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Researching the New Project

Published May 22, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

So, as I mentioned briefly in my last post, I’m working on a new fiction project, rather than either of the two things I was expecting to work on this summer.

The important thing is that I’m writing again — around thumb- and wrist-killing amounts of Hyrule Warriors Legends — and that I’m currently pretty excited about the project.

The down side is that the story takes place in a time period that I lived through and yet don’t actually remember:  the early 1980s.  (Before you criticize me for not remembering, let me ask you this:  how much do you remember from when you were six?)  Compound with that the fact that the genre is a twist on the romantic comedy (a type of movie I never watch), in first person narration by a man (already a problem) who’s a mostly-closeted homosexual.  That last part would be a hard enough perspective for an essentially non-sexual woman even if the work was set in modern times, but in early 1982?

Layers upon layers of new complications.

Now, you may be wondering why I chose 1982, that being the case?

Well, there are a lot of reasons, most of them involving not wanting to let go of the characters’ original origins as dead backstory characters who survived Vietnam only to get killed in a case of mass hysteria during a tragic ski vacation.  But there are reasons to hold to that backstory, even though the tragic ski vacation and horrible early death are now removed from it.  For one thing, I don’t have to make up a new history for the characters.  (As that’s one of my weaknesses, this is an important reason!)  For another, of the same-sex couple, one has been gay since he was fifteen, and the other…well, he’s already in love with the other guy, he just don’t realize he is, so as far as he thinks of himself, he’s straight.  (If that’s inaccurate to how reality works, I apologize.  There’s not much I can do about it, though; that’s kind of at the crux of their story together.)  The narrator — gonna switch to using names here to make it less awkward — Ashley, though he’s been aware of his feelings since he was fifteen, has tried to keep his number of sexual partners to a minimum.  Not out of fear of diseases (that likely would never have crossed his mind!) but because he’s been in love with his best friend, Paddy, the whole time, and keeps wanting only to be with him, so the other men are more or less an aberration against his constant heart.  (Or that’s the way he sees it, anyway.)  The upshot of all this is that by leaving the story set in the early 1980s, I can give him that period of brief sexual experimentation without any risk of ruining their eventual happy ending by his having contracted AIDS; in the window between its introduction to the US and the public becoming aware of it, he had very few partners, and since he doesn’t live in one of the coastal cities where it first became prevalent, it’s not a stretch to imagine that he’s been spared thus far.

Now, I did a little cheating to help me get around my lack of concrete knowledge about 1982.  It’s first person narration, but rather than random first person narration — where we don’t know why the person is telling the tale or to whom — Ashley is very up front in the first few pages about the fact that he’s writing this story into a book, and that the events (while “true”) took place more than twenty years earlier.  So I can have his narration reference a movie that didn’t come out until 1993 if I want, because it’s the twenty+ years later Ashley talking, not the one from 1982.

But that only covers the narration.  There’s still a lot more I need to research about the early 1980s.  How did they dress?  How did they talk?  What were the prevailing stereotypes of the time about homosexuals?

The last one is the stumbling block, of course.  It’s obviously of vital importance to Ashley what the stereotypes of the day were.  Since he’s closeted from everyone except one female friend and the other men at the gay bar where he sometimes goes for drinks when Paddy’s busy, he can’t engage in any activity that’s earmarked as being stereotypically gay.  He’d actively avoid those things, even if he wanted to take part in them, because he’d be afraid of being found out.  (Though I suspect he wouldn’t want to take part in most of them anyway.)  And more importantly for his narrative voice (as opposed to his actual behavior, since he’d never admit that he feared being outed) he’d be outraged at the offensive stereotypes being unjustly applied to him and those like him.

A certain amount of his outrage would transcend time, of course:  since it’s his modern(?) voice narrating, he can be just as outraged at the stereotypes of the 2010s (or whenever) as at the stereotypes of the 1980s.  But whenever someone else’s behavior would reflect the stereotypes of the time — he’s sort of falsely outed about halfway through the book — that’s going to have a big impact.

And that’s where it all falls down a bit.  I went on Wikipedia to look up the movies of the early 1980s and very late 1970s, so I could pick a few to watch and get an idea of clothes and especially how people talked in that time period.  (Most of my favorite movies from the late ’70s and early ’80s do not take place in the real world/present day, and are thus of no assistance.)  As I was clicking on name links to get summaries, I was particularly paying attention to ones that sounded like they would have depictions of the stereotypes of the era.

The problem is that most of the ones that have massive depictions of the stereotypes are not available on Netflix for precisely that reason.  They’re offensive, and so they’re not available streaming, and normally I’d be totally okay with that, because under normal circumstances I wouldn’t want to watch that, either.  But now it’s research…and yet I’m not sure I could force myself to watch them even if they were available.  (And I’m not about to request the DVDs from Netflix, since they’d be sent to my brother’s place…)

I don’t know; maybe I don’t even have to.  Maybe the stereotypes haven’t changed that much.  Or rather, maybe they didn’t change much from the early ’80s to the early ’90s.  The stereotyping is finally beginning to lessen, so today’s stereotypes are slightly different, but I remember stuff from the ’90s well enough not to need any refresher course.  Much of what I have planned is probably in line with the stereotypes of the day.  (For example, after he’s falsely outed, one of Ashley’s students barges into his apartment to see for herself if he’s gay.  When she finds a sparse, un-decorated apartment, a bit sloppy around the edges, and a fridge containing nothing but beer, she’s convinced that he’s not really gay, because his apartment is too much “like a man’s.”)

Changing gears a bit, let me go back and talk about that one female friend who knows Ashley’s gay.  The original thought behind this project was to take the romantic comedy motif of the heroine’s “gay best friend” and tell the story from his perspective, while removing the negative stereotypes likely applied to him.  Since I don’t actually watch romantic comedies (the most recent one I’ve seen is French Kiss, and I find the love story the weakest part of it) this is in itself somewhat problematic.  I suspect this first draft is going to portray as completely flat both the characters who would be the leads of the romantic comedy.  And at this stage of development, there’s probably not a lot I can do about that.  (That’s what re-writes are for, right?)  It doesn’t help that the narration is stilted, of course:  Ashley may be her best friend, but she certainly isn’t his.  In fact, he finds her a bit annoying.

*sigh*

Actually, I think everyone in the book is going to come off as flat, except maybe Ashley.  So far, even Paddy’s not got much depth to him, despite how fleshed out he is in my head.

Ugh.  Maybe I should just give up on taking my writing seriously.  I’ll never write anything good enough to share with anyone else, so what does it matter?

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IWSG – Not a lot to say, really

Published March 2, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Another double post Wednesday!  (Yeah, that’s going to keep up for a number of months, until I get rid of my ever-growing backlog of quotes.)

Anyway, it’s been a very slow month for me as a writer.  Like, deadly slow.  I haven’t had much time for writing, not writing fiction, anyway.  I have to spend a lot of time reading for class, and I have a paper due every week, which doesn’t help.

But I think it’s also just that I’m not really very motivated to write right now.  It’s this NaNo novel that’s been hanging over my head since November.  I don’t want to abandon it, but I’m not sure I can finish it.  It’s not that I don’t know what happens next, or even that the next scene is going to be all that hard to write.  Well, it’ll be hard in one sense, since I’ll have to describe things, and that’s my biggest weakness.  But there’s no painful emotions in the scene.  After I got through all the turbulence of Ashley having to come out to his best friend at the same time as he confesses his love for him, and then the ensuing whirlwind…writing the characters discovering  the now-ancient ruins of a far-future weapons factory shouldn’t be that difficult.

But I just can’t get up the interest to write it.  I’ve started re-reading everything I’ve written so far, in the hopes of renewing my interest, but it’s not working.  I think the problem is that the novel is incompatible with the characters I invented it for.

I’ve gone into aspects of this before in my IWSG posts, so I’ll just summarize.  Because Ashley and Paddy were taking over my brain, I thought I could exorcise them by making them the stars of their own novel.  But I didn’t want to write the gruesome story of the deaths originally planned for them (couldn’t have written it even if I’d wanted to, in fact), and I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge of writing a realistic novel about their struggles to come to terms with their love and fit into a society that wasn’t ready to embrace homosexuality.  Even if I was a mature enough person to write something that serious and down to earth, the required research into the late 1960s or the early 1970s would have taken far too long.

So I gave them a new setting.  In the original version, it was already established that they had fought in Vietnam, so I had them in a helicopter that went through a timeslip and ended up in the super-distant future.  I think the setting and explanation I came up with are kind of interesting, and it might make a nice story in someone else’s hands.  However, I’m spending as much time on the romance between the two leads as I am on the story, and the romance is totally freakin’ irrelevant to the story (as well as being utterly unrealistic).  And, perhaps worse, this story is just not the right place for these two characters.  They belong in the real world, not a distant future filled with all sorts of oddities.  (A strange statement considering they were originally dead backstory characters for a goofy, anime-inspired, reincarnation-and-robots novel.)

I don’t know what to do with the realization that my characters and my novel are incompatible.  I can’t just delete them from it and go on without them.  Among other reasons, none of the other soldiers from Vietnam are men whose heads I can get inside.  The one of them I like best, Caesar, is the brother of a Black Panther, so he’s paranoid that the brass were always watching him, expecting him to be doing undercover work for his brother.  As a white woman of a much later era, I could never get into his mindset enough to write his POV; I know my limits, and that’s way past them.  One of the others is an uneducated country boy, and then there’s the career military NCO, two more I’d never be able to understand.  So right now the only other character I can give a POV is Ricki, the time-displaced 80s girl.  If I were to remove Ashley and Paddy, I’d have to invent two new people to put in their place.  And, honestly, if I did that, I think I’d also do myself a favor and get rid of the whole “helicopter over Vietnam” thing, and make it a small plane somewhere in the US.  Caesar could still be there, as is, perhaps having just been discharged from his military service.  And the country boy wouldn’t require any change except that he’d be a civilian instead of a soldier.  The NCO would have to go, unless he was maybe someone who trained new troops stateside.  But with such a massive re-write…ack.  I think I’d want to finish draft one before I tried it, but I don’t think I can finish draft one.  (Catch-22 and back where we started…)

I had, for a brief time, been pretty charged up about the experiment I wrote about last month.  I even made up a lot of characters, some great story details, and I had a blast making up all sorts of totally useless superpowers for the squad of losers who make up the male lead’s gang.  I even wrote the first, I dunno, couple hundred words.  Just a bit that came to me and was really fun.  (That reminds me, I was thinking of posting some of it on the blog at some point.)  My enthusiasm wore down a little, though, perhaps in part because I kept telling myself to finish the NaNo novel first.  I’m pretty sure I could get the enthusiasm back quickly enough, but should I?  I mean, shouldn’t I finish the other one first?

I dunno.  Maybe it doesn’t even matter.  I mean, it’s not like I have a lot of time for it.  Between class, museum work, and blogging, I have very little time for anything else.  (Though blogging will take up less time after I finish researching for April A-to-Z.  Slightly less, anyway.  Maybe I spend too much time on my blogs…)

It doesn’t help, of course, that my arm is getting worse, and it’s now painful to try to type in most positions.  I’ve been put on new medication, which hasn’t helped, they did another MRI, which revealed nothing, and now I’m scheduled for a spinal tap next week, so they can find out if this is MS or something else.  (I’m rooting for it to be something else.  From what little I’ve read, I really don’t want to have MS.)  I don’t want to go through such a horrible procedure, but if it lets them figure out what’s wrong with me and thus enables them to fix it, then it’ll be worth it.  But I’m told I’ll need to spend 48 hours or more afterwards just lying down and recovering.  Which is a problem, because lying down makes my arm worse.  Maybe I can lie down on my back and read, holding the book up at arm’s length.  That might work.  Maybe.

Ugh.  My life sucks at the moment.  That’s the short version.

IWSG – Uncertainty, as usual

Published January 6, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

I am still working on the NaNo novel from this past November.  I barely got anything done over December.  Well, I did manage to get through some important stages in the romance between the two leads, but it’s probably the #1 most unrealistic romance I’ve ever written.  (And they’ve all been unrealistic.)  Obviously, since it’s only a super-rough draft, that’s not a huge issue (and it’s even less of an issue because I’ll probably never touch it again, let alone let anyone see the danged thing) but it annoys me that this relationship which was in many ways the reason I wrote the thing in the first place is so terribly handled.

Of course, I’m in a weird place for writing relationships, having never had one.  And even if I had had any, as I’m a woman, I can’t possibly have taken part in any male same-sex relationships.  (Not in this lifetime, anyway.  But as I have no past life memories, it wouldn’t help even if I had been in such relationships in a previous life.)  So obviously the romance between Ashley and Paddy was always going to be awkward and unrealistic.  If I ever feel like I’m going to be able to give writing a serious go as a career move (unlikely), I’ll have to invest in reading a lot of fiction with strong emphasis on the romances, and make sure I read books with all three variants.  (Technically, I’m sure there are romantic variants other than M/F, F/F, and M/M, but they’re probably a bit more, uh, rare.  To say the least.)  Not necessarily romance novels as such, just ones where it’s a larger part of the story than most of what I read.  Okay, technically, at this stage in my life, most of what I read is non-fiction, so that’s kind of a…um….ack.

Why am I trying to write fiction, anyway?

I totally suck at it.

Furthermore, I have very little time, and all my reading hours end up getting devoted to non-fiction, whether for my classes, for my eventual thesis, or just because there’s so much amazing research out there I want to know about.  But reading non-fiction takes longer than reading fiction (usually), and I have so much else on my slate…

Y’know, this isn’t what I was going to be talking about today at all.  I intended to talk about my lack of style and failure to grasp the basics of story construction.

And now, after a 24 hiatus in the pre-writing of this post, I feel more like talking about my idiotic need to come up with story ideas at the slightest provocation.  Which, I suppose, answers the question of “why am I trying to write fiction, anyway?”  Because I come up with ideas — some of which would probably be really good if written by someone not-me — and I want to see them come to life in some manner, and I keep hoping that if I try hard enough, eventually I’ll attain some small degree of skill in the craft.  (So far, that has not happened.  And I’ve been writing, in one form or another, for more than twenty years.)

So I guess I write out of a compulsion to do so.  Much like almost everything else in my life, when it comes right down to it; I seem utterly unable to deny acting on these urges.  (Lucky none of my compulsions are to do things that are illegal!)  I just wish, considering the time I end up devoting to it, that I was actually good at it.  As it stands, it’s nearly a complete waste of time.  (The one way it isn’t a waste is that I’d probably need therapy if I couldn’t write.  Or need it enough to actually force me to get some, that is; I undoubtedly need therapy already.)

Okay.  I’ve randomly whined for too long now.

So I’ll stop.

IWSG – NaNo Failure

Published December 2, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the first time, I’ve failed NaNo.

In the future, anyone who chances upon my profile will see four wins followed by a loss.  They might think something like “Oh, what a shame she messed up after so many successes!”

Of course, if they click further and look at the stats for the failed novel, then they’ll probably ask themselves “Why in the name of sanity didn’t she validate her novel if she had 87,474 words?!”

Well, the obvious answer is that to me, the goal of NaNo isn’t to write 50,000 words.  To me, the goal is to write a complete novel.

And I didn’t do that.

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Missing Letter Monday – No “Z”

Published November 23, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

This week for Missing Letter Monday, you’re getting a bit of a look of what I’ve been grinding out this month for NaNoWriMo.  Please keep in mind that the following excerpt is entirely rough; there has been no editing (apart from replacing a few words that had the forbidden letter in them) and the only spell-checking I’ve done is whatever I’ve noticed here having red squiggly lines under it.  (I turned off the red squiggly lines on my word processor ages ago…)  I’ve also done absolutely no research, so if anything doesn’t jive with 1970s speech, and/or the Vietnam War and the military mindset in general, well…what can I say other than “sorry about that”?  If the finished product seems good enough to bother trying to polish up (unlikely, considering that I’m the one writing it) then I’ll do some research and fix up all that stuff.  (Both NaNo and this novel were last minute decisions this year, so there was no chance to do research beforehand.)

The cast:

  • Ashley Pendleton — Our protagonist…essentially.  He’s more beautiful than handsome, and skilled at everything he does.  (In my own defense, he originated in another book, where he was literally the reincarnation of Achilles, so being beautiful and the best at everything was part of the job description.)  He has flame-red hair, blue eyes, and…uh…that’s about all I’ve figured out about his appearance, really.  If he wasn’t in the army, his hair would be in a nice long late sixties/early seventies style, with lots of pretty curls, but since he is in the army, he’s got a crew cut, which he hates.  (Though I’m not sure if the fact that he hates his haircut has come up yet at this point in the story…)  He’s from Detroit…sort of.  It was a random choice when he was just a dead backstory character for that other book; now that he’s the lead, I’m not sure it’s a good idea for him to come from a city I’ve never been to and know nothing about…although I’m not sure his home town really has any impact, since he doesn’t go there at any time during the book.  (It’s still a work in progress, after all!)  He’s twenty, almost twenty-one.  He’s quick to anger, and fiercely loyal to his friends.  Or to his best friend, anyway. (His loyalty to his other friends has not been tested yet with this version of the character; I’m not entirely sure how he’ll react when the time comes.  His new personality is still forming.)  He also frequently displays tunnel vision, ignoring everything outside his core focus.
  • Paddy Morris — Our second protagonist.  He’s also very handsome, and very talented at everything, if not quite as good as Ashley.  He’s the only person allowed to call Ashley by the nickname Ashe.  (And yes, I’m aware that the nickname is usually not spelled with an “e” when it’s being applied to men.)  When Ashley was drafted, Paddy volunteered and somehow managed to pull the right strings to be put in the same unit with him, so that he could watch Ashley’s back and make sure nothing happened to his best friend; he’s that devoted in his friendship.  (I have no idea if it would actually be possible for him to arrange to be in the same unit with Ashley, but…both their fathers were heroes in WWII, so…)  He’s twenty-one, but only barely.  (The quote doesn’t get to the part where the year is mentioned, but it’s 1970.)
  • Sergeant-Major Julius Fleischer — Everything about this guy’s name is temporary.  Particularly the Julius part; it might be too on-the-nose.  (It hasn’t come up yet, but he’s into ancient Rome the way Ashley is into ancient Greece…a fact which also hasn’t come up yet, come to think of it.)  He’s the typical fictional sergeant, really:  shouty and perpetually annoyed by our hero.  (Has there ever been a work of fiction where the NCO in charge of the hero actually likes him/her?)  He’s older than the regular troops; currently, he’s about 35, but maybe that’s too old?  (I have no idea…)  I have not figured out what he looks like; presumably nothing outstanding in either a good or a bad way.
  • Timmy Johnson — Okay, the “Johnson” part is definitely random, and will almost undoubtedly change.  I’ve got no idea what his last name will really end up being.  I went with Johnson because it was literally the first last name I happened to think of.  “Timmy” on the other hand is set more or less in stone.  He’s young — only 18 — and freshly arrived in Vietnam.  He’s from a tiny little town in North Carolina, because…uh…because.  He had to come from somewhere in the South, for reasons, and I went with North Carolina because that’s where my mother comes from.  (His town, however, is a fictional one.)  I have no idea what he looks like, other than “fresh off the farm”…which I do understand is not a “look” per se.
  • Sergeant Caesar Jones — Caesar is a medic.  He’s African-American, from San Francisco, and he joined the army in order to get the money to pay for medical school, because he couldn’t afford it on his own, and didn’t want to be saddled with massive loans to repay.  (He has, however, already gotten his pre-med degree, so he’s older than Ashley and Paddy by about five years; he’s been in the army for several years since joining up.)  He’s very intelligent (definitely the smartest man in the group, by far) but a bit jumpy, and liable to leap into anger too easily.  I don’t have any ideas what he looks like, either, but probably he’s pretty good-looking.  (There’s a girl who’ll show up later on (as of today’s pre-writing session, Nov. 5, she hasn’t even shown up yet) who’s probably going to end up with him, so for her sake it’d be nice if he’s attractive as well as smart and usually very nice.)
  • Frank, the pilot — Yeah, he doesn’t even have a last name yet.  He pilots a helicopter.  I know nothing about him, other than that he and Caesar are on a first-name basis.  (I know, as the writer I should know more than that!  But honestly, he’s not really going to have much of a presence…)

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IWSG – Stagnation

Published August 5, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

It’s hard to remember when I last did any serious writing, apart from for this blog.

Don’t get me wrong, of course.  I’m doing plenty of writing for the blog.  I mean, not just random complaining/journalizing/mythologizing/book-reviewing, but actual writing.  I’ve been re-telling Greek myths every Thursday for, ooh, most of this year, and I started up Missing Letter Mondays a while back, where on Mondays I do a post without a letter in it–first week without “A”, then without “B”, et cetera, and sometimes those have been poems, and lately it occurred to me that I could do them as light, folktale-like stories, and I’m actually quite proud of the one I posted this week for the No-“J” post.  (Especially since it’s almost 12k words long, and took me about three weeks to write.)

It’s just that I’ve gotten to a point where I kind of feel like there’s not much point going on with novel writing when there’s so much re-writing to do.  But I can’t really re-write.

No, that’s not it.  It’s not that I can’t re-write.  Of course I can re-write.  It’s just fruitless for me to re-write, because I can’t accomplish the things that most need to be accomplished in a re-write.

Because no matter how many times I re-write something, it’s still going to be written by me.  It’s still going to be without descriptions, because I can’t write descriptions, because my brain does not process visual information.  This isn’t a vocabulary issue, or a laziness issue; it’s an actual brain function issue, and no matter what my mother says, reading more books with lengthy descriptions is not going to help it.  I can’t write descriptions because I can’t visualize what things look like.  My characters and locations have no images in my head, so how can I possibly describe them?

So, realistically, if I ever truly want to publish, then I need to find a co-author.

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, come to think of it.

But there’s just no way around it.  I need someone else who can handle the prose, because I just can’t do it.  I don’t have that skill.  I think I’m pretty good with the stories.  Not great, maybe, but I think with someone else really involved to bounce ideas off of, I might have the potential to grow in that direction.  (Wow, that sounded arrogant.)

If it was just a matter of prose style needing a little help, that would be something I could learn.  But one can’t “learn” an entirely new way to have one’s brain process information.  Brains don’t work that way.  (Especially not at my age.  You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, after all.)

The question is, how in the world do I hook up with another author to help me re-write my books and make them publishable?  I haven’t the foggiest idea how to go about doing that?

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Achilles, Patroclos and their special bond

Published July 26, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I know I’ve been griping a lot about my broken laptop lately (and, to be honest, there’s still a lot of gripe left there) but I thought I should stop griping for a while and instead post something someone might actually want to read.  This is one of several posts I’ve written in the broken-laptop-downtime, which have just been accumulating, waiting a chance to get online.  (Probably the best of them, too, but…well, actually, the one about Tiresias is pretty good, too…)  Anyway, on to the part of the post I pre-wrote!


 

So earlier I promised to talk about how one of James Davidson’s points in The Greeks and Greek Love provided a new possible meaning for an Aischylos fragment that redefined the relationship between Achilles and Patroclos, thus possibly shattering some of my writing, right?

Uh, okay, starting over. And trying to make sense this time.

Unlike Sophocles and Euripides, Aischylos almost always wrote and presented his plays in neat trilogies. (No, Sophocles did not present his Theban trilogy at the same time, bizarrely enough.) One of Aischylos’ many lost trilogies is his so-called “tragic Iliad” which presents the second half of the Iliad on the tragic stage, one of the rare instances of the major Athenian tragedians tackling the subject matter of the Homeric epics. The Odyssey was covered slightly more often than the Iliad, including in Euripides’ surviving satyr play, The Cyclops, but even it was rare compared to other Trojan War topics, presumably because Homer was viewed as peerless, and any attempt to compete with him was seen as sheer hubris. (Hesiod was held in similar regard, which probably accounts for the lack of other written accounts the ancient Greek theogony other than his.)

Anyway, the first of the plays of Aischylos’ tragic Iliad was the Myrmidons, which featured the death of poor Patroclos, and Achilles’ lament over the corpse. It must have been one heck of a lament. Two quotes survive, from numerous sources, Plutarch’s moralia and various philosophers and such. At the time, they were used to show the depth, intensity and importance of friendship. However, their stark eroticism—it’s hard to interpret someone rebuking a corpse for ‘wasting my many kisses’ without assuming they were lovers—they were eventually held up as proof of just how unabashed and even decadent the ancient Greek men were in their pursuit of, well, each other.

And you did not respect the sacred honour of the thigh-bond, ungrateful that you were for those countless kisses! (trans. Alan. H. Sommerstein)

I’ve quoted that translation before, and not been terribly pleased with it, ‘cause, you know, was it really so sacred for one man to rub his erection between another man’s thighs? Obviously, as a woman, I can’t really imagine what that would be like, but it just doesn’t sound to me like it would be very satisfying to either party, so I’ve always looked askance at the whole thing and felt like there had to be something that we’re just plain missing there.

And it looks like there may well be.

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IWSG – Rewrite Horrors

Published July 1, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

(The usual Words Crush Wednesday post is cancelled this week, because it’s the first Wednesday of the month, so it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  I’ll be back to quoting the Iliad next week.  Or maybe I’ll switch it up and move to someone more recent, like Sophocles or Euripides.)

I’m learning up close and personal just why you need to do all your research before you do any of your writing. Not that the research I’m doing now was ever intended to apply to the writing it’s now making me realize was all wrong, mind you.

The research is actually for my Master’s Thesis. (And for general interest reading.) But one of the things in the book I’m currently reading talked about the way age was understood in ancient Greece, and also mentioned the fact that puberty didn’t hit (men) until they were about eighteen.

You might think that this isn’t too much of a problem, just remove mentions of ages in the re-writes, right?  Wrong.

For one thing, in Ilios, my Trojan War novel, I had Achilles fathering Neoptolemos at fifteen.  Now it turns out he’d have been physically incapable of that at that age.  (In my defense, I’ve read all over the place that he was well under eighteen at the time.  I should check Statius, one of the few full accounts (even if it is Roman), and see what that says, but I suspect there he’s eighteen, if it says.)  This comes up a lot in the quasi-Young Adult novels that more-or-less follow Ilios as sequels.  (Helen’s motivations are different, but otherwise, pretty much everything’s the same.)  Making Achilles a few years older isn’t a big deal, though.  And reducing the age gap between Achilles and Patroclos will definitely make their intimacy less likely hit any “ick” buttons in any potential readers.

The problem comes in with trying to describe the characters in the quasi-YA novels.  I felt awkward enough having them be a little unsure of their exact ages (of the three leads, two were born in slavery, and the third was born in the Greek camp at Troy, so none are 100% sure of their exact age) but now I realize (as I really should have all along, if I’d put any thought into it) that no one would have known their exact age anyway.  Calendars didn’t exist yet, so birthdays as we know them didn’t exist, et cetera.  So my heroines actually have a much better age marker than most people in the world likely would–they can tell people “we were born a few months after Troy fell”–but if anyone ever reads these books (doubtful) that’s going to feel very weird, for one thing, and for another thing it’s going to leave me helpless to describe relative ages.  I mean, yes, my heroines can look at other people and guesstimate that they’re a few years older or younger, but…well, I guess that’s all they’ve been doing anyway, but…ugh.  I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore.

Though, really, the big problem is with a couple of the other female characters.  There’s a flashback from the POV of the hero’s Egyptian princess forbidden-love-interest, looking back to when they first met, when she was fourteen, and he had just rescued her from bandits who had kidnapped her, blah blah blah, you can see where this is going, and he refrained from taking advantage of her (despite that she offered herself to him) because she was too young and he’s a heroic character.  In addition to the fact that fourteen is not too young in the ancient world (which, let’s face it, I knew already), that scene was probably not going to fly in something even quasi-Young Adult anyway, but I’m not sure what to replace it with.  (Also, if she’s fourteen, Ramses would have already made good on his promise to her father to marry her, I’d think, wouldn’t he?  Hmm, need to research that before I get to re-writing that one.)  Then there’s the other girl, in the very last book–actually, the sequel, the one I’m currently writing–the northern barbarian, who follows them home from the Alps, ’cause she’s fallen in love with Molossos, the eldest son of Neoptolemos.  (How mortifying for the heroine, Achilles’ youngest daughter, that she has a nephew almost exactly her age!)  This Alpine girl is probably about sixteen or seventeen, so probably she should already be married, shouldn’t she?  Given that this is the Late Bronze Age and all.  Maybe she was widowed in all the fighting at the end of the main series.

Actually, I think I really am more worried about Ilios than the quasi-YA novels.  Because now, instead of a fifteen year old Achilles in drag on Scyros, I have an eighteen year old Achilles convincingly fooling Lycomedes and everyone else around him.  I guess that’s not a big difference, really.  It just feels like one, somehow.  The question is, does he spend longer on Scyros than I originally planned, or does he spend longer with Cheiron before his mother takes him to Scyros, or do I just not clarify the number of years?

This might not worry me so much if I was able to write right now.  But somehow I just can’t.

Maybe it’s just the heat.  Or my medication.  Or…meh, I don’t know.  I go in phases, I guess.  Inspiration will strike, and then I’ll be able to write again.  (Maybe I should have signed up for July Camp NaNo after all, try to force myself into it?)

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IWSG – Futility

Published June 3, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

(The usual Words Crush Wednesday post is cancelled this week, because it’s the first Wednesday of the week, so it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  I’ll be back to quoting the Iliad next week.  Or maybe I’ll switch it up and move to someone more recent, like Sophocles or Euripides.)

Lately, I’ve been feeling like there’s no point to working on polishing my writing.  Because the point of re-writing and polishing is trying to get it to out to the public, right?  But it’s clear to me that I’ll never get anything I’ve written to a point where anyone would want to read it.  My basic ideas are good, I’m sure of that, but my prose is childish, my characters are shallow, and any time I attempt a love story, it’s entirely unconvincing, because I’ve never been in a romantic relationship.  (That, of course, is why I decided that my heroic trio in my quasi-YA novels would not have any romantic relationships.  Well, except then I later established that the young man in the trio already had several unofficial fiancees (not of his own will) and a girl he’s in love with, but since all those conditions are pre-existing, it’s a very different type of unconvincing.)

On the NaNo forums towards the end of April’s Camp NaNo, or possibly in very early May, I was given a link to a private forum where I could get some feedback on Ilios, since it was already in bite-size chunks, so that I could re-publish it.  (Ilios is my Trojan War novel, telling the whole story of the war, as mythically accurate as possible, with each chapter being narrated in the first person by a different character.  (Which I thought was a unique approach, until recently at a used book store, when I found another novel that had done the same thing, as far as I could tell by glancing through it.  Took a very different approach, of course, and probably didn’t tell the whole war.  I might have picked it up, if the author had used Aias instead of Ajax, but he didn’t, so I didn’t.)  I had e-published it a while ago on LeanPub, but I officially “retired” it because I was so disgusted with how badly I had handled some of the chapters, particularly some of the key emotional chapters tied to the events of the Iliad.)

Anyway, I said I would go to those forums after turning my final paper in, mid-May.  I still have yet to do so.  Because…what’s the point?  The person who offered doesn’t understand how bad my writing is.  People always hear my ideas and say “that sounds great; let me read it and I’ll give you feedback!”  Then they read it and can’t find anything to say, because what needs to be said is “Don’t give up the day job.”  (Which is awkward, considering I don’t have one.)  Of course, there’s more to it than that; I’d be intruding on a forum where everyone else is already close friends, and what would I say when I got there?  I guess it’s partially my social phobia obstructing me even online.

But even though I intend to eventually re-write the abysmal chapters of Ilios, I don’t know if I’ll bother re-publishing it.  Even for free, it only got two downloads.  (Admittedly, that’s partially because LeanPub does not have a flourishing fiction section; it’s more a place for IT texts and other technical books.  But even if it was on Amazon or someplace, I don’t think it would have any more success, even for free.)

For at least fifteen years, every word of fiction I wrote was purely for myself.  In fact, most of it was fanfic.  Though it might seem like a waste of time and effort to write stories/novels/whatevers that I had no intention of ever showing to anyone else, it was comforting to know that it didn’t matter if it sucked, because no one else was going to see it.  It didn’t matter if someone was out of character for a while, because no one would know.  It was okay that the relationships were flat and unconvincing, because I was the only one who could read it.

But since telling myself that my fanfic days are over, I feel like I’m supposed to be writing towards the goal of publication, admittedly only the self-published kind.  But there’s no way anything I write can ever be suitable for the public.  As I said last month, I’m incapable of writing descriptions, because I don’t think visually:  I have no idea what my characters look like apart from a very few physical details that I do impart in the books (primarily concerned with height and hair color) and even if I did know what they looked like, I wouldn’t be able to describe them, because I don’t “get” descriptions of faces.  My ability to describe locations isn’t much better; my brain can’t grasp the geometry of the place, no matter how many descriptions I read of the region, or how many photos I see.  (Even if I went to Greece and Turkey to see the places for myself, I doubt I’d have any better luck trying to describe them.)

I think I’m about to sink into a re-run of last month’s post, so I should perhaps stop while I’m ahead.

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Out of the ordinary for Wednesday

Published May 6, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I know I’ve been doing “Words Crush Wednesday” for a long time now, but this week I’m not doing it.  Because I’ve decided to take part in the “Insecure Writers Support Group,” and we’re supposed to post about our writing the first Wednesday of the month.  So “Words Crush Wednesday:  The Homeric Version” will be back next week.  But this week I will be talking about my woes and worries for my novel writing.  (I apologize to those who are uninterested in same.)

Things are looking both down and up for my Trojan War novel, Ilios.  I had self-published it earlier with LeanPub, in the hopes of getting someone to read and critique it for me (because LeanPub lets you update as much as you want, being e-publishing only) but only two people downloaded it, both for free, and they never left any feedback whatsoever, and I had come to understand a lot of the problems, so I temporarily de-published it so I could fix at least some of the problems before anyone else saw it.  Since then, I had started to give up, feeling like no one would ever want to read it.  (And maybe they won’t; I don’t know.)  But I had someone contact me on the NaNo forums and offer me entry into a group that has been helping each other with critiquing short passages, so I’m hoping I may finally get some help with it.  It will never be of interest to the mainstream audience, I realize that, but maybe I’ll at least get it to the point where I feel comfortable considering its form “final” and adding it to e-pub places that get more fiction traffic.  (LeanPub primarily has software-related books, things on programming and stuff.)

So what I actually want to talk about is my series of quasi-Young Adult novels.  I call them “quasi” because I don’t really know how far you can go in what directions before it no longer qualifies as Young Adult.  The only Young Adult novels I’ve read that were written in this century are the Harry Potter books, so I don’t know much about the field.  But I felt like Young Adult was more the direction to go in, because two of my three leads were teenagers, I didn’t want sex to play any strong role, and I didn’t want to have to go into much detail about the fighting.  Or rather I didn’t want it to get too bloody, despite that it’s an adventure story.  But despite that I don’t want sex to play a strong role, I can’t help but mention it.  In the first book, a rape committed nearly twenty years earlier is an important background detail, and it’s hard to get around calling it a rape.  Furthermore, the heroine is the daughter of Achilles, and it’s hard to keep the fact that her father was very actively bisexual from coming up, considering that his one true love was his male lover, despite how much he claimed to have loved his concubine Briseis.  Though I guess the homoerotic side of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclos didn’t start coming up until book 2…

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