The Warrior

for it’s written in the stars
and every line in your palm,
we’re fools to make war on our brothers in arms.
- Mark Knopfler


My father was Telamon: Argonaut, boar hunter, brother of Achilles’ father Peleus, friend of Herakles, sacker of Old Troy, king of Salamis, father of Teucer by a hostage-princess of Troy, father of me by his true wife.

I am Ajax. An ovine assassin. A murderer of sheep.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And back again to the drawing board

I tried and tried and tried to use an outline like I've studied and studied to do because it's SO much superior to seat-of-the-pants writing that involves waiting for the characters to come to me as they did so well in Peryton. I tried to follow the skeleton of the Iliad like a good little historical fictioneer. But the whole thing kept sliding down under the desk into a dull puddle of boring.

So I went back to Steven James' "Story Trumps Structure" for encouragement, and read the amazingly fabulous "Debt" by David Graeber and "The Gift" by Marcell Mauss for underlying theme ideas as well as several books already in my library on war, killing, and the brotherhood of arms. Recent poetry by contemporary US servicepeople is especially helpful.

The anthropology is mind-bending, and changes everything we thought we knew about Menelaus, Helen, Hesione, Herakles.... Here's a wonderful quote, "A gift that does nothing to enhance solidarity is a contradiction" and did you know that, in German, the word for 'debt' and the word for 'guilt' is the same word? I wish that were so in Greek.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Second Draft, Arriving at Ilium

There might be forests, rivers, mountains, deserts, pastures full of cattle, plains studded with horses, stone cities, wooden towns, grass-thatched villages, towers, caverns, springs. If there are, I don’t see them. Ilium might be complicated or bare, ugly or beautiful, but I’m only looking along the shore as it slides by, for the landing place I am assigned.
There! There are the grape-dotted flags of Argos driven into the sand, then a broad gap, then the banners of Athens with black bulls on white. Teucer sees this at the same time I do, whips around and shouts. The pilots behind us repeat his shout. On each ship, one side lifts its oars out of the water, then digs them in and shoves forward. Like a chain of trained horses, the ships raise their heads and squat, turn on their haunches, then drive through the low breakers and up onto the sand side by side. The sails drop one by one and our men race around tying off the lines.
Alone in all the activity, I walk up the deck to the beak of this ship, then swing off and down.
Finally I can look up.
The hard, dark sand rises flatly, breaks into small rough humps spotted with bunches of familiar tough grass, then coarse bushes, then – I climb away from the ships – rolls roughly away, hardly rising until familiar-looking coarse treed hills in the distance.
Who would put a city there, between sterile sea and sharp, miserable hills, on a plain with – I kick at it to be sure – too much sand in the soil to be kindly fertile? But there it is, far out there, on a modest piece of risen ground: a high wall with a thousand or more low roofs trickling away all around it.
Smoke is rising from those roofs in scores of skinny threads, streaming away from us in the continuing breeze, but I still can smell the stink from here.
I turn and look right, then left, as ship and ship and ship and ship drives up onto the beach and stops, and men scramble and work purposefully, sturdily, now that we have come to Ilium.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Page 24

Iphegenia is dead, the wind turned, and the High King and his allies are finally sailing for Troy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


This book FINALLY has the energy to run on its own, rather than my having to drag it along syllable by syllable while it sulks and squirms.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Here We Go Again!

This happens SO often to writers; the reason that, in the days of pencils, the eraser would always wear out before the lead. The reason that, nowadays, the backspace key is the first to lose its label.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Achilles, His Armor, His Psyche

Someone recently asked, what was it that sent me after Achilles, led me to the Hare book, and restructured his entire existence to finally - after three thousand years of poets and writers not getting it - explain him correctly? It was an encounter of the kind that only a writer can understand.

There I was, merrily banging away at a final outline for Ajax, when he suddenly woke up and said to me, "Your whole theme is the brotherhood of arms, isn't it?" 
"Yes, so?"
"Achilles died when he went secretly to Priam to make private peace."
"Yes, so?"
"By going there, Achilles violated the brotherhood pact, right?"
"I hadn't thought that far but okay, yes, so?"
"Everyone believes that I died because my brothers in arms violated the brotherhood pact by allowing Agamemnon to give Achilles' armor, which I thought I was entitled to, to Odysseus, right?"
"Yes, so?"
"But Achilles walked into our enemy's house to betray us all, right?"
"Yes, so?"
“So," he said, with his own ponderous patience, "Why would I even want it?"
"Oh shit."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Walter Friedrich Otto and the Greek Gods

"Warrior" is getting further shaping with my reading of another book, "The Homeric Gods: The Spiritual Significance of Greek Religion" by Walter Friedrich Otto. The issue I - and most others - have had with those gods is that they seem so silly, light and irrational in contrast with the powerful realism of most Greek thought. It is easier to ignore them and go back to pre-deistic beliefs, as I did with "Peryton" rather than have to try to take them seriously.

But Otto says that this is wrong. In fact he writes. "The ancient Greek religion comprehended the things of this world with the most powerful sense of reality possible, and nevertheless - nay, for that very reason - recognized in them the marvelous delineations of the divine. It does not revolve upon the anxieties, longings, and spiritual broodings of the human soul: its temple is the world, from whose vitality and movement emanates its knowledge of the divine."
Well, okay then. Let's try that.