The Burial at Thebes

The Burial at Thebes, a version of Sophocles’ Antigone by Seamus Heaney

I adore Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, so the lit-geek in me squeed when I saw that he’d done translations of two of Sophocles’ plays.

I read Antigone in college. That was over ten years ago, but I don’t recall being unhappy with the translation I read. Not like Beowulf. With Beowulf, I was required to read an utterly dry prose version. I might be wrong about this, but I’m not sure it’s ever a good idea to turn poetry into prose when translating a work. When I came across Heaney’s Beowulf, it was like a breath of frosty Viking sea air. Since I lacked the utter disappointment of hearing a bad cover of Antigone first, Heaney’s version had to stand strong on its own.

It certainly does. Each character is given a cadence to their speech which gives more indication of mood than any stage direction could. Heaney does not shrink from emphasizing the parallels between this story and modern arguments of patriotism. Love of country shouldn’t be defined by disdain for others, Creon’s mistake. And I’m reminded of the interesting relationship the Greek authors had with their female characters. Antigone continually states that she’s doing her duty as a woman and will stand up for it. Creon belittles her for being just a woman, while everyone around him seems to state, “Doesn’t matter what she is. She’s right.”

I have The Cure at Troy to read as well. This new infusion of Seamus Heaney makes it less likely that I’m going to re-read Beowulf in the next month.

Official RoW80 Post

This is my official A Round of Words in 80 Days  goal for the first round, January 3 – March 24, 2011:

Add 50K words to Luck for Hire.

My plan is to write:

  • at least 10K by Jan. 14th
  • another 10K by Jan. 28th
  • another 10K by Feb. 11th
  • another 10K by Feb. 25th
  • a final 10K by Mar. 11th

The 10K goals reset at the beginning of each period. Thus, if I write 12K during the first period, I will still be required to write 10K (not 8K) during the second period. Likewise, if I only write 8K in the first period, I will be required to write only a minimum of 10K (not 12K) during the second period. Any shortfall of 50K  words by March 11th will be made up after that date **until finished** (including, if needed, the official break between round one and two).

I intend to take weekends and the period from March 11th to March 24th off (or use them to catchup on other work*). I’d like to keep rewriting to a minimum and pretty much finish a first draft of Luck for Hire by March 24th. Consequences for not meeting these goals will be determined, but will possibly include extensive castigation, loss of "vacation" time, and the removal of my work computer from the household network.

*During the period, I intend to continue submitting Model Species to agents, writing a piece for 52|250 every week, and continue posting Pas de Chat.

 

Peter S. Beagle newsletter story

“Being an Entirely True Account…” by Peter S. Beagle

Sign up for The Raven newsletter, occasionally get Beagle fiction in your inbox.

This is a short  short story, a nod to Avram Davidson, that will be included with a Davidson hardback as a fund-raiser for The Other Change of Hobbit.

The eminent researcher, A.D. seeks out a manticore and interviews it. (There aren’t enough manticore stories…)

Interesting that the mantichora are described as a wandering and persecuted population, but this one is found in Argentina. Ah. There are yeti, who attack mantichora on sight. Allegory complete.

Staying Sane in the Arts

Staying Sane in the Arts by Eric Maisel

I am vaguely dissatisfied with this book. Many writers I know think very highly of Eric Maisel and I wanted to see what he was about.

Maybe this isn’t a good representative work. I don’t know. It’s light on philosophy. Honestly, it’s light on everything. The breadth of this book is enormous. It strives to encompass artists of all natures at every stage in their careers. It wants to offer advice to the struggling unknown and the superstar. To the concert musician, the painter, and the poet. All in 250 pages.

Also, there are a few basic tenants that don’t agree with. I don’t believe there is a fundamental difference between “artists” & “non-artists” and “art” & “genre art.” I believe it takes as much creativity to be a great engineer as a great novelist. Granted, there is a difference in what abilities people have and how their jobs are structured, but it’s a disservice to view “art” in vaguely mythological terms. And while it’s good to talk about the compromises one might make in an effort to make a living in art, commercial art is kind of bad-mouthed. Which doesn’t fly when your audience is a “genre” writer.

Maybe I shouldn’t have read it all at once. Do people read self-help books straight through? There are a few good suggestions for guided writing exercises, but nothing ever truly gelled for me.

Other Notes:

Very broad, unscientific view of “madness.”

I also have a tendency to not think of artists as being different from others.

Book #30 & 2010 Reading Review

Book #30 – Staying Sane in the Arts by Eric Maisel

I am vaguely dissatisfied with this book. Many writers I know think very highly of Eric Maisel and I wanted to see what he was about.

Maybe this isn’t a good representative work. I don’t know. It’s light on philosophy. Honestly, it’s light on everything. The breadth of this book is enormous. It strives to encompass artists of all natures at every stage in their careers. It wants to offer advice to the struggling unknown and the superstar. To the concert musician, the painter, and the poet. All in 250 pages.

Also, there are a few basic tenants that don’t agree with. I don’t believe there is a fundamental difference between "artists" & "non-artists" and "art" & "genre art." I believe it takes as much creativity to be a great engineer as a great novelist. Granted, there is a difference in what abilities people have and how their jobs are structured, but it’s a disservice to view "art" in vaguely mythological terms. And while it’s good to talk about the compromises one might make in an effort to make a living in art, commercial art is kind of bad-mouthed. Which doesn’t fly when your audience is a "genre" writer.

Maybe I shouldn’t have read it all at once. Do people read self-help books straight through? There are a few good suggestions for guided writing exercises, but nothing ever truly gelled for me.

—###—

So, ending on a down note considering a primarily good reading experience in 2010. This has been a stand-out year, mostly because I quit reading books I didn’t care for. There are too many books in the world to waste time reading ones I don’t like. Two high points: Tyler recommending Erik Larson to me and Chris loaning me the Horus Heresy books. Yay, for being social, I guess. The breakdown:

30 books read.
16 by authors that were new to me.
5 by female authors.
6 nonfiction.
2 rereads.
5 read in electronic form (and I don’t even have an e-reader!)
3 from the library.
3 loaned to me.

Plus a bunch of short stories. I plan on keeping better track of them in 2011.

Acquired 24 books in 2010.
6 purchased used via the library sale and Book Maze.
3 were gifts.
13 were acquired from PaperBack Swap.

Plus there are a few on the way that I don’t think are going to make it here by the end of the year:
5 from Amazon.com – gifts.
2 from PaperBackSwap.

Vague plan for 2011 is posted at Reading Notes.

2010 in Review, work edition

My story "Matthew Says There Was an Earthquake" was picked for 52|250’s quarterly edition, twentysix. Bill and Harold’s previous adventure, the "garden incident," will be published in Bards & Sages Quarterly in a couple weeks or so.
 
Since this year is nearly at an end and I’m somewhat on vacation,  I might as well review 2010 from a work point of view. As I’ve mentioned before, the year started rocky but a couple of things turned it around. This is the upshot:

Model Species:
31 queries sent. 17 rejections. We tweaked the first couple of chapters, both in terms of order and content. I plan on continuing with #2QueryTuesday (my own invention) and #10byThen.

Divine Fire
:
Puttered around with it a little. I plan on giving it the 10% cut treatment during the second block of RoW80.

Zeta Iota:

Several false starts. Between 4-10K written.

Pas de Chat:
Decided to put her online. I haven’t done a great job of promoting her. Will turn her into a PDF when all is said and done and see if there’s any monetization possible.

Lucinda at the Window:
Things have not gone very well with Lucinda. She was released at a bad time for StoneGarden and  has somewhat gotten the short shrift (still not available in electronic form, for example). On my side, I haven’t done a good job with promotion. I need to man up and request the rights back/what is owed to me.

Luck for Hire:
Wrote about 12K, not including rewrites. This brings me to my RoW80 plan. Between January 3rd and March 24th (80 days), I am going to add 50K to Luck for Hire, effectively finishing a first draft. More specifically, my goal is 10K every two weeks. This is a hard total. If I write 12,500 in the first two weeks, the total resets the next Monday. At this pace, I should reach 50K+ by March 11th, giving me an extra vacation before RoW80, round 2 begins. That vacation is my carrot. (Sticks and sub-carrots haven’t quite been set…) I’m going to avoid major rewriting, but I intend to right wrong roads I might go down. This will require a good deal of communication between Eric and I. I’ll try to continue to blog updates as well.

Other Works:
Between #FridayFlash, 52|250, and Fictionaut, I have 23 pieces of fiction posted at various places. 13 are brand new, the other 10 were clean-ups and excerpts. (This doesn’t include any Luck related content.) Sold an older short story, "Breakfast in the Garden." I intend to continuing submitting a few finished shorts. I’d like to put together an e-anthology of related pieces during RoW80 breaks. I also have about half a dozen unfinished short stories. I’d like to finish and market at least one of them in 2011.

One thing I’ve struggled with this year is Twitter (and other social networks, like Fictionaut). I like Twitter. I like interacting with other writers and readers. But it wears me out. I often feel like I can be social (and that I *need* to be social to grow an audience) or I can have the energy to write. I don’t have a good answer for this aside from "writing needs to come first" and hope for patience.

So, somewhere in there is my plan for 2011. Ambitious, since I’m pretty lazy. It almost looks like I have irons in the fire. Almost.

Returning My Sister’s Face

Returning My Sister’s Face by Eugie Foster


I have several theories about cover songs. One of them is, a truly  excellent cover can stand on its own. Sure, if you are familiar with the song that a band is covering, you can gain a certain amount of pleasure from comparing the differences, but often the cover really can’t be enjoyed on its own merits. In the case of something like “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, arguably one of the best covers ever, it can be appreciated without any notion that Gloria Jones did it first.

The same goes for adaptations and retellings. If you know the story to begin with, a retelling is given a leg up. But if you’re unfamiliar with the source material, the author has a job to do.

In Returning My Sister’s Face, Eugie Foster pulls from the rich well of Far Eastern tales for this anthology of adaptations and “inspired bys.” These are stories that I am pretty much unfamiliar with and, happily, Foster gives them the Soft Cell treatment. While the anthology is named for the final tale, a traditional ghost story, I think “Thread of Silk” is the crown gem. Mae is great character and Foster uses her to explore how women can use force as well as soft power. And this story has a bit more of an epic outlook, which is always welcome in the realm of fairy tales.

From a craft perspective, culture is handled with a light touch. Definitely some for me to learn from especially when I get back around to writing Fuel Eaters.

Other Notes:

Creamy skin, red lips, prayers to the spirits. These things seem to link these stories.

The first two stories were nice, sweet fairy tales.

The third, “A Thread of Silk,” knocked my socks off. Mae in the third story. Warrior woman w/in the bounds of warrior women.  Accepting of that place and willing to act from w/in it. (I’d like those kind of characters in Fuel Eaters.) A woman’s soft power might lead to harder choices. And oh, a bitter dealing with gods.