Friday, December 29, 2006

The Maze That Is Writing

How many of us writers have started a plot thread only to have it go nowhere? What I mean is, you have a great idea for a character and you write and edit several chapters on it, only to realize it simply won't work in your story. I'm struggling with that now. I have all sorts of interesting events (based on real events according to Herodotus) to weave into my story but I swear tying one event to another is difficult. I believe very much that there needs to be good transition in a book, and all the events in my story take place within a few months, even though in real life they may have been spread out over a couple of years. These events can work together in a shorter time period if I simply make the transition smooth and believable (Herodotus doesn't really give time tables much anyway), but somewhere in there things get tangled. Ack! There's got to be a solution...anyone?

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I'm struggling over how to flesh out certain events in my story. They're major events in history, but because Herodotus is sketchy about chronological order at (or at least he has to go back and forth in time to tell various stories) it's hard for me to make events clear. I also keep toying with different ideas to make the characters relevant to the plot. Pausanias will not be a shining hero for quite awhile. How do I tell the story from his POV in the meantime? Is he a squire to King Leonidas and witnesses certain events? Do I need to let his POV go and focus on a different Spartan character for the first book? It's so frustrating because I've written a lot with Paus and am trying to make the plot character driven, not just about action. Does anyone else have this problem? It really stalls my writing process...

Monday, November 27, 2006

New Salamis Info!

According to the New York Times, a recent discovery was made on the famous Archimedes Palimpsest, which sold for 2 million dollars at auction in 1998. It turns out that underneath the writings of Archimedes (which were written over by a Medieval monk) there was even MORE writing--the writing of Hyperides, that is. The best part is that it may contain new information on the battle of Salamis, the famous ship battle that look place in 480 BC between the Greeks and the Persians! According to Hyperides, there were 220 Greek ships involved the the confrontation, a number that was previously sketchy.

Since I'm writing about this EXACT time, this is pretty awesome stuff. I hope they discover more. (^_^)

Monday, November 20, 2006

How To Link?

Arrggh! How do I link to other people's sites? I'm lousy at html and just want to add friends/authors. Help!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pausanias 2: Preview

As promised another part of my story, told from the POV of Pausanias, nephew of King Leonidas and son of Prince Cleombrotus. Hopefully it's good. ^_^; This chapter takes place after the meeting of allies at the Isthmus of Corinth, but before the Spartan embassy makes its way to the Persian court (I admit the real-life timeline is changed a bit to make the story flow better). Enjoy!

Tegea 481 BC (E)

He could see the bronze of the needle glinting in the sun like a tiny, pulsing star, see Helios's rays slide along the thread as his father sewed him back together. "Most were killed," Sir Bulis reported as Prince Cleombrotus looped the thread again. Pausanias could feel the skin on his neck being pulled together with a lasso of fire. It was so painful he wanted to wretch. "Only one or two escaped. This was a planned ambush, though I don't know how the Messenians got all the way over here or could have known we were coming." "I'm going to find out," the polemarch growled, intent on his work. Around them the bodies of their attackers were strewn about the dusty road, their surprise attack quickly smashed under Spartan spears.

Prince Cleombrotus had been marching the regiment hard and fast, south and west and south again, past grassy knolls and scrappy villages, trying to make their way home to Sparta as fast as the march would allow. The polemarch had been in a helpless rage. He was furious with the Eurypontid king, you could tell in the way he muttered to himself, though for the sake of the troops he could not openly critize a commander. Cleombrotus was so caught up in thrashing the Eurypontid king in his mind he failed to see the real enemy right in front of them.

In fact, nobody payed attention to a group of Dwellers working a field with their short scythes and dusty old weel barrels, not an uncommon site in the somewhat arable land in these parts. It was Pausanias who noted their too dark skin, their overly beant posture. At first he told himself it was impossible: Messenia was stades and stades off, on the other side of the mountains. There was no way they could be all the way in Tegea. It was impossible. Yet when he looked again he saw their dog-skin caps, and then he know for certain. He stopped the march with a shout of "REBELS!" Everything happened at once, to fast to be afraid or even angry. The enemy, realizing their cover was gone, quickly amassed and charged, armed with nothing more than rusty field tools and savage courage. They knew their lives depended on surprise, the breif respite before the Spartans raised their shields and lowered the spears like some rudely-wakened hedgehog. Though they were fast, the Spartans were faster, and managed to cut down the rebels before they could do any serious harm. They were not fast enough however; more than one Spartan felt the cold bite of a rusty blade, including Pausanias, who took the worst injury. He hadn't even felt it. Only when the blood started gushing from his neck, staining his cloak an even deeper red so that it almost looked brand new did Pausanias know something was wrong. He had never never taken true wound in all the mock battles the army staged. He had been whipped, beaten and bullied like all boys in growing up in the barracks, but strangely iron was shy to his touch. Or rather the Spartites wielding it had no desire to stick him, even with blunted practice spears. Yet now suddenly the world grew red with pain, and an invisible harpy sucked the energy right out of Pausanias's body. The last thing he remembered was falling to the earth, and his fathers words coming back to him. "You all treat my son like a woman," Prince Cleombrotus had accused the royal mess one night. "He'll never learn to bleed!" Now he had. Finally the surgery ended.

"Well, that's it." His father sighed and handed off the needle and thread to his helot. "I've now stitched up every single member of my family." He straightened and cracked his back, then turned to address his servant. "Boil that needle in oil tonight and clean the instruments. If they don't shine, I'll beat you bloody." The helot nodded and backed away. It didn't matter that their own attendants had proven fast loyalty when they could have helped their bretheren; they were all the same to the youngest son of King Anaxandridas. Cleombrotus turned and thrust a finger at Pausanias's own helot, Endymion, who was holding the clay bowl full of the wine and vinegar used to cleanse the wound. "You! I don't want that wound getting infected. You change that bandage every day and keep the linen dry and clean. Sniff it every night for infection." Trembling, Endymion nodded. Cleombrotus frightened most Spartans, and the helots were terrified of him. Still, what the youth said next took real courage, especially now. " M-master? Sh-should we not b-bleed him to take the f-fever down?" Prince Cleombrotus looked both furious and baffled that the youth would dare talk to him. "My son's bled enough!" "B-b-but the ma-maesters say-" The polemarch's face purpled with rage. "Boy, you'd better run or I'll..!." Endmyion dropped his bowl and fled like a hare. Dazed as he was, Pausanias was glad. Prince Cleombrotus's threats were never empty.

With shaking hands Pausanias took the cloth out of his mouth and staggered to his feet. None of the men who had clustered around him helped him, but none was expeceted. The world spun and Pausanias gagged. His cloak was stained with blood and sweat and grass stains now, and he felt as if wild oxen had run him over. I cannot show weakness. I am an Agiad prince. Euryanax would want him to be strong. "You must never show weakness. You are a prince of the Agiad line," his cousin would often tell him after a whipping in the agoge. "You must always be brave." Anger helped. He was furious with himself for being so weak, furious with his father for treating him like a scab he could not pick off, furious with Prince Euryanax for not being there. But Euryanax was far to the West, solidifying a proper fleet for Sparta should Persia attempt to sail into Laconia's ports. That night Endymion tried to coax him to eat with black broth and hard cheese, but Pausanias was so sickened by the sight of pig's blood he pushed the bowl away. Or rather tried to. He was so weak he could barely sit up. "You need to get better, Master," Euryanax protested, spooning up the broth as trumpets sounded the call to evening prayer. "Here, just a little?" Pausanias finally accepted it, too weak to protest. By the time he had managed to down some food and stagger towards the assembly prayers were over. "Next time you skip Mass I'll strip your back bare!" Sir Amompharetus promised him as we walked past. He was Prince Cleombrotus's right-hand, and a cold man in all things, having no sympathy for anybody. The stench of burned animal fat from the sacrifice that clung to the elder's cloak made Pausanias fill sick all over again, and he retreated back to his tent to lie down.

Later that night, as Pausanis stood sentry--he had not been spared that-- a bent-back helot approached loaded with woolen blankets. "Master Bulis says it's not uncommon to get the chills,"the old man relayed. "The wound will heal better if you are warm, he says." Pausanias might have refused if only to impress his collegues, but his tent mates were all fast asleep, their feet blistered and bloodied from the forced march. "Tell your master he has my thanks." He was sorely tempted to wrap himself up right then and there, but firmly handed the blanket over to faithful Endymion, who had refused to sleep for fear his master would turn feverish. When his duties were finally over Pausanias kicked the next boy awake, then handed off his spear and shield to his helot. "Before you polish these, find out where my father's tent is, and see if Sir Bulis is on sentry duty there. I mean to return that blanket. Don't argue with me! I cannot show weakness. I am an Agiad prince."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

O&E Update

I admit updates have been slow lately, but I just came back from a whirlwind tour of Japan to interview the developers of a wrestling game, and my writing has been off from before and after. Plus, I am again shy about showing stuff to people until it's semi-decent. However, I think soon I will post another snippet from my work soon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Treats!

Happy Halloween, everybody! Today I'm dressed as a Greek Goddess (how my co-worker and MC for our costume contest got the idea I was princess Diana I have NO clue) and thought I'd post the begaining of one my O&E chapters (it's a WIP btw). This is from the POV of Themistocles, the smart yet devious think tank behind Athen's new fleet. Enjoy!

Isthmus of Corinth 481 BC(E)

The Acrocorinth rose above the coastal plain like a pair of taut breasts, with nipples black and hard. No wonder Aphrodite is their patron goddesss, Themistocles thought as the ship split the muddy sand beaneath its hulk. It was the very first trimere built from Athen's silver funds, named The Owl and rowed by hard-bitten men from Ionia who drank wine neat and slurred their words. They were refugees from Aristagoras's rebellion ten years ago, men who rose up against Persia only to see the city-states smashed to pieces. When they heard about the Athenian victory at Marathon, they had come flocking over to Attica in droves in hopes of fleeing Persian fire. But without Attican citizenship they were nothing, and spent their days in taverns and fist-fights. Until Themistocles came along. "Pull the oars of my ships and some day you'll be heroes," he had promised them. And here they were.

The Owl's pilot laughed heartily when Themistocles let him in on his geographical discovery. "It rarely snows in Corinth, but when it does the peaks look like they're weaning," he told Themistocles with a grin. He was dressed in corse leathers and his beard was salted with white hairs and sea salt. "How far is it to the Arcopolis from here?" Themistocles asked him as men below the hulk manuvered the ship between other vessels on the crowded beach front. The ship gave a sharp lurch beneath his feet. "Acrocorinth," the pilot corrected. "About a handful of stades, no more. Beware General: Corinthians may be festive, but when it comes to their polis they can be as prickly proud as any Spartan." Great, thought Themistocles.

The captain now ordered the ladders to be lowered so his passengers could disembark. He was a Phalerum tough by the name of Androcles , a bulky man who had made his living both as a fisherman and a bouncer at his father's tavern. He was surprisingly good at training men to row, but he was a greedy sot as well. Themistocles had been unimpressed when he had tried to haggle over passage to Corinth right. "Oars break, ropes snap, sails tear, and leather hole coverlets need fixin'," he had argued. Themistocles refused: "That's not my fault." "The Corinthians ain't cheap," Androcles protested, "and last time we sailed to Corinth my men broke ten oars." "Train your men better then," Themistocles had told him, "or I'll find someone who will and you can go back to your glourious job as a bouncer." The tough had given him a sullen look, but knew he was beaten.

Themiostlces watched him now as he took the satchel of silver from Nikandros's fat fingers and tucked it neatly into his vest. "Keep your men out of trouble and you'll receive a bonus when we return," Nikandros promised. "Remember: your men are the face of Athen's new navy, so I excpect them to act like it." To prove he wasn't bluffing he produced another satchel of coins and jingled the metal within. "They'll behave themselves, or by Posidon's trident I'll make them row all the way to the Pillars of Herekles and back without a break," the captain vowed solemly. He practically drooled at the sight of all those owls. And why not? A man could get well and truly drunk off of the money he's being offered.

As they made their way down the swaying ropes to the sand below, Themistocles noted the names of other ships beached nearby. There was the Thetis, the Amphitrite, the Lioness, the Sea Horse, and two Corinthian patrol boats aptly named Aphrodite and Aries. Further along the western beach side were two unstable looking tubs, Castor and Pollux, beached slightly apart from the rest. Themistocles got a chuckle out of the names Rape and Pillage--until he recognized them for Aegian ships. So Aegina is going to be on the right side of justice this time, he though wryly.

There were only three of them representing Attica: Themistocles because he represented the navy, Cimon because he represented the land nobles, and Nikandros because he funded both. The man chosen by the Corinthian government to host their small embassay was jolly and fat as Nikandros, dressed in bright robes and gold jewlery that clinked and clacked whenever he moved. His auburn beard and hair was shot with white, but he maintained a youthful air. "Aletes, son of Bacchis at your service," he piped as they made their way off the sandy beach and onto the busy waterfront where their host was waiting. "Aletes? As in of the old royal family?" Cimon sounded impressed even with his clipped tone. The rolling of the ship had turned his face an unhealthy shade of green, but now he wrapped his purple hitomon around him deliberatly and stood very straight, nose in the air. "The very same," the Corinthian said proudly, "though we have not been in power since Periander's tyrany." He grinned. "Come. I have arranged for my finest chariot to take you to my estate just outside the town, and tommorow I'll guide you to the Acrocorinth where you can be greeted by our archon. The assembly is two days from now, so you're just in time." Themistocles elbowed Cimon out of the way so he could walk astride their host as they ambled towards the gold-lined chariot being attended by a lone servant. Around them robeless men hefted clay jugs and crates full of various city-state goods, while merchants haggled loudly about prices. "I see some of the other delegates have already arrived," Themistocles had to shout to be heard over the clatter of commerce. Behind them Cimon muttered conspiculously, rubbing his arm, while Nikandros waddled after them in his verdent hitomon, panting. "Those that intend to fight." Aletes shrugged, then abruptly changed the subject. "At any rate your Excellencies, I hope my lodging is to your liking. My baths are wide and deep, and my lady servants should be to your...liking." He favored Themistocles with a sly smile. "Bought them from a Carthiginian slave-trader. The girls are from Libya. Very exotic and very frisky." They piled onto the chariot, barely fitting, and their host signaled the charioteer to snap the reins.

Corinth was older than Athens, though not so ancient as Thebes, and situated on the narrow Isthmus between the Pelops and Attica. To the east dusky mountain chains rose up above the coastal plain, creating a peaceful enclave. To the west were the mountains of the Pelops, silent and brooding across a narrow strip of sea. They wound their way north and west then north again, following the stone highway's serpant-like path. I wonder if I spat into the wind if it would land in Sparta, Themistocles thought as the Pelops seem to inch closer and closer. He would have to try it sometime.

The multi-columned estate was hidden in a dense olive grove along the crowded Periander Road, hidden within a canopy of gray-green leaves. As the chariots turned out of traffic and onto the private causeway, Themistocles caught the musty scent of olives baking beneath the parched dome of Uranus. The uneven cobbles beneath the wheels bounced the chariot around, their host forced to apologize for the uneveness. Shadows danced along their forms as the horses trotted beneath the silver-green leaves that sheltered them from the summer sun. Male slaves wearing nothing more than a sheen of oil knocked the fruit from their branches into wicker baskets, chattering in the lilting Corinthian dialect. "I head the olive crop in Corinth is good this year," Themistocles called over the rumble of chariot wheels. Aletes laughed. "In truth it is a normal year, but with Prince Gelon fighting Phonecians in the west there is no competition from Syracues." "Is there cooperation though?" Themistocles asked, trying to maintain his balance when the chariot suddenly lurched in a small dip in the road. He did not care much about the Western colonies of Hellas, but if the Persians cut off Attica's resources from the Black Sea, they would need Sicilian grains and metals. The man took his meaning. "If the Spartans--whoah!--if the Spartans called Sicily to arms, they haven't shared it." "So Sparta is here!" Cimon said excitedly. Anything and everything Spartan facinated him. Themnistocles answered for their host. "No, son of Militides. Sparta is in Laconia. Here is Corinth." He ignored the younger man's scowl as their host pulled on the reins to stop the silver-maned horses in a sunny patch just outside the mansion. The house was impressive enough: the pink-veined colums were wide and flat, great marble shoots growing out of their foundations. "The Pelopponnesian League will be represented at the assembly, I take it," Themistocles continued as they stepped off the chaiots. Bare-foot Men in simple tunics and caps ran foward to help them--it took two strong men to help down Nikandros-- then unhitched the horses. "Aye." Aletes did not sound happy about. Themistocles was not surprised. Relations between Corinth and Sparta had soured after the coastal city had refused to follow the Mad King's plan to make Isagoras tyrant of Athens some thirty years ago. By default that meant equally strained relations with city-states like Elis and Olympia. If the Corinthian wasn't happy though, Cimon surely was. "The Pelops in this war will make all the difference," he told them. "We of Marathon, together with the Spartan army leading the way will beat the Persians back." "We will," Themistocles agreed, " though I should remind you Cimon that you weren't at Marathon." And I have no intentions of letting Sparta lead us anywhere.

That night their host treated them to a lush banquet in his spacious garden, the scent of honeysuckle and hyacinth heavy in the star-speckled air. A singer recited odes to Aphrodite and Dionysus, and recounted the poems of such famed locals as Arion and Eumelus. The dusky Libyan girls followed up with a dance, their hypnotic sway appraised by all. They dined on slivers of succulent goat shanks, bowls of cured olives, plates of fresh goat cheese and flatbread and saucers brimming with honeyed wine. By the end of the night Themiostlcles could not recall how much wine he took in, or who he danced with (one of the girls had particularly alluring eyes). He fell asleep on the stone walkway...and woke up in a cold sweat. His head and heart were racing. His stomach roiled like the sea in a storm. The dream was already fading, but a sinister thread remained: the image of a hundred foot Persian standing over the slain body of Theseus, his massive sandled foot on the hero's head like a conqueror. Themistocles recognized him: he was the first man he had ever killed, not only in battle but in life, a Persian who had looked more fit to be at court than at battle. His wicker shield had not protected him against Themistocles's sword, the man helpless before his enemy's wrath. Now the Persian was no longer a frightened, helpless archer but a fearsome giant with blue-green eyes that saw Themistocles, and the giant had laughed.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

How Long Does It Take To Write A Novel?

I was warned about this. Some authors takes weeks to finish a work. Some take months. Some take years. I didn't think I would be one of the latter.

If you had told me when I first started The Owl & The Eagle that two years later it still wouldn't be finished, I would have balked. Yet here I am. There are days when I worry: is two years too long? Almost every day I think of something to add, subtract, or tweak in my book. But I worry: is this NORMAL? Do published authors go through this too? Or is this a sign I'm not cut out for writing? Any clue, fellow authors?

On a side note, the next excerpt (sp?) from O&E is coming up. It's a preview of Themistocles and the Athenian embassy in Corinth, when the allies meet to decide how to fight the Persians. It doesn't go the way Thems wants it to at all...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Feeling Sorry For Myself

Like all authors, I've hit a dip in the road. Well, more like a crator. I've taken on a task I think is too big for me, and will use this space to whine about it.

Rant Part 1: I'm trying to write a trilogy about the Persian Wars, but want it to be epic (all authors want their work to be epic, I know). This could be really great (OK, it's clearly based on GRRM and Robert Jordan style novels, and so is the writing so I guess I can't take much credit) but what I do like is that nobody has ever tried to do what they've done for Ancient Greece. That I know of.

Rant Part 2: There's sooo many interesting characters in Herodotus. I want to write about them. I love character-driven stories and think a lot of people would be interested in seeing things from the point of view of men like Themistocles, Leonidas, Artabanus, Pausanias, and women like Artemisia. I just feel so overwhelmed. These real-life people are so hard to capture, and I want to do them justice. I just feel like my writing is never good enough. Strike that, I'm liking a few of my unique twists on some of the characters: Dieneces is an anti-hero (as opposed to Steven Pressfield's Dieneces), and Leonidas is stoic and no-nonsense (he's actually based off a Final Fantasy X character named Auron), while Cimon is brisk and rather aloof. But Themistocles is especially difficult. In real-life he was quick-witted, ambitious, had a sharp sense of humor and was willing to gamble. I feel like it's hard to convey all of those things. Likewise I can't decide if Artemisia is young and fiery or older and more sharp-tounged. The latter makes sense but originally she and Demaratus were going to be hooked up (^_^). I'm confessing all this because I just can't make up my mind. Not a good thing.

Rant Part 3: Maybe it's the layout of the story: I could just make it one novel, but it could easily be three if I just knew how to pace it. The problem? I don't. And there's so much to cover, and I want to cover it all: how Themistocles managed to convince the assembly to go to war (am I starting too early? Should I have a prolouge where he's actually convincing them to build ships in the first place?), the meeting at Corinth, the ominous signs the Persians should not go to war (eclipse, etc), the oracle given to both Sparta and Athens, the meeting with Prince Gelon of Sicily, the Spartans going to see Xerxes and offer their lives as recompense for their murder of two messengers, Themistocles's stealing money to pay for rowers and stealing a cake from the shrine of Athena to convince the citizens to leave Athens...and this is all for the first book alone!

*sigh* I can do this. I know I can. What am I missing?

Friday, October 06, 2006

O&E Update

It may seem to all one of my readers that I don't seem to write much. On the contrary: I write every day, but am shy about sharing my writing (and paranoid of publishing it for fear someone will a) tell me I can't publish it in book form because I published parts of it online and b) someone will steal my ideas, worth it or not). At any rate, as proof that I am indeed continuing with my story The Owl & The Eagle, here's the first part of a chapter from the POV of Artabanus, made famous by Herodotus for being the lone dove in the hawkish court of King Xerxes of Persia. Enjoy!

Sardis, Summer, 481 BC(E)

He was riding towards the blood-red cliffs of Sardis when the sun went out. The air was still hot and choked with dust, and the sounds of the army's movement still thundered in his ears, yet suddenly the world went black. One minute Artabanus could see the famed palace of Croesus, sitting high and aloof above the valley floor. The next it was gone. "Almighty Ahura Mazda!" Artaphernes swore beside him, fighting as hard as Artabanus to keep control of his mount. They looked up together, saw the moon shrouding the noon-day sun like a death garb. Other men cursed and struggled with their horses as well, while pack animals brayed and honked in distress. Humans voices joined in, and the call to halt was sounded on brass horns. "I like this not at all," Artaphernes told him as his horse danced around. Artabanus's mount was better trained, but the animal trembled so he gave her a reassuring pat. "It will pass," he told the general, wishing he sounded more confident. The sun and moon had crept towards each other all morning in truth, but with so much on his mind Artabanus had paid little attention.

The air buzzed with apprehension; an eclipse was a bad omen for an army. And this was not the only ominous event he had heard this day. The general of the Lydians had come from Sardis to escort him into the city, and tell him news of the Hellspont, the bridges smashed, the key to their victory gone before they had even sounded the call to war.

Artabanus looked up. Above the sun was nothing more than a red-orange ring in empty air, its center a portal of blackness threatening to swallow them whole. Man and animal alike waited for the phenom to pass. It seemed as if it never would. But as ever, Ahura Mazda won the battle between light and dark, and finally the sun re-appeared, to the vast relief of all beneath its rays. The horns blared an order to resume the march.

The grizzled general struggled to compose his still-shaken horse as they continued to make their way along the Royal Highway. "As I was saying before High Councilor, we have little room in the city right now. I have ordered my own soldiers out of their barracks to make way for you and the king's vangaurd, but even that is not enough. Already the city is overflowing with refugees from all over Ionia." "That is not the king's problem," Artabanus told him. "If you must remove the refugees, so be it." "As you say, High Councilor." It was obvious the general loathed to do so, though. He was popular among the Ionians and did not like ruffling their feathers. Around them a sprawling camp was already going up, Artaphernes's soldiers unloading supplies, wrestling sacks and barrels out of wagons, erecting tents of all shapes and sizes, and penning livestock where there was room. Even the camp followers were starting to swell, including merchants and whores ensured of having no shortage of customers.

As they neared the city limits evidence of the Athenian sneak attack that had started this chain of events was still visible after ten years: parts of the city's massive walls were still missing, while shells of stone buildings and charred trees littered the landscape, the populace here too poor to rebuild. The horses carefully picked their way around the debris; man or horse could easily injure themselves here. Men dressed in furs and skins despite the heat stepped aside to bow as the entourage passed, but their eyes were sullen and tired. Artabanus reined in and signaled to one of his servants to hand over a silk purse. Opening it he brought up a fistful of golden Darics and scattered them on the baked ground. The waifs clambered over each other to grab them, eyeing Artabanus's gaurd suspiciously. Once they picked up the coins they eyed them to make sure they were real. Some even bit them. None of them thanked him. So little trust, Artabanus thought as he heeled his mare foward. Little trust among the people meant unrest, and unrest led to rebellion. Perhaps the general was right to be cautious.

Artaphernes had reined up near a small ruin and was looking worried. Artabanus spared the urchins a backward glance as he spoke."Those men are not dresssed like Lydians or Hellenes. Who are they?" "Thracians, High Counsilor, driven out of their homes from the endless squabbling between mountain and valley men." "I see." The general grunted, frowning behind him. "Forgive them, High Councilor. Your robes are good for travel, but they are used to seeing purple cloaks and Court robes and so don't know you. I assure you, they mean no disrespect. And my soldiers and I will see no harm comes to you." "A Persian need never show fear in his own lands," Artabanus replied. He had dressed in blue riding breeches and a thick linen tunic belted with silver thread, his boots sheep skin that laced up to his knees, a present from a Synthian merchant. The only thing that named Artabanus royalty was the solid gold tiara atop his head. "I do not fear them any more than I fear Ionians or Lydians." Artaphernes looked dubious. "I admire your words, High Councilor, but you should know that Lydians and Ionians are much like their bretheren across the sea. Rebellion is in their blood." The man himself was dressed in tight-fitting leather breaches, surmounted by a white tunic and snug blue coat belted in gold. A pair of leather baldrics crisscrossed his chest, securing a dagger and a tassled quiver bristling with arrows. He looked like he was ready for a battle to break out at any moment. Behind a servant ceremoniously carried the general's bow and spear, a whicker shield strapped to his back. It was an effort for Artabanus not to shake his head. "Lead on," he told the general.

Once they passed through the slanting outer walls the damage from the war was less visible. The the city proper was a crush of stalls, rush-roofed houses flanked by marble temples, and outdoor eating places, all known to the Hellenes as a "market place." The Persian guard cleared a path through the maze of people with their whips, who continued to haggle even while doging the leather tails flicking at them. As they rode through a vendor called out his dish, fish wrapped in grape leaves, while another offered a pot of boiled snails. They passed stalls overflowing with pots and pans, weapons, cloth, spices, baskets, brews and wines, trinkets and toys of all manner of shape, color and size. Artabanus was baffled by the chaos. He felt better as they entered the park that stretched towards the palace. It had been built in honor of King Darius by a man named Pythius, said to be the richest man west and north of the Meander and a grandson to Croesus. The park was stunning: all lush trees, tall grasses and perfumed flowers, with water courses diverted from the nearby river. Beyond, sweeping up and away towards the sky were the smooth red cliffs of the Acropolis, and atop their jagged edges was the huge and indominable Palace of Croesus, the pale marble walls gleaming with gold and sliver inlay.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I wrote this chapter some time ago, and it's been sitting on a computer disk ever since. For fun I thought I'd bring it out to share. I should note that I changed the setting of this scene from where Herodotus claims it took place to just outside of Sardis. As my story evolves and grows, I might have to scrap this chapter. We'll see. In any case, enjoy!!

Prince Artabanus found his sovereign at the top of a hillside that offered a panaramic view of the Sardis river and the valley it cut through.As an eldering man, Artabanus' joints creaked with every jangle of the horse's medallion encassed harness as it trotted up the slope leading to the high backed throne of gold that glinted in the sun. There, King Xerxes, son of Darius son of Cambyus some of Cyrus, king of everthying under the vast skies, was watching his denizens mill around like tiny ants beneath him. To his right stood Prince Mardonius, one of the four generals that oversaw the land army, and the king's closest relative and friend. A pool of servants, harem girls, and gaurdsmen had been husseled out of the king's view, except for his ceremonial cup bearer, and next to the boy his every-present eunic, Hermodus, who was holding a parasol above the king's head to protect him from the blazing sun above. Artabanus eyed the eunic warily. Something about him wasn't right. Well, besides the obvious.

"Oomph!"The horse snorted and lept over a pile of rocks, tilting the prince dangerously to one side. He righted himself with an effort. I'm getting too old and round for this. The troubling thing was he was not the only one.The king had over thirty commanders of the land forces, most of whom were too young or too old to be in service. Or too incompetant. How did Pharlen excpect to command the cavalry if he couldn't control his own mount? Especially if it was spooked by a mere dog? The priests proclaimed the boy lucky to be alive, in any case. Artabanus wondered if the king's brother Artobazanes could somehow meet with a similar accident. He was too ambitious by far, practically drooling at the sight of all the men and money of Persia. More imcompetence. Artabanus sighed inwardly. He was not even sure of his OWN sons abilities, his eldest an impatient man, his youngest a timid lad just short of his twentieth birthday. If only Darius was still with me. But his best, his brightest, his favorite, was lost to him forever somewhere between the waters of Thesselay and Thrace. Artabanus pushed the pain away, forcing himself to focus on the task at hand. King Xerxes, glorious king of all the east was at a cross roads, and needed to exercise caution. That was what Artabanus meant to tell him. After all, he was one of the seven councillors to King Xerxes; it was his sacred duty to see his king safe from harm.

As his horse crested the hill Artabanus could see the whole of the valley floor. It looked like Sardis had grown one hundred times over in a night; bleak army tents and coloful pavillions were pitched as far as the eye could see. The plain swept to either side of them, broken by a hill or two, moutnains a misty picture in the distance. When he arrived Mardonius was launched into a full victory monolouge, despite the lack of a war . "A real victory," he said excitedly, his eyes on the masses below. Even at this altitude the buzz of the camp was audible. "It will be the most glorious time in our kingdom." The king's bland expression did not change, his focus on the activity below. He noticed Artabanus slide off his mount and make obeisance. "How fares Phargenes, Councilor?" "He is very ill, your Grace," Artabanus replied solemnly. "Will he recover?" "The priests and doctors think so, but not for some time. He must be left behind." The king frowned at that, then nodded. "So be it. Strange days have been upon us. First the accident, then the strange men from Laconia." "You did well to dismiss those idiot Spartans," said Mardonius. He was dressed in full army fatigues, and his beard was well-oiled today. Is he trying on victory outfits? Mardonius tended to count his eggs before they hatched; he had spouted victory speeches ten years ago before they marched and sailed to Hellas, and had never even made it there himself. The gods had seen to that. "The Spartans are a strange people," the king replied in his quiet tone. "I have called High Councellor Demaratus here to explain the matter to me personaly." Usually men addressed the king through an intermary, but sometimes his councilors could talk to him face to face. " Here he comes now." Sure enough a large form was making its way on foot up the hillside. Even at this distance the sun blazed in his bright red hair streaked with snow white, his handsome face lean but with a lower jaw that could crack a man's skull. He dressed simply in a dark blue tunic with an open chest, and he walked barefoot, as was his people's custom. The king graciously acknowleged the man, who did not so much as blink. Artabanus shook his head. Did Spartans ever smile? Even the man's bow was forced; as if it blackened his soul. King Xerxes seemed not to notice. "It pleases me you came so quickly. Your explanation about your people yesterday was greatly appreciated. I wish to continue it." That should have pleased the exile, HONORED him, but the Spartan was not easily impressed. He merely waited for his overlord to continue. The king took his time, signaling to the cup bearer who, with head bowed and one hand over his mouth to not foul the drink, handed the king his golden chalice. In it was "golden water," from the royal rivers near Susa, for the king could not drink the local water lest it pollute him. After a sip the king gestured to the west. "Will these men of Hellas stand their ground? For, as I see it, even if they all assembled together, they would not be able to fight me--to abide my onslaught. I hear from Councelor Diceneas their alliance is fragile. But I would like to know what you have to say about them." The Sparta's gaze was almost bland as he look down at his king. "You value my opinion?" "Don't question your King!" Mardonius growled. Xerxes waved him to silence, unfazed by the question. "I have 19 brothers and sisters, Councelor. I am the not the eldest, nor the youngest. But thanks especially to your intervention--" here he nodded to both his relatives--"and with the support of my closest bretheren, I ascended the thrown. So to answer your question, I greatly value your opinion. Proceed." Demaratus said nothing. Now Artabanus bristled. "The King has commanded you to speak, Spartan!" Demaratus ignored him. His stony blue eyes were fixed on Xerxes's flint ones. Neither blinked. "Do you want the answer you expect, or the truth?" the Laconian asked quietly. Even after seven years the man retained his Spartan ways, right down to his brutal manner of speaking. Xerxes considered a moment, then smiled. "A fair question. I would have the truth, Counciller." "The Spartans cannot be defeated," the Laconian said without preamble, then shut his jaw as if that setteled the matter. "And?" "What?" "What else?" "That is all." Mardonius groaned. "How can you say that?" "I ruled them," "No longer." If the comment rankeled the former king took it stoically. "My absence does not change their divine spirit." Divine spirit? Then Artabanus remembered. The Spartans think they are decended from some immortal hero. Mardonius was like a dog with a bone in its mouth. "All men are driven under the whip. They will yield." "In no way will they accept your proposals bearing slavery to Hellas." "They will have no choice!" snapped Mardonius. He jerked his head towards the massive dome of pink veined marble to the south. "Besides, the gateway to Hellas is already open. We have messengers from Thrace and Thesselay in that palace as we speak." "Thessalay has many principals. If one says yay, the others say nay." "We have the important ones." Demaratus was unimpressed. "Every Doric country could be on your side and my countrymen would still challange you to battle." "Not with myriads of warriors," Artabanus put in, gestering to the sea of army tents and soldiers. Demaratus' stony look did not waver, but impatience creeped into his voice. "If there are a thousand of them ranged to fight ten thousand of you, they will. And they will win" At this the king laughed and said, "A thousand men might win against THIS?" He too waved at his ocean of retainers. "We're talking about ten to one odds at least! Would you be willing to fight with ten men? Or, if I understand Artemisia's explanation about Spartan law alloting double of everything to Spartan kings, would you be willing to fight twenty men?" "I don't claim to be able to fight with ten men or with two," Demaratus rumbled. He unconsciencly brushed where the pummel of his sword would be if allowed to carry it though. Down the hill, the councilor's personal slave held the dagger-like weapon, an unimpressive piece the Spartan was never without. "Of my own free will I would not fight with one man of Hellas. But if I had to, I would fight with one of those men who claims to be a match for a Spartan." "Mardonius frowned suspiciously at that. "And why is that?" "Because together the Spartans are better than the best trained warrior on earth." His face didn't change, but he had begun rolling his rs, and that signaled danger. Artabanus made a subtle gesture for the gaurds to come closer. Demaratus looked at him like he was an idiot. "Even the Iones will prove difficult," was all he said, though. He refused to use Persian word Yauna whenever he could, prefering the Hellenic. A small mutiny that Mardonius seemed to dislike, and the Spartan knew it. But Artabanus knew the man, knew how crucial he was to Xerxes' cause, now more than ever. Before his nephew could object he stepped in quickly. Artabanus felt he was in a dagger fight with the man, only they were sparring with words. And the three Persians were losing.

"Nonsense. They fear me," Xerxes said uncertainly. "They fear the Spartan Law much more," the Laconian vollied with iron certainty. " It compels us not to flee from the fight but to stand firm in their ranks and either conquer or die." Artabanus shuddered. Was it possible that such a fierce tribe of warriors existed? Thinking of the two feisty Laconians, and looking at their former king, it was not hard to imagine. "Ridiculous!" Mardonius declared. The man's contenence hardened drastically, causing Mardonius to shift his feet. Demaratus stepped foward, towering over Xerxes like a kraken. "You asked me my opinion," the giant said quietly. "You have it now." Mardonius said, "your opinion shows your love for your kinsmen." " The ones who stripped me of my office and the privileges that were my fathers?" Demaratus asked with ice sharpness. He did not look at the general, but the younger man shifted his weight as though expecting a fight. "They made me a cityless exile, robbed me of my inheritance. My identity." His gaze snapped back to Xerxes's. "It was your father Highness who took me in and gave me a livelihood and a house. I have no reason to lie. As its is, I have spoken when forced by yourself. But if you think that I'm lying, then I offer no more advice." He sketched a bow, the merest dip of his head, the slightest bending of waist. " I hope that everything goes as you would have it, my lord." Xerxes blinked, at a loss at the foreigners sudden change of tactic. Without waiting for a dismissal the man strode off the hillside on his long legs. Artabanus was shaken. There was something ominous in the man's words. Mardonius looked furious. "He left without permission!" he hissed, waiting for Xerxes to command the Spartan back. Instead the young king watched the foreigner exit thoughtfully. "A somber, suspicious people," Artabanus noted well out of the giant's earshot. "My father used to say a man who tells the truth is worth a million who lie," the king murmmered, half to himself. Then he sighed. Artabanus felt sorry for his sovereign. After rallying most of the troops back in Cappadocia and arriving by forced march to Sardis, King Xerxes should have been enjoying a well deserved respite, even if for a day. Instead things seemed like a quagmire of confusion, as his son seemed unable to motiviate the Indians to move west and the Egyptians were determined to drag their feet all the way east. Only a few ships had arrived, with Prince Archamenes still held up in Memphis. And there was news of unrest in Babylon. Again.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I posted this a couple of days ago on my IGN blog (where I work) and felt I should add it to this blog because it is IMPORTANT. Please read on.

Yesterday I went to the dermatologist to get what I thought was a rash on my neck checked out. Actually, I didn't know WHAT it was, except that it was tan/pinkish in color, had appeared a few weeks ago and was slowly getting bigger and darker. Too much information? Probably, but I'm telling you because I got it removed, and with more people getting skin cancer and other skin issues (yes, men too), I thought I'd advertise that the procedure to remove it is FAST and PAINLESS. My doctor assured me that whatever it is is probably beneign, but even in a worse case scenario (like, say, cancer) I've caught it early, so there should be no problems.

After getting my neck numbed up my doctor removed the spot, sent it to a lab and stitched me back up. Sounds invasive and scary? It's not. With the exception of having my wisdom teeth taken out I've never had stitches and this was ridiculously easy. I didn't feel a thing and jabbered away with my doctor about IGN and annoying pop-up ads. The whole thing took 10 minutes tops, and I feel 1000% better for doing it. Getting rid of this thing was the right thing to do.

People dismiss the marks and moles on their body as harmless, but they can turn on you. I know someone who's dad died of cancer because he constantly picked at a mole at his chest, which turned into cancer. Even marks that are never touched or don't seem to change can be dangerous, and it's often the small moles or spots that turn malignant, not just the big ones.

I encourage readers to make an appointment with their doctor or dermatologist (no, not later, NOW)because if anything for peace of mind, and despite what you think YES you DO want to know if you have something. Medicine is so far advanced now that if you catch something in time, by removing it or treating it you can actually save your life.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


I promised I would put SOMETHING up this week. So here's a chapter told from Archippe's point of view (Themistocles's wife). It's not really edited as much as it could be but I just want to put it up. Enjoy!

Archippe pushed her way though the teaming crowd on the edge of the city's south side, her male slave elbowing lesser people out of her way, while her handmaidens slapped at them with fans and parasols. Archippe paid no more heed to the dregs of the city than a clod of dirt at her feet, but like the dirt she went around them. Athen's marketplace had been closed off for another emergency assembly, but the merchants and farmers crowded along the parimeters of the city, refusing to lose business. The mass was mostly made of men too young to participate in the proceedings of the assembly; few respectable women were about. That was why Archippe had chosen a nondescript robe of white linen and plain blue sandals with small heels to hide her identity. Her swag too was a simple sky blue cloth of gauze. She would have added a cloak as well, but the summer heat was oppresive as it was, the sky blazing blue above the stilted temples and toated hills, Helios's fiery rays drying everything they touched. Still, she was clearly of high birth, enough so that people picked up the hems of their robes and parted way for her whenever she came near. Archippe could only hope her disguise was enough to stop tounges from wagging. Already her mother had made her feel like a street hussy for going out. The old coot had flown into one of her dramatic rages this morning, no doubt a result from her Megarian ancestory.

"You should be spinning thread not plots," she had shrieked from one of the second story windows as Archippe prepared to leave the house. Her mother was dressed in black, though Archippe's father was still alive--the two had hated each other since before Archippe was born--and her weathered face was screwed up in dissaproval. "I'm just going to buy a new decanter," Archippe shouted back with barely surpressed impatience. It was only half a lie--they did need a new decantor--but it appeased the crone not at all. "I'm no fool, but you are. A woman has no business with the outside world!" When Archippe had spun on her heel and ordered the back gate opened anyway, her mother was livid. " You are NOT my daughter!" she declared with a flailing of her short, bony arms, and slammed shut the wooden shutters painted clay red. Well tried to slam them. The right shutter was heavy and stuck and so the old woman had to be content with only slamming one.

Now under the guise of shopping Archippe tried to catch what was happening with the six thousand men gathered in the city's center. Athens was the largest city in Hellas, built around a gleaming limestone rock that jetted far into the sky, but over the years men had filled the once lush olive groves with rows and rows of buildings that soon resembled a mouth full of crooked teeth. Everywhere citizens were pushed against each other, trying to manuver between narrow allies and busy throughfares. The agora was the worst. Market and government assemblies made for a seething mass of humanity. It was proving difficult to navigate today. Even the top of the Acropolis was filled up with boys and non-citizen men trying to watch the assembly. War and battle and glory and all that other male nonsense was like a festival to them. Archippe cared little for iron pagentry; it was the fate of Attica that concerened her most. Would they go to war? Would they capitulate to the Persian? She had to know. And so did everybody else. Everywhere she looked youths were trying to climb up on columns or statues to get a better view of what was happening. Archippe would not do that, nor would she try taking shortcuts through back allies or temple porches to avoid the crowd--that would be unseemly-- but as she edged closer to the agora's center she ran into a pack of rowdy youths staring down a wall of Cynthian archers. This could be bad.

Many of the boys were dressed in long crinsom robes pinned at the shoulder with round bronze clips, their hair tied back in short pony tails and wearing raw-hide sandals in the Laconic style. To act and dress Spartan was the rage among young men between fifteen and thirty, and they even used slang words like "mothax" and "tremblers"--whatever those meant. Archippe could admit to herself that she thought the trend rather dashing, but her husband thought it was foolish. "They've never even seen a monkey Spartan," Themistocles had complained just the other day. "Those ugly rock-heads don't smile--I don't even think they CAN smile." His own scarlet tribal cloak made him look rather Laconian, so Archippe had made sure to point that out to him. "I'm sure their cloaks are in far better condition than mine," Themistocles retorted, " since their wives know how to wash clothes." Archippe had slammed the door of the womens' quarters in his face so hard she broke one of the hinges.

Now the youths tried to move past the gaurds, kicking up dust and puffing up their chests in an effort to seem threatening. The archers seemed more humored then scared,their slanted eyes bright with amusement and their smiles marred by bleeding gums, but more than one boy got an arrow knocked at their heart for the effort. Cynthian archers were deadly accurate; the deliquents wisely stepped back.

Leaving the trouble makers to their trouble, Archippe led her group towards the western end of town, hoping that there was room near Ares Hill. I could at least get a good view there. Ares Hill had several tiers of stairs leading up to the houses and apartments at the top, and if it couldn't afford the same view as the Acropolis, it was still close enough so that the booming voices of men could still be heard. As they got closer to the hill however, Archippe could see it was even more crowded than on the south side. Great. All this way for nothing. She could see the crude wooden bleachers set up on the far lawn of the agora and wondered if Themistocles was sitting on splinters. She hoped so. Most likely he's talking to the assembly about how great his stupid ships are. As of late she had heard little else from him.

She wondered aimlessly for a time, scratching her scalp irritably. It burned from the potent mixture that turned her hair blonde, though it was never strong enough to get her roots. As they wondered Archippe was jostled by a farmer trying to lead his cow through the crowd. She yelped and staggered into Daisy, who staggered into Corinthia. When they had righted all their white linen robes were covered in dust, making them look like a troop of beggers. Archippe gave her gown a dusting but the soil was deeply imbedded. "I hate crowds!" she hollared at no one in particular. Daisy mummered an agreement, Corinthia doing the same, but she didn't hear them. Crowds were the worse part of any city. Themistocles loved them, having been raised in the most crowded quarter of Athens, but she was used to sunshine and fresh air and more chattle than people. Her father's sprawling eastates were near the Cephisus River, where artisans paid top owl for the excellent red, buff or orange river clay used to produce Athenian pottery. She had dined on ox tounge and honey roasted tuna as a young girl, and had expected to eat them all her life. But her husband hated both, and so ever since they're wedding banquet it was lamb or fish for dinner. "How will our boys grow big and strong if you don't feed them better food," she had demanded of Themistocles one night. "What are you talking about, woman? Unless they're going to speak to cattle or go live under water I don't think they need your fancy country food. Lamb and fish are healthy enough, and certainly better tasting than tounge!" And that was the end of it.

I'll never get into the assembly this way. Maybe if I find someone to bribe they'll give me a full report...she stopped scratching her hair as a pin fell out of the braided coils atop her head. "Hades in hell!" she snarled, snatching it off the ground before someone could trample it. This day was not going the way she had planned at all, and the throng was getting worse, jostling her and her servants every which way no matter how they pinched and slapped at people. "Give over," she finally ordered.

Busying herself at the book stall while she tried to think of a plan, she randomly picked up a scroll and half hazardly read it. "Law and Order by Tyrtaues of Sparta." "Popular with the young men," the bookseller grinned at her. His teeth were an unattractive sheen of yellow, his eyes hidden by the shade of his flimsy straw hat. "Sold three of them this morning." Curious she unrolled a section and read out loud. "Do not be in love with life when you are a fighting man." She frowned and read on, but it was all about phalanx warfare and hairy-chested drival that made no sense to her. She picked up another scroll called Work and Days, then pretended to drop it. "Oops. I'm so sorry. Corinthia, you dolt! Pick that up at once!" Her slave did as bidden. Archippe continued to feign interest in Hestoid and picked up another copy of his work. She scanned the papyrus at random. "Women are a plauge to mankind..." She closed the scroll with a sharp clack. The bookseller laughed. "And a most welcome plauge," he told her, grinning lecherously. She scowled at him. Just then Corinthia stood back up and gave a quick shake of her head. No good. There wasn't even a way to crawl under the bleachers. Hydras and hellhounds there's not a space anywhere in Athens for a woman! Angrily Archippe dropped the scroll back into the wicker bin and snapped at her servants to move foward.

They moved to the side of the road where there was a small fold of space near a fortune teller. Most people avoided them when they could since they had an unsavory reputation, explaining the lack of people. Yet the woman behind the stall had a fleshy pale face and dark eyes, and her braided hair was carrot-red. Like Themistocles. She hardly looked threatening. Archippe frowned. Fate? The girl--she could not have been older than eighteen-- was certainly not the Pythia of Delphi. Her dark green robes were cinched too tight over her wide frame, and they were hopelessly wrinkled. The plank at the top of the stall had a picture of sticks spelling out the word Cassandra. Archippe had to smile. For that alone I should at least give her a chance. Before she realized what she was doing Archippe sat down on a bench that tried to give way the moment she touched it. She shifted her weight and put on her most winning smile.

The fortune teller did not seem to notice her at first. She fiddled with an array of twigs, muttering under her breath. Archippe cleared her throat. "I would like to ask a question about about Athens." The woman calling herself Cassandra did not look up. "Did you hear me? I said I want to ask about Athens." "Persia is coming." "I know that." Everybody knew Persia was on the march now. The assembly is a dead givaway. The girl looked up. " War is coming, and the women must act. I need only tell you how." "I don't understand. I should act? What should I do?" The woman looked up from her sticks and gave a tiny smile. "Three owls." "Outragous!" The girl went back to her sticks. "War is coming." "I know that, you heifer! I want to know the fate of Athens." The woman said nothing. Angrily Archippe ordered Daisy to take an owl out of the leather purse that accompanied her. "I'll pay you full if I like your answer." "You may not like my answer." "Then I leave." "Don't you want to save Athens?" "Not for three owls." "Is Athens worth so little?" Archippe knew she should have left then and there. Instead she said, "AFTER woman, not before!" The fortune teller stared at her sticks. Finally she took the owl. "Let's see what is in store for Athena's City."

Calmly, "Casssandra" gathered the slim twigs together, organizing them just so. Then with a sudden flick of her wrists she threw the sticks in the air and watched them clatter to the table top. Not one bounced off the surface. She's well practiced, at least. The fortune teller closed her eyes, humming to herself as she shuffled the wood around. Archippe watched, facinated despite herself. There were many ways to read the divine will of the gods. Everything from dreams to a sneeze could be inturprated, depending on the diviner you went to. This one claimed she could see the future through arranging twigs and seeing the pattern made from them. It was crude, but Archippe was desperate.

Finally the plump, beraggled girl looked down. A frown formed around her eyes. Then they went wide. "What?" Archippe followed that wide-eyed stare but could see nothing. She made her voice a command. "What!" The girl drew a shaky breath, not meeting her patron's gaze. She's afraid. "What do you SEE?" The girl swallowed. "The gods really do speak to me!" She sounded surprised. And afraid."What is it they say?" With an unsteady hand the girl began to trace the pattern of sticks. "Bare streets and deserted roads...wood around the rock. A rain of fire from the sky consuming the temples... men jumping into space to escape them. Men with rings and and foreign eyes swarming about the city like locus. The Owl and the Eagle taking flight. And here"--she stabbed a finger at a group of twigs-"a battle will be raged by land and sea. The word is spelled out clearly: Beware." Archippe leaned foward. She's right. Those sticks DO spell out beware. Suddenly it was an effort to keep balance on the rickety bench.

"I leave the city tommorow," the girl whispered, gathering up her fortune sticks. Several dropped from her shaking hands. "I don't understand," Archippe protested. "What does all this mean?" The girl clutched her fortune sticks to her chest. Her eyes were wide and urgent. "Flee. We must all flee. Flee to the ends of the earth!" Archippe felt a chill. " You mean Persia is going to destroy us?" For an answer the girl jumped up and ran from the booth. Startled Archippe rose to go after her, and almost fell of the bench when it shifted beneath her. Daisy and Corinthia caught her halfway to the ground. "Mistress! Are you all right?" Archippe barely heard them. It's just nonsense, anyone could see a pattern in anything. She shooed her servants away without answering and drew a shaky breath. That...mothax was just trying to swindle me. That's all. Only the girl was the one swindled: Archippe still had two owls left.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Coming Soon!!

I AM writing. I swear. But right now the chapters are being withheld as "Save as Draft" until I'm happy with them (I'm going to try to release them this week). You'll notice even my regular posts keep changing because I'm fiddling with stuff. But I AM still working on The Owl & The Eagle. I even bought yet more books on Ancient Greece. I'm also cutting out paragraphs that serve no relevance to the story what-so-ever. It's hard, but it needs to happen. After all, I don't need to TELL people that Thems is smart or Pausanias is arrogant. I just have to SHOW it. The story moves along much better now.

*sigh* I know I can do this. Sometimes it's hard (I hate being asked when I'll finish. The answer is simple: when I get to the end). What else...

Acclaimed author Scott Oden recently stopped by which is ultra-cool. I need to give him a link to all the Halo game stuff. His newest book has been pushed back until December. Rats.

Oh. I am currently blogging on about my experience with Final Fantasy XII. Don't worry there are no spoilers. So if you can't wait until October go to club IGN on and check out my FFXII blog and review (shameless, aren't I?)

Saturday, June 03, 2006


To anyone who actually reads my blog:
Sorry about not updating work is kicking my butt (go to and its affiliates for all the latest in games, movies, sports, etc.) so writing has been put on the back burner until things calm down a little. I try to get some stuff done but it's hard, I admit. This weekend I have more free time so hopefully I put another chapter of my story up for anyone intersted. ^_^

BTW, don't be shy about commenting on my work, good or bad. I love the hear back from people

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Scott Oden has a cool outline for his character Memnon on his blog in the form of an interview of sorts, so I decided it's such a great idea that I'll join in on the fun and do it for Themistocles!

I am: Themistocles

I want: to be the most famous man in Athens.

I wish: people would quit praising the Spartans. They didn't even show up at Marathon!

I miss: Militedes, believe it or not.

I fear: the Spartans will do something stupid before I can use my ships against Persia.

I hear: King Leonidas and King Leotychidas of Sparta don't get along.

I regret: not asking that more silver be used to build a fleet for Athens.

I am not: amused by young men in Athens dressing like Spartans.

I dance: when I'm drunk

I sing: when I'm drunk

I made: Athens build the most powerful fleet in all of Hellas (take that, Corinth!)

I am not always: dishonest. Just when I have to be.

I write: poorly. But I can outspeak the best of them.

I confuse: the names of my twin boys. They look alike!

I need: more ships.

I should: divorce my wife. She's going to make me crazy!

I start: an assembly meeting by grabbing the Speaker's Wreath first. First impressions are important.

I finish: talking when I'm sure everyone will do what I want.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Well if you're reading this you're either lost or a fan of anything historical. I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Megumi (it's not but that's what you get to call me) and I'm a Spartaphile. My enablers of this habit include Paul Cartledge, Berry Struass, Scott Oden, and Steve Pressfield. Like many of you, I'm a writer struggling to publish (i.e. FINISH) my first novel based on Sparta's craziest king, Cleomenes (also spelled Kleomenes for all you purists). It's hard not because I don't have any ideas, but because I have two different versions I'm writing. One is just a straight review of his life (think I, Elizabeth). The other works itself out as a murder mystery, since popular opinion is that Cleomenes may have been murdered rather than having cut himself to pieces. The latter is a bit more appealing to me but MUCH harder to write, especially due to flashbacks and gaps in logic, etc. I wish I had outside opinions on which would be more appealing (hint hint). Anyway, I guess this means I'm now yet another blogger on the internet. Like we didn't have enough of those. Btw, if you love anything on ancient Greece, check out Scott Oden's Men of Bronze, Steve Pressfield's Gates of Fire, or anything written by Paul Cartledge (who all loves of Sparta must bow down to).