Archive for March, 2013

Standing up to write The Black Scroll

Here's where I'm writing The Black Scroll. Notice my makeshift high desk so I can stand?

Here’s where I’m writing The Black Scroll. Notice my makeshift high desk so I can stand?

Doesn’t look very glamorous, and not my greatest photography, but here’s a shot of my workstation for writing The Black Scroll.

Hope you’ll notice the height and no chair. After some back problems from sitting in front of a computer all day, I elected to write standing up.

I’ll admit it took a little getting used to, but I seem to have come over the hump. My brain’s working; the Muses are singing.

The screen on the left is the book itself as I write in InDesign. The laptop screen has my Excel spreadsheet with research including the 500+ quotes I’ve collected. I also do frequent Google searches to research details and fact check.

The eyes of the woman on the screen are Elektra, protagonist of Book Three. The pink towel between the two banker boxes is for my cat who sometimes sleeps there while I write.

Stack of books? Hadrian, The Roman Cavalry, Atlas of Classical Archaeology (for city plan of Leptis Magna) and Sex and Society in Greco-Roman Egypt. Under it all is a binder containing pages of notes.

Hanging above the work station is a photo I took on the Nile, a movie poster from ‘The Eagle’, a map of the Ancient Nile Delta and a map of the Mediterranean. To the left is a printout of an email from my friend Ann Calhoun with much appreciated (and always needed) words of encouragement.

On the far left, taped to a book shelf, is a printout of my favorite cover – but one I’m not using. It’s the Red Mirror with Isis’ eye. I opted for another cover to make the series more identifiable and the covers more cohesive. Could never repeat, no matter how hard I tried, the power of that Eye.

In case you have trouble making out details, standing on the shelf above my head are two sailing ship models, a bust of Aphrodite, Nefertiti’s head, a statuette of Athena my daughter brought me from Greece, a sitting Japanese sage, a carved wooden “Old Salt,” and a bronze figure of Shiva. Oh! don’t want to forget the brass falcon head of a shoehorn.

Here I am working on this very blog post.

Here I am working on this very blog post.

On the desk always my cup of black tea with milk – or my snifter of brandy or scotch depending on time of day.

The Black Scroll – 84,433 words as of yesterday. 38 Chapters. 261 pages.

March 26, 2013 at 5:47 pm 5 comments

Chapter by chapter the story reveals itself

People ask me how I write. The mechanics of it. Some authors apparently work 8 hours. Some work with the goal of 1,000 words a day. A chapter a day is my goal. That’s an average of 1500-2000 words, although a long chapter can be 3,000 words. New material.

I can do it in 2-3 hours if it’s action and dialogue. If there’s a lot of detail, special terminology, or facts I want to present in a way that’s not lecturing, it takes me longer. Of course, I usually spend time editing the new material the day I write. That’s on top.

But before I take The Black Scroll into the next part of the story, I go back over the chapter from the day before, beefing up certain parts, sucking as much emotion and eliciting as much drama as I can from every scene. Sometimes I have to do more research, like what kind of weapon would a young Libyan thuwar use – or what handgun would the General gift to Isis?

Then, when I think I’ve got a tight chapter that I’m pretty happy with, I go to my new blank page.

It’s not blank though. It says Chapter 29, for example, followed by XXXXX. On the next line is xxxxx which is a holder for the appropriate Roman quote I’ll plug in. Following that is a new paragraph ‘XXXX.’  This is where the new material begins. The story continues.

I seldom know the title of the chapter until I’ve written a while. Maybe halfway, maybe even to the end. Many authors don’t title their chapters, but  I do. I think of each as mini-stories with their own lives. It seems fitting that they should be named, given their own identities.

Sometimes I know right away what quote I’ll use. When that happens, the quote guides the story. If not, from the list of 550 quotes I’ve collected, I find the one that communicates the theme of the chapter I’ve just written. But more often than not, the quote guides me, perhaps acting as a conduit to my sub conscience.

For it is my belief that the sub conscience is the source – the ever-flowing well-spring – of  my stories. Where does the sub conscious get the stories? My past? A collective past? Or is fantasy the result of a kind of cosmic alchemy that blends everything I’ve ever read or heard or experienced into my own personal Akashic records? I can’t say with certainty. But almost any writer should say something similar. If they’re honest. If they write original material.

So I have more questions than answers. Pretty typical for me. But so far, it’s working. O Muses! Continue to sing!

BTW, I’m at about 72K words and ready to start page 220, Chapter 33. 

March 20, 2013 at 1:42 am 2 comments

And at last I arrive in Egypt

For those of you interested in my progress with The Black Scroll, let me say that I’m advancing at a rapid clip. 59,967 words. 185 pages. Ready to start Chapter 29. Ready to visit Alexandria, 130 AD, 15 years after the Great Jewish Revolt that almost burnt the city to the ground.

You might ask how I know the page numbers with such precision.

I gather that I’m an odd duck among writers, as my preferred technique for channeling the story is to manifest the visual form as I create. I write directly into Adobe InDesign. As the words flow onto the page, they look exactly as they will look in final published form. That’s the print version I’m talking about.

Before putting the first word on the first page, I set up the layout, which in the case of The Black Scroll is the same as The Red Mirror and The Emerald Tablet – the first two novels of the Red Mirror Series. I’ve got the header at the top of the 6×9 facing pages with my name or title, book-specific Egyptian hieroglyph, and page number. The margins are there. The title page has been created.

note: As a reminder – or for those who haven’t seen the print versions – the glyph for The Red Mirror is a snake, typically Pharaonic Egyptian to my mind. The glyph for The Emerald Tablet is the owl – for Athena, the wisest of Greek Goddesses.  The one I have chosen for The Black Scroll is the lion – Rome – Africa.

The print version must be re-formatted for export into Kindle, so thinking logically, I decided to write The Black Scroll directly into the layout I use for the ebook version. It’s the biggest market, after all.

It didn’t work for me. All those lovely graphic details of layout disappear. The process is no longer visual.

After a chapter or two, I gave up and allowed myself the crutch. Didn’t authors of old write with a favorite pen? Or typewriter? I need my print version InDesign layout for the Muses to sing. And so be it.

I’ve got an art degree. What’s wrong with painting with words?

February 11 was the Monday I started – day after Chinese New Year. Today is March 12. Three days from the Ides. Five days from St. Patrick’s Day. Eight days from my 38th wedding anniversary and the spring equinox.

Goodbye Libya. It was quite a ride. Hello Egypt. I can’t wait to see what happens.

March 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm 6 comments


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