Sifting through the Message…

If there are authors who have just one story in mind, in development, or in progress – I haven’t met them yet. I have also not met Harper Lee but, given “Go Set a Watchman”, she won’t stand as an exception either. Neither can I.

Although I’m chiefly working on “A Song Heard in the Future” when I’m not working on Pandora’s Pets sculpture, there are two other novels cooking gently in the background. There is also the pleasure and honour of serving as co-author to Leanna Renee Hieber for a fair number of other books. Ms. Hieber has several novels on her brilliant mind as well – some with me in a contributory role and some without.

When the Muse makes her visits with economy in mind and brings an idea for each disguised as part of only one novel it can be a puzzling experience. For example, British anti-aircraft gunners were known to pose with wreckage of Nazi planes they’d shot down (if the crash site could be found).

ieImagine such a scene with the oar of a trireme instead of part of an aircraft. That is in essence what the Muse did today – but in a much more vague manner.

It can take a while to discern the intent of the Muse when she’s sent a Tweet rather than a lengthy email. What part is the oar and goes in “Song” and which part belongs in a WWII story I have in mind took some while. It was sifting through wreckage, if you will.

There’s some difficulty, however, in reminding each story of the priority you’ve decided for them. Saying “No.” to inspiration is generally not the best approach for an artist, I would suppose.

Maybe “creative process” should be plural.

Exorcising the Geist from the Zeit…

Depending on who it is speaking – the world is in poor shape. The cynic in me sees too many politicians seeking to sow fear and harvest votes. Similarly, the objective of advertising could be seen as the manufacture of a sense of need or want. These are symptoms. Pointing to them in cynicism does not mean I agree about the state of things. If one isn’t careful, however, the provocation to apathy based on futility could really grow discouraging.

I refuse to believe there’s nothing that can be done and no one to do it anyway. I reject ennui. It just doesn’t have to be that way.

Some years ago I praised a good friend for being on his best behavior as a general stance. I observed that many people are rarely on comparable footing – unless called to it specifically. Part of my hope in writing A Song Heard in the Future is that it may be seen as an invitation in the present. Perhaps if there is a more frequent call to being better the reminder might result in more evidence of good, including from myself.

The meme of “Keep Calm…” and innumerable and often frivolous permutations, and despite the commercialization, stems from good advice. The British Ministry of Information produced the original and actually motivational poster in the summer of 1939, in preparation for WWII: “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Philosophically speaking, may we expect a better destiny by looking to inspire and inform? I would not presume to know the path. I can’t actually draw the actual map from here to “there”. But it seems logical that it involves beginning to turn away from doomsayers. While writing about Teiresias, I couldn’t have his prophecies be entirely of gloom and doom. Nor could his life and times be completely tragic. My motto has for a long time been, “The only raw material needed to manufacture hope is time.” The novel’s main character may prove to be of similar outlook.

I’ve long been leery of people who claim to know all of the answers. That’s not what I’m claiming here or in the novel. The first answer – the first step – is all I’ll point to right now. We have to expect better. That is one way to encourage better.

MediterraneanForgive me for not including a map to a better future. Unlike Teiresias, I cannot see it. This map represents many of his travels in my book and some of the paths followed by his three daughters.

“Five feet out that door is the real world…”

Teiresias-JanusSince I remembered Teiresias from grade school lessons about Greek and Roman mythology, I rather assumed he was a famous seer. In some recent conversations, it turns out he’s not that famous. I find the character fascinating because he stands in so many thresholds at once – between mortal and divine, sighted and blinded, male and female, and the present and possible futures. If Odysseus’ visit to Hades is included, the liminality of this world and the Underworld is added.

And for a persona so involved with seeing the future and curses of the gods, it seems odd that none of the stories about him (or her – as “Teireseia” in the novel I’m writing, A Song Heard in the Future) directly involve the Fates. It seems a glaring omission, to be honest.

Chorus: Who then is the helmsman of Ananke (Necessity)?

Prometheus: The three-shaped Fates and mindful Erinyes (Furies).

Chorus: Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do?

Prometheus: Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

Writing is not just telling a story. The act of crafting a novel is a process of making decisions. Two of the largest choices, particularly when it involves research, are “Do I include this and, if so, how?” along with “What does this mean in context of the book I want to present?”

In showing the journeys made by Teiresias, there’s a journey for me. I think that may be part of my renewed fascination for the seer and all of his thresholds. In a recent conversation I said, “Each person lives only one day at a time.”

Within the talk it was meant as a reference to how much one person can do in 24 hours and within reason. It isn’t fair to measure one person by one day’s work and another by that of a decade. But in this post it means that each day can be a journey – even when it is a slice of the experience of someone who can see the future.

Janus was the Roman god of Start and Change. He was also the deity of doorways. It does not seem that there was a Greek equivalent. I am beginning to wonder if it shouldn’t have been Teiresias.

Zup-tor vu akarshif

Five years ago, the sudden realization struck me that I did not have Leonard Nimoy’s autograph. Given what his work meant to me, this seemed to be a particularly glaring omission from my collection of meaningful mementos. I became obsessed for the next few hours and first looked up how old he’d become. While wishing that he would be free from the eventual constraints of a mortal life – I soon knew that I did not have much time to have a particular book Mr. Nimoy had authored autographed.

Ascertaining if, how, where, when and in what conditions he might be in range of my attendance became an obsession. In the end I did, in fact, get my copy of “I am Spock” signed by one of my heroes – quite probably my first hero – and was able to thank him for his work. He did tell me, “You’re welcome.”

Now he has passed and I am deeply apologetic if this posting is how anyone learns of the news. It was, of course, chiefly Spock that made his career meaningful to me. I was still of single-digit age when I realized something about life – or at least living one – did not make logical sense. I could not define the problem nor solve it. Fictional Spock was not able to explain the situation to Young Me but he did become a role model in how I might handle emotions (my own and those of others) along with handling the irrationalities of this planet’s carbon unit infestation.

I don’t mean to suggest that I adopted Vulcan ways as my own. But I do have what I consider to be a rather unique perspective on what “being a Vulcan” would mean were they not a fictional race. I have long suspected other fans of things-Vulcan might consider my views heretical. Nonetheless, it was an incredibly ironic day when I learned Mr. Nimoy was no longer with us. I still don’t know how to process it entirely nor am I sure how long that may take. I found it helpful to find a quote from the end of The Wrath of Khan. Kirk’s son tells his father, “You knew enough to tell Saavik that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life.”

Dr. McCoy, later in the same film, says, “He’s not really dead. As long as we remember him.”

As I more fully invest myself in the writing career I have long-dreamt of, I do hope to have the opportunity to write at least one novel concerning Vulcans. The story does treat on the above mentioned “heresy” – and then I guess I’ll see how other fans may react.

Vaksurik rom-halan, Spock. Vaksurik rom-halan, Mr. Nimoy. I’wak mesukh-yut t’on.

The above – in Vulcan, of course – could be transliterated as, “I wish you a beautiful farewell, Captain Spock. I wish you the same, Leonard Nimoy. Time is not a single straight road.” The present is the crossroads of past and future.

Tracing a Path…

Researching Greek mythology has worked better for me having adopted the view that the entire record is of a “shared fiction universe”. The best known stories from Pandora to Aeneas – and everyone in between – exist as amalgamations of many ancient tellings. Not every detail is identical when comparisons are made. There are certain contradictions, given multiple accounts, that are impossible to reconcile.

Argonaut-map-trim
The best example may be what happens when trying to establish the route of the Argonauts and duration of their travels. No fewer than five chroniclers of Jason’s journey draw widely different lines on the map between Colchis and Iolcus. If the trip was ever made, there can only have been one return trip. At least four maps are wrong.

Pindar and Hecataeus can’t be right because the world isn’t actually shaped as they thought it was. (One cannot sail from the Caspian Sea around the Arabian Peninsula to the source of the Nile.) The route chosen by Timaeus could be right but the surviving heroes would have taken years to return, not mere months. There is quite a bit of portaging involved in the path Apollonius of Rhodes prefers – including over the Alps. Helping drag a penteconter over a mountain pass is low on my to do list.

How a tale is told and what choices the author makes depend on intent. But they also reveal assumptions by the author and the zeitgeist in which he or she writes. When the world was small and known, exploration was not a virtue and therefore wasn’t an activity heroes got up to.

Henriette Mertz postulated that the Argonauts’ adventures took place largely in the Americas and suggests a Western Civilization emphasis. She moves Colchis from the Southern Caucasus to western Bolivia, South America, making it a metaphor of Tiwanaku.

In A Song Heard in the Future, two of the major characters about whom I’m writing do become Argonauts. One is a daughter of Teiresias and the other is a man who plays a very important – if symbolic – role toward the end of the Heroic Age.

I cannot say I’m completely aware of what may be my own biases. Nor would I be able to assess to what extent I think in terms of the zeitgeist. I’m as eager to find out as I hope future readers may be. The exploration of self may unavoidably be part of writing any novel (whether I draw a map or not). I hope that can mean writing a book is an invitation.

A Special Day —

On this day in history – in the year 1840 and in the 4th year of her reign – Queen Victoria married Prince Albert.

The Eterna Files

Between two conventions that are many miles apart, and on the night before the official release of her first hardcover novel with Tor Books, Leanna Renee Hieber still managed to Tweet about this blog. I’ve read The Eterna Files and, with the Nerdy Duo, was able to produce the official book trailer for the book. I’ve even done some fan art, though I did get a detail wrong. The badge should say, “Special Branch” and not “Metropolitan Police”.

omega badge

All of these experiences are special to me and I recommend the first one to you today.

Ms. Hieber has crafted a suspenseful tale about magic and mysticism that does not cross the line into the horror genre. There are too many stories in the world that don’t navigate away from that dividing line. The author expertly avoids losing control of the story she needs to tell.

While I cannot say that Ms. Hieber is the reincarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, because I do not believe that’s the case, I am fairsure that whomever she was during the Victorian era – she would have been attending the same symposia on Spiritualism as that kindred author.

Buying the book – and today – is strongly encouraged. Ms. Hieber’s professionalism and true love of her craft is a significant part of why I feel encouraged to the same in my own work. Liking her Author page is also adjured because developments there are announced with the deliberation of Sir Doyle’s most famous creation. Both the book and the Like are truly worth your time.

…et lux in tenebris lucet…

There are at least three things it seems most folk know about Teiresias and might logically expect to find treated in any novel about him:

1. Hera and Zeus asked which gender enjoyed sex more.
2. Striking a snake could result in a change in gender.
3. Blindness was imposed as penalty.

Regarding the 1ˢᵗ item – in the argument between the Queen and King of Olympus, the central question grew to me to seem too adolescent (if not actually juvenile) for deities to ask. In what may be the most well-known version of the story (in Bibliotheca by Pseudo-Apollodorus), Teiresias is purported to have replied, “Of ten parts a man enjoys one only.”

First of all, how could any author know? The audience must accept that answer for the sake of the story. In Ancient Greece, given the status of women, the point was not to empower or honor women. Besides, I would like to think, my Teiresias is more wise and clever than that. He might have more to say.

As to the 2ⁿᵈ – it seemed wise to interview women, both natural-born and trans, about how they experience a wide range of life and living. What was shared and resulting discoveries have been fascinating to me. Along with two books not previously mentioned in this blog, and in combination with years of listening to and observation of humans in their native environment, I think I’ve been able to craft a more comprehensive answer for Teiresias to provide for Jove and Juno.

two-more-books

Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth by Lillian E. Doherty
The Experiences of Tiresias: The Feminine and the Greek Man by Nicole Loraux

On the 3ʳᵈ – I’m not going to reveal the nature of the penalty of blindness before the release of A Song Heard in the Future.

Right from the Start…

After Bulfinch’s Mythology and Mythology by Edith Hamilton, there have been four stand out books while researching my novel about Teiresias.

next blog

  • The Seer in Ancient Greece by Michael Attyah Flower
  • Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis by Richard Buxton
  • Magic in the Ancient Greek World by Derek Collins
  • Thebes in the Fifth Century: Heracles Resurgent by Nancy H. Demand

Perhaps more importantly, I have so far interviewed about a dozen good folk who have different experiences than my own regarding philosophy, religion, life and living.

For purposes of the story, I have been assuming Teiresias would have lived about 2750 to 3000 years ago. I decided that he was born two generations after Deucalion’s Deluge. Though it’s largely the same story, the date doesn’t quite match what James Ussher calculated as the time of Noah’s Flood – 4359 years ago.

Mythological stories still resonate with us for at least two reasons:

  1. They are reinterpreted by each generation according to the Zeitgeist and
  2. Regardless of how long it may have been since the Flood, the deity, and the survivors – the myths tell us that – in some important ways – no one’s life experience now is very different from that of the people who heard those tales first.

It probably won’t be long before there’s a trend analysis app that helps us anticipate aspects of the future. I predict it won’t be called Teiresias.

Really‽… (Oh! Good!)

On Day One of this journal and account, it would be quite unfair to hint that Teiresias is the only muse for my present research, writing, and art. I have never known true encouragement for this sort of work. Not like this.

Leanna Renee Hieber is an established, successful author with seven books to her credit, including the upcoming The Eterna Files (releasing from Tor Books on 2/3/15).

Along with Bruce Boxleitner and Trevor Crafts, we first appeared together on a New York Comic Con panel together – Diana Pho’s Welcome to the Brass Screen (10/10/2013). Later that evening and during dinner, the seeds were sown for Leanna and I sharing an affinity in terms of creativity. We knew we wanted to work together but were uncertain as to how we might do so. I was not surprised to learn that she is also a talented actress and singer. Other projects of mine were going to require both. I began looking for opportunities to which I could invite her.

During this nearly-past year, she started expressing appreciation for my talents and perspectives. We began developing a character for an upcoming television series and as her (the character’s) back-story grew, we felt she had greater potential in a fuller story. This character prompted Leanna to select me as a co-author.

At first, the offer was a shock and surprise. I want to emphasize how astonishingly rare this kind of support has been in my experience. I had imagined becoming an author as early as 1976. (I was 12 years old.) My mother was antithetical to encouragement; she found what I wanted to write about frightening and potentially humiliating. Do I have to say how terrible it is to have a dream shot down by a parent?

My Very Dear Friend Leanna Renee is the precise and critical opposite. And I’m EverThankful we met. I recommend purchasing her novels. I’m working my way through them as I write my own, solo books (including the Teiresias tale) and she and I plan our future novels together (the first of which involves that very special character mentioned above).

Jumping In…

As this is the first official post, I thought I’d explain the title “Surfing the Zeitgeist”. It’s a bit of a mixed metaphor with a hint of staying ahead of the curve. If the zeitgeist were an actual spirit in the paranormal sense, rather than being possessed and controlled by it, what would the converse be? How would it be properly bound and what could it be made to do?


In a very strange way, I have fallen into researching and writing a novel. And it isn’t the novel I thought I’d write first; something more directly arcane was the intended launch/debut.

Before what I believe to be a compelling story emerged, I had been musing on a fictional timeline for some themes that have always been of interest. The plan was to track the concepts of justice (diké), hope (elpis), and equality (isotés) back to the Dawn of the Heroic Age, i.e., the aftermath of the Flood. In Ancient Greek belief, the story of Noah was equivalent to the Deluge of Deucalion.

I think I expected the center of the myths to fall in Athens or Corinth but Thebes became the focus, a city-state described as the “anti-Athens”. It was a quote from the fragments Sophocles that metaphorically caught my eye: “At Thebes alone do mortal women bear immortal gods.” It is a reference to the sons of Semele and Antiope – Dionysus and Heracles, respectively.

Some assumptions had to be made:

• In the Greek version, how many years ago did the Deluge happen?

• How long is a generation?

• Was the father of Dionysus Asopus or Zeus?

• How long after the Flood did the Argonauts sail and did Heracles really travel with them?

And so on…

The timeline rather quickly became both an outline of concept tracking and a tool of projection into the future. What will justice, hope, and equality mean in the distant future? With that thought, the novel began to haunt me – and then compel.

One character stood out in the timeline I was crafting. He has almost always been, in essence, the leader of the Chorus and never the lead. Teiresias, the famous blind seer, quickly became the fulcrum of the timeline – past to future – and the central character.

But his (or her) mythology is about as consistent as any other story Ancient Greek oral tradition presented. It isn’t possible to craft a unified lineage and timeline from Prometheus bringing fire to mortals through to the Fall of Troy. And with Teiresias there are conflicting accounts about whether he was born male or female, how he or she became blind, and how many children the prophet may have had (and by/with whom).

I had to give my own account regardless of whether Plato and Homer would agree.


And what have I learned at this point in this exploration?

• What will writing a novel do to me? –  As mindful of Diké, Elpis, and Isotés as I may be, I can always do better.

• Don’t get distracted. – If most of the action is set in Thebes, don’t worry about what’s happening in Endor.

• Write my own story. – If the novel’s premise involves denying some of the “established lore” – stick to what the story requires.