It’s spring, the equinox has passed, and now the days are getting longer. I sacrificed a bar of chocolate upon the altar of Persephone to welcome the rebirth of a new year. Actually, I’ve been knee-deep in edits, on the phone with my incredible editor every day, debating on where to put commas (actually there is no debate, she says “put” and I put); finding typos (if she says “put” and I putt, I expect my readers will be confused); untangling complicated sentences (no one wants to spend five minutes figuring out who is saying what, about what); and generally smoothing out the books in the series. Let us sacrifice another bar of chocolate to the nine muses, who help us in our artistic creations. In ancient days, the muses were invoked by the artist to help him. For example:
Homer in The Iliad begins many of his stanzas by invoking the muses to help him tell the tale: ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι, (Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus, …)
The first lines of The Iliad invokes the muses: “Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, and hurled many valiant souls of heroes down to Hades…”
And in The Odyssey, “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.”
We say we’ve lost our muse when we can’t create, we muse, are amused, and are bemused and we go to museums ( museum “library, study,” from Greek mouseion “place of study, library or museum, school of art or poetry,” originally “a seat or shrine of the Muses,” from Mousa “Muse”.)
And here is an excerpt from The Road to Alexander, where Ashley starts learning about the muses – something Greek children were taught before they went school:
Callisthenes took a small harp out of his robes and proceeded to sing a very cute song about nine women called “muses” who lived on an island somewhere, and did all sorts of artistic things. Their names were lovely in themselves, and the song had three verses, with a chorus that went like this:
We are the muses, all standing in line, We sing, dance, tell stories and give you stimulation For all your artistic inspiration.
Well, it loses something in the translation. However, it was the first little song a child learned. It told him about the nine subjects he would study: epic poetry, history, lyric poetry and hymns, music, tragedy, mime, dance, comedy and astronomy. Those would be my lessons, and since each subject belonged to a muse, that’s where we started.I went around humming about Clio and Calliope, Urania and all the other sisters until my next lesson.
Evenings were spent learning, but days were spent walking. We marched around the shore, passing through many modest villages, all of which swore allegiance to Alexander. In each village he sacrificed a goat to the local gods, and met with the chieftain. It took us three days to reach the largest village on the shores of the sea, where we met the high chief of the Tapures, the tribe living in that region. The high chief laid down his arms without fighting, and Alexander rewarded him with the title of Satrap.
We traveled through his territory and then penetrated into the Hyrcania region, where we spent two weeks in Zadracarta, the capital. The people there, called the Madrians, submitted themselves to Alexander without a fight, and we were received with many banquets and feasts.
We stayed long for several reasons. Alexander was heading toward hostile territories. Bessus was still in front of us and was rallying the Bactrians against us. Alexander wanted to make sure of his allegiances, so he would never have to worry about being attacked from behind. It was his worst nightmare, the thing he worked the hardest to avoid. He would spend sleepless nights with his generals, working out the various things that could go wrong. He approached fighting exactly as if he were playing a gigantic chess game. He had to make sure he could plan every one of his opponent’s moves before he himself decided what to do. Afterwards, he would often sleep twenty hours to recuperate. He used up more energy planning than he did fighting. He told me fighting was a relief to him. Planning was torture.
I’m sure that most of the cities’ names have been changed since I was in Iran. My journalist instincts made me ask for names and explanations everywhere we went. Sometimes they were hard to understand. A place could be named after a tribe or the tribe’s chief, or it could be the name of the river it was on, or a landmark, or even something that had happened there, as the place called, “Orian’s Big Trip”. I inquired after that name. Orian was a man who’d stumbled on a rock, and fallen off the cliff overlooking the village. Nearly all the villages we passed were named after the Caspian Sea. We passed through (rough translations) three “Lake-views,” five “Lake-sides,” one “Saltwater Town,” a “Lots of Fish Place,” (I liked that one) and a “Deep Water, No Wading”. It seemed the smaller the village, the more picturesque the name.Plexis was bucked off his new horse, and his arm got worse. I was worried, but Usse wasn’t. He told me that two weeks’ rest would help put things right, and so when we got to Zadracarta I made Alexander forbid Plexis to ride.
Plexis took a great interest in my education, and he would often sit with Callisthenes while he gave me my lessons. He and Callisthenes would usually end up in a lively discussion about philosophy, literature or science. Alexander would join in if he had finished working, and I would take Callisthenes’s harp and try to play a few of the songs I knew on it.
They were all impressed by rock music; it sounded like great incantations to them, and they thought I was talking directly to the gods.
Callisthenes had a remarkable voice, so I taught him some of the songs I knew, and we would sing harmony for Alexander. He loved music; it brought tears to his eyes. He would insist on singing along, which brought tears to our eyes; I have never heard anyone with a worse singing voice.
I just wanted to say thank you to Isabelle, for enabling Julia and I spend a wonderful day together at the Hermes Jumping in Paris. I am truly grateful & I feel very spoiled.
I was always a hot-head. I can remember getting a black eye because I yelled at a bully who threw my friend’s bike on the ground. I told him what I thought of him, he punched me in the face. That hurt, but not as much as his butt when I stormed off to his parents’ house and told them what he’d done. I never liked physical fights – I’m too small and not very coordinated – but I won’t back down. If someone wants to use violence, it doesn’t scare me. In fact, it usually makes me more determined. I screamed at one of the best polo players in the world the day he hit his horse with a mallet. And when he yelled back, I yelled louder. (Years later, we actually laughed about it – but at the time, believe me, it wasn’t funny.) People were running over to pull me away, and I was telling him in no uncertain terms that if I saw that again I was calling the ASPCA. So that’s me. I get a little crazy sometimes. My husband knows this. My family knows this. I can’t stand by and watch while someone gets bullied, or an animal is hurt, or if I see an injustice.
This was supposed to be a funny post. I was just over on an ultra right-wing website, posting that Trump’s vacations were costing the US taxpayer a fortune, and getting attacked by alt-righters – I noted that there are very few of them that can actually argue. They start name-calling and swearing. I ask for facts. That stumps them. They can only bleat. Maybe it’s mean of me to go tease them. I certainly won’t make any freinds, and someone has already threatened to boycott all my books (I’m not sure he’d be able to understand them – The Promise, for example, is for age 10…that may be over his head.) But I’m not over there to sell books. I’m over there to see if I can shoot some arrows of real news into the cesspool of rightwing propaganda. (And the effect, I’m sure, will be exactly the same as if they were real arrows and a real cesspool…)
But let’s not lose hope. I’ll keep on being a loud-mouthed, opinionated pain in the ass. I like being a pain. And if I get a few black eyes; so what. I can take it. Trump and his ilk are horrifying, but they won’t be there forever. The altright will sink back into its cesspool. I’ll stick up for you, if you have my back. And buy a couple of my books, because seeing my name on a best-seller list will really piss them off. How’s that for a sale’s pitch?
Hello. Sit down. Have a tea. Make it herbal – chamomile would be a good choice. Now, let’s talk about what’s bothering you. Take a deep breath. OK, you’re scared about Islam. Because they are terrorists. And because they have an agenda to take over the world. Really? Who told you that? Your brother in law. And the news. Which news? The one on TV. Oh, and some websites. Fine. Drink your tea. Let’s clear up this little misunderstanding. How old are you? So you’re old enough to remember the IRA.Do Irish people make you nervous? What about Spanish Basques? No? Well, they used to be terrorists and blew up a bunch of planes and metro stations, trains and stuff – and once they blew up a parade and killed a bunch of horses too. They didn’t manage to take over the world, did they. And do you remember why they were blowing things up? I didn’t think so. It doesn’t matter anymore, because they aren’t the problem. Right. The problem, you say, is women running around with scarves on their heads. So, you want to take them away, is that it? That’s repression – you know that, don’t you? You’re OK with repression?
“A long, long time ago, Europeans came to America and committed genocide, and the people they could not kill, they repressed. Indian boarding schools were founded to eliminate traditional American Indian ways of life and replace them with mainstream American culture. The first boarding schools were set up either by the government or Christian missionaries. Initially, the government forced many Indian families to send their children to boarding schools. Later, Indian families chose to send their children because there were no other schools available. At boarding schools, Indian children were separated from their families and cultural ways for long periods, sometimes four or more years. The children were forced to cut their hair and give up their traditional clothing. They had to give up their meaningful Native names and take English ones. They were not only taught to speak English, but were punished for speaking their own languages. Their own traditional religious practices were forcibly replaced with Christianity. They were taught that their cultures were inferior. Some teachers ridiculed and made fun of the students’ traditions. These lessons humiliated the students and taught them to be ashamed of being American Indian. The boarding schools had a bad effect on the self-esteem of Indian students and on the well being of Native languages and cultures.”
Well, yes, I copied that from a book. The article is here, if you want to see it. I just used it to illustrate what we white people like to do with those folks who scare us. We crush them. We make up stories about them. We take away their traditions and language and replace them with things we’re more comfortable with, like slavery and abject poverty. Now, back to Islam. You don’t have to worry about it, I promise. For one thing, the Muslims are not bombing our cities, they’re too busy running away from the bombs we’re dropping on theirs. Did you know, that since the beginning of March, the white people have killed over a hundred Muslims, supposedly including a whole bunch who were worshipping in a church. You can call it a mosque, if you want, but the truth is, it was a place of worship and Trump bombed it. And you claim to be scared? How do you think Muslims feel about us? They must be pretty scared too, don’t you think? Have some more tea.
Why am I pouring tea down your throat and trying to get you to calm down? Mostly because I’m tired of right-wing nutcases posting their paranoia online, while we moderates seem to be incapable of being as shrill or as hysterical. We don’t want to represss anyone. We want to stop bombing people. We want women to be able to wear whatever makes them feel attractive and comfortable, without anyone forcing them what to do or not to do. We want women to be able to go to an abortion clinic in peace. We want poor people to be able to feed, clothe and house themselves in decency. We want everyone to be able to get along. So, drink your tea some more. Yes, I know you’re a rabid conservative who thinks Muslims are out to get you, who thinks women should stay at home, and that poor people deserve what they get. And yes, that strange taste in your tea is strychnine. Just kidding. I’m a nice liberal. I only wish the rapture really had happened. It would be so much better here on earth without all those extremists.
I’m Princess Noodle. Not everywhere. Sometimes I’m Juniper, sometimes Shabaz. But I’m mostly fond of Princess Noodle. Who is she? She’s my avatar for Heroes of Might and Magic, and for Hearthstone, the online magic card game I love to play. Because yes, I admit, I’m a gamer. I play online and offline computer games. It started with our very first computer and the game Myst – then there was Rama, and the wildly fun Zork: Grand Inquisitor (still one of my all-time favorites). Heroes of Might and Magic became a favorite past time – to the extent that I have all the versions. My son used to give them to me for Christmas. I also hit the online games just to unplug my brain. I can play Hearthstone ot trot over to HorseIsle, which I started with my daughter in order to teach her English. You have to chat in that game, and only correct English is accepted. So, at night, when I need to unwind, I’ll flip open my computer, don a new identity, and hit the screens.
Wouldn’t this be an interesting expedition: Searching for the remains of this rumor?
There are remnants of three Indika (‘History of India’) from ancient Greece. The oldest is attributed to a Kteisias of Knidos (Ctesias of Cnidus) who is said to have traveled with the failed rebellion of Cyrus (the same trip as Xenophon). He gathered his account from stories the Persians told. The following is taken from the summary made by the Byzantine scholar Photius in his Bibliotheca.
(There is a translation available free here. It leaves out anything about menstruation and sex.)
Ctesias, Indica (fragments From Photius’ Bibliotheca, Codex 72 47b-48b)
Appearance, Language, and Population
“On these mountains he says there are men who have a dog’s head. They wear clothing from wild animals. They do not speak with a voice, but they bark like dogs and thus understand one another. They have larger teeth than a dog and have claws similar to them but they…
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I bounced out of bed this morning…ouch. My nose just hit the computer screen. OK – the truth: my husband brought me breakfast in bed at 9:58 am because I was to too lazy to
move. After my coffee I felt slightly better. Why was I such a slug? I went to the opera last night and saw the Myth of Orpheus with Philippe Jaroussky. It was lovely, and very tragic, and I saw in in the Opera in the Chateau Versailles (Yes, I’m spoiled!) We were in box seats and had a wonderful view. I got home late then finished editing a book with my mom (thank you thank you thank you!), and then, just because we writers are Masochists – I stayed up and re-read the whole thing before sending it off to the publisher because Who Needs Sleep, right?
However, once out of bed, I decided to Clean the House (note the capital letters – I don’t just clean, I Clean.) So, I take everything off shelves, dust, clean, and rearrange. I feel a slight pang of guilt about not doing the drawings I promised for my sister in law, so I take some chalk and doodle on the dining room wall. Then I take my dog outside and play with him until he’s tired. He’s now kaput – stretched out on the couch and snoring. I finished the living room and kitchen, and stalled. Bedrooms and bathrooms may have to wait for more coffee or something. Then I wrote a blog post for my alter ego, Samantha Winston, and sent that off to a writer friend.
I also reflected on the silly thing I did the other day. My sister in law, as I said earlier, wants a drawing for her dining room wall – a big drawing of horses. So, I had a great idea. I took a black pastel and drew all over my white kitchen wall. Then I wanted to adjust a line. I took a sponge and wiped – and the black pastel smeared all over the wall. It did not wipe off – it smeared! The black seemed to multiply. The entire wall was a dark gray mess when, a half an hour later, I had wiped off the whole drawing. My husband, never very sympathetic when I do stupid things, told me he hoped I was having fun, and went back to his rugby game. I spent 2 hours scrubbing that wall. I scrubbed and rubbed, and swore, and then of course went out and got some white chalk and doodled all over the dining room wall. Some of us are gluttons for punishment. (No, this is chalk, it washes right off. I hope.)
I got home from work last night and found…4 hungry people. And nothing cooking. It was 7 pm. Here’s what I did: I tossed: can of stewed tomatoes, can of corn, can of kidney beans, 1 tbs olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine, 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 tbs dried basil, 2 tbs cumin, 1 tbs chili powder, 1 tbs garlic powder, pinch salt, dash of pepper, in a pan and started to cook it. In a frying pan, I fried 2 frozen hamburgers and when they thawed I chopped and browned them with an onion. Stirred everything in the pot and set to bubble, and made some quick rice. Called it “Express Chili”, and served it to the hungry hordes. Continue reading
Being an author used to mean writing, sending the book or article to an editor, and collecting royalties or getting a flat fee. Being an author means holding down a full-time job besides writing – very few authors can support themselves writing (I think the percentage here in France, anyway, is 1% – not very inspiring is it?) Being an author now means having to promote your own work.
Authors are encouraged by their publishers to have their websites, their blogs, their plogs, their writer’s space, their ‘freinds’, their chat groups, their mailing lists, their newsletters, their contests, their chats, and their own original ideas about promoting their book. Not to mention traveling to conventions, book signings, postcards, business cards, bookmarks, cover flats, and special stickers with ‘autographed copy’ written on them. (If I’ve left anything out please let me know – I’m trying for a complete list here!)
So, I struggle to come up with new, exciting, fun ways to promote my book that have nothing to do with spending money I don’t have, or taking too huge a chunk of time out of my day. I like to write. I don’t know how to promote. All I can do it post my links ad nauseum, and hope people love my story! Enjoy!