Monday, October 31, 2011

Upcoming literary events in Sonoma County

November promises to be a busy month for me. I decided to take the plunge and participate in NaNoWriMo, which for those who haven't heard of this before is short for National Novel Writing Month. A fast and furious thirty days where the goal is to write 50,000 words. Quality is not the underlying goal, but instead it is quantity. Why? This is to encourage writers to silence their inner critic which can make you stop and re-read every sentence as soon as it is written.

That need to self-edit needs to be restrained so that your creative side can have free rein and possibly come up with something wonderful.

It will be less likely to happen if you spend an hour agonizing over the position of commas and debating whether or not the word "that" belongs in a specific sentence. Honestly, I have been there and I know how insane that type of editing can be on one's psyche.

I have an advantage of many of the NaNoWriMo participants because the sequel to my novel Quest of the Warrior Maid is outlined in great detail. I just have not allowed myself to start writing it in earnest because I have been trying to market my first novel. So I have a plot and a detailed one at that. I just have to start putting my thoughts down in the first draft format.

Beyond NaNoWriMo, I will be reading from my novel in the Odd Month Reading sponsored by Redwood Writers at the Windsor Public Library.

The theme will be:

Rain! Here it Comes!
Ready or Not!

SATURDAY, November 12 , 2011
1:00 – 3:00 PM
Windsor Library
9291 Old Redwood Hwy.
Windsor, California

I plan on reading from a chapter where the leader of the Islamic forces is planning an attack on the fortified city of Paris and the weather promises a terrible thunderstorm that evening.

The next day, Sunday, November 13th my writers' club monthly general meeting will be held from 2:30-5 at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa. Our guest speaker will be Terri Farley, author of the well known Phantom Stallion series. Her topic will be "Writing a Series isn't Child's Play."

Then on Monday, November 14th I signed up to participate in the Dine with Local Authors event at Gaia's Garden, 1899 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa at 6 pm. Seven local authors will be reading from our work after eating dinner with friends and fans of the local literary community.

Hopefully, between those events and Thanksgiving I shall get somewhat close to "winning" NaNoWriMo by composing 50K words.

Wish me luck, and for those who live in Northern California, please stop by at some of these events if you can.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Travels in Italy or Milan, Part 2

I started my travelogue of my trip to Italy with this post. I promised that I would blog again about that amazing trip and so now I have Part 2 of my time in Milan.

One important piece of information that we learned about Italy before we left was the dress code in regard to entering churches. The Italians are formal and require that shoulders and knees be covered.

I went shopping prior to this trip to make sure that I had quick drying shorts that were long enough in the leg to cover my knees and likewise a nice travel friendly top that covered my shoulders. I was planning on visiting St. Peter's Basilica during my time in Rome and did not want to be turned away due to "immodest" dress.

We arrived in Milan after a long flight from Boston and were feeling a bit exhausted/excited. After checking into our hotel, we took showers to help us feel refreshed and changed our clothes from the ones we had worn on the airplane. I expected that we might visit the Duomo that afternoon, so I wore my appropriate long shorts and capped sleeve shirt. My husband's shorts were almost knee length, but we shared the opinion that middle-aged men's knees were not seen as being scandalous as much as women's knees.

Once we finished our lunch, toured the Teatro Alla Scala, and walked through the Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II we were ready to visit the Duomo.

Here is a picture of that amazing cathedral.

A golden statue of Saint Mary adorns the top of the Duomo.

My husband had a brand new camera and was busily snapping various pictures. I assumed that he would have taken all the same ones I would have. Wrong. He only took one photo of the Duomo to get a sense of its grandeur.

It is a shame that he did not take any photos of the piazza in front which was a major gathering spot of hundreds if not thousands of people. There was a vibrancy being among people who were there enjoying the sunshine and each others' company.

He took pictures when I asked him to and here are some horse statues nearby the Duomo and have a strange modern art sensibility to them.

I thought it looked like a pile of salt that the black horses were struggling to emerge from or risk drowning. And then well, there is one horse that seems to be having difficulty of a different nature.

I have a new editing tool and discovered how I can add captions. This opens up new vistas of blogging for me. Who knows what mischief I will wreak?

Scott took several photos of the carvings on the front of the Duomo. This one reminds me of Sonoma County in harvest time, however we don't have grape clusters anywhere near this size.

Here are a few others with Medievalist aspects to them such as a priest riding with a contingent of armed foot soldiers.

And here a king is being thrown to the ground as his horse is wounded.

Could one of my Medievalist friends who reads Latin interpret the wording surrounding this panel. I see the word "sex" near the king's elbow and would like to know what it means in context and translation.

We did not have difficulty getting into the cathedral, but we did have our bags searched before we were allowed inside. I believe we might have been denied entrance had my knees and shoulders not been covered.

Here you can get an idea of how large the cathedral really is. I have seen conflicting reports as to the ranking of the Duomo di Milano in relation to other cathedrals, so I will just say that it is quite large and impressive both inside and out.

Next comes a statue of Saint Bartholomew who according to one legend was flayed alive.


His statue is shown with defined musculature and draped with his own skin.

I will leave you with an image of an eagle in the stained glass. Eagles are the symbol for my hero Ruggiero, so I have gotten into the habit of snapping pictures of eagles whenever I see them. (Or asking my husband to be sure to take one for me.)

The Duomo also allows for tours of its rooftop so that people can get a view of additional spires and statues that adorn the top of the cathedral as well as an incredible bird's eye view of the city. Alas, we ran out of time and never had the chance to take that tour. Tickets are sold at a building a block away from the cathedral.

After all of that, we headed back to our hotel and went to bed early hoping that we would be able to sleep off our jet lag and be adjusted to Italian time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Review of The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

This review is an overview and does not contain spoilers.

I mentioned before in a previous post how much I adore the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.

I find Riordan's take on Greek mythology to be fun and light-hearted, but with a deep knowledge and respect for the source material. The first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, was completed in five volumes and it seemed that the ending wrapped everything up neatly. The World As We Knew It Was Saved and we could all go back to living our lives.

Heh, heh, heh.

Rick realized that there was a built in sequel utilizing little known stories from Greek Mythology and inserted a prophecy at the end of The Last Olympian to use as a starting point for his new series The Heroes of Olympus.

This new series expands his universe to include Roman mythology. I was of the opinion that Roman mythology was pretty much the same as Greek mythology with different names for most of the gods and goddesses with a few additional minor Roman deities.

Riordan shows that the two sets of mythologies are not equivalent and that the Roman gods have different personalities and aspects from their Greek counterparts. I find this to be way cool.

Son of Neptune is the second book in this planned five book series and it is released today.

Without including spoilers, I want to encourage those who love Medievalism and mythology who have not read the books to start reading them and to begin at the beginning with The Lightning Thief.

Riordan's style encourages a desire to learn more about both Greek and Roman mythology as well as ancient history.

In the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series, the Greek demigods were kept in a camp protected by magical boundaries against monsters. This was Camp Half-Blood off Long Island Sound. Click to see an interactive map of Camp Half-Blood.

And now, in The Son of Neptune, we are introduced to the camp for the Roman demigods. Here is a link to interactive map of Camp Jupiter near the Berkeley and Oakland Hills in California. It is different because the Roman cities were different from Greek ones. There are baths, a forum, a colliseum and even a circus maximus. How cool is that?

There was even a line in this book mentioning the division in the old Roman Empire between the Western and the Eastern empires with the Greeks maintaining control of the eastern half. This was then to be replicated in subsequent generations when the center of Western Civilization might migrate and explaining why Camp Half-Blood for Greek demigods was on the east coast and Camp Jupiter for Roman demigods was on the west coast.

I enjoyed that touch, and know that Riordan probably did not plan this detail when he first set up the Percy Jackson universe but recognized it later and decided this synchronicity needed to be mentioned in passing in the text.

So to me, this is learning history on the fly for my son while entertaining him and engaging his mind.

In The Son of Neptune, Riordan expands his universe with more characters that are heroic and some seem downright creepy. Octavian is a Roman demigod with a talent for reading auguries. Rather than opening live animals and examining their entrails, he uses stuffed animals and looks at the stuffing. For kids who snuggle every night with teddy bears, that might be a more disturbing image than reading about a live animal being vivisected.

Either way, the character of Octavian is one who bears watching to see if he will betray everyone for his own personal gain.

A new hero in this book is Frank Zhang who has Chinese heritage *and* an echoing tenuous connection to life as did Meleager of the Calydonian Boar Hunt fame. I had forgotten the details of Meleager's story from Greek mythology, but it was found easily with a Google search. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Riordan's ability to weave in such details in his narrative demonstrating his love for the source material.

Overall impressions:

The story is fast paced with a great dollop of humor and inclusion of myth and history. One scene had Percy and his friends hiding under the furry blue butt of a Hyperborean giant. This brought about the mental image of Rudolph and Hermie being between the Bumble's legs.

And later, Riordan had Death using an iPad. I laughed out loud at both of these absurdities that he included to amuse his readers.

I recommend this book highly as well as all the preceding novels and I look forward to reading The Mark of Athena next year. Especially since my favorite goddess is named in the title.