount of interest from readers. I don’t think I will post the entire novel – that still seems not to be the best option – but I definitely intend to share more of it. I’m thinking the first three chapters or so – perhaps up to four, although I believe 25 pages is the publishing industry norm for a sample of a manuscript. Three chapters should get me to 25 pages easily. In fact, I believe I’ll reach that mark in two chapters; depending on how far the plot goes in the first two chapters, I may still post the third. Thoughts? I’m sure anyone who is interested would rather read a bit more than a bit less.

Now I must ask for a favor: if, when you’re reading Helen, you can think of any friends who would enjoy it, I ask you to direct them to the posts of the chapters. I want my writing to be seen, and that seems far less likely to happen if it isn’t recommended by those who read it. I’m grateful no matter what if you’re reading my blog, but you’ll be more likely to be able to read the whole novel if I have a slightly larger following urging me to put the whole story out to read. (And publishers might be willing to pick me up as a previously unpublished author if they know there are people who want to read my work.) Thank you!