The stillness before the dawn

And after nightfall, in greek and trojan camp alike, the warriors gather around their campfires. They eat and drink after a long hard day, recalling their battles. The elation as a spear hit home, taking down their man. Claiming his armour, the spoils of war. The narrow misses, a spear whistling past their head to strike the ground behind them. Or perhaps into a comrade. They think on the men who fell beside them, spirits flown off to Hades’ halls. Or the men wounded on the field, being tended now. How many of those wounded will step out onto the battlefield at their sides tomorrow. A scream pierces the quiet. How many of those wounded will not survive the night?

They think of their parents, their wives and children. Will the trojans keep them safe behind Troy’s high walls. Will the greeks ever return home to see their families again? One man speaks of his son, just a baby when he left home. He is ten years old today. He does not know what his son looks like. Will he ever see his boy grow into a man?

HEIWF00ZAround the campfires they polish armour so that it will gleam bright in the sun. Pray it flash bright in the eyes of their enemies and distract them for that one precious second they need to launch a spear. Sharpen swords and spears, make sure the wood is still strong. Check over their shields and count the new dents and scratches where it saved their lives. Ask Zeus that it shall do so again tomorrow.

Then they sleep, or try to. Some cannot. There is too much that haunts their minds. Others, long years and many battles before this have trained them well to shut out all thoughts of war and sleep what few hours they can until rosy fingered dawn calls them again to battle. Dawn. Once a thing of beauty and wonder, of calm, now only holds dread anticipation.

In the morning they will prepare. Don their bronze armour with the clasps of silver, helmets with the horse hair crests. They will swallow their fear under the rush and din of battle. They cannot afford to let fear and thoughts of families distract them now. As they ride out onto the field upon their chariots, they can think only of battle. The rolling chariot wheels. The weight of a long-shadowed spear in their hands, ready to let fly. The men coming across that wide plain towards them. The war cry ringing from their throats, echoed back by the enemy.

And so too do we storytellers prepare for our day on the battlefield of Troy. We polish our words so that they will fly straight and true to the audience. Excitement and anticipation may war within us, but we will try to sleep well tonight, to be ready when rosy fingered dawn summons us. And we will still our minds, cast aside all fears of forgotten lines, feel only the weight of the spear in our hand and the weight of Homer’s words upon our lips.

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What’s in a name?

This post has been a long time in coming (writers are notorious for their procrastination skills, right?) but it is relevant given my recent first publication.

My friend Marie Bilodeau had a guest post a while back on SF Signal about her thoughts on publishing with a pseudonym. Marie and I have also discussed the subject in the past and it really got me thinking.

You see, I’ve wanted to be a writer pretty much my entire life (except for that brief phase in grade one when I wanted to be a French teacher). But as a kid I was never a fan of my name. By the time I was 10 I had serious thoughts about an eventual name change, though no actual decision about what that name would be. I figured when I published I would do so under my “new and improved” name. Now, when imagining that someday book with my name on the cover, a giant question mark is not very enticing. So the stand in became my initials: N.L. Lavigne.

Fast forward to two years ago when I first began submitting stories for publication. Not only had I not yet gone through with a name change, I was still no closer to even deciding on name. It’s still been a thought that crosses my mind every once in a while, but I think I may have come to terms with my name. Nicole may be irritating common at times, but the meaning “victory of the people” is hard to beat. But I needed to decide on something to use as my byline when submitted, so I resorted to the old stand by of N.L. Lavigne.

My conversations with Marie and her blog post about the use of pseudonyms then got me thinking. I never thought of using my initials in order to hide my gender. If I had changed my name, I had every intention of publishing with that name. There was however that vague thought of taking place alongside names like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. I started questioning whether or not I still wanted to publish under my initials. Once I stopped thinking about my own reasons for possibly using my initials and thought about what the outside perception might be, of obscuring my gender to aid in sales vs taking part in a communal narrative of showing the world’s kick-ass women writers, the decision was incredibly easy for me.

So, as you may have noticed, my fiction will all appear under the name Nicole Lavigne. Victory of the people! (of the vine)

May Recap

Of course the biggest writing achievement for May was the publication of my first story, Stolen Cargo. I also survived the 2-day Iliad rehearsal. We’re less than two weeks now till the show, still polishing, but I am thrilled and cannot wait to see it all come together. I also finally started drafting my dieselpunk story. It took a little longer than I hoped to dive into that one, getting caught up researching the Roaring Twenties.

Next up for June:

  • This is an Iliad-intensive week: recording background material and an interview for Literary Landscape last night; one-on-one rehearsal tonight; set rehearsal tomorrow; battle-group rehearsal Saturday; and finally some microphone practice Sunday.
  • Finish drafting the dieselpunk story. I was really hoping to have it drafted by now so it could be critiqued in June. Sadly I am too far behind for that, but if I can get it finished in the next week or so then I can get it critiqued in July and still have a couple weeks to edit before the submission deadline. I’m about 6K words in now and I think around the half-way point or a little further in the plot. My stories typically end under 5K so this one is looking a little longer, fortunately there is a wide margin for the anthology so no need to worry there.
  • Iliad! Performance is June 14th (buy your tickets!) and will take up the entire day. Then I crash/celebrate Father’s Day. It will be a no writing or slushing sort of weekend.
  • Edit the steampunk story. Deadline is June 30th. I got lots of helpful feedback from the critiques. Once Iliad is out of the way I have to get cracking on this.
  • Bonus round: I discovered another submission deadline for June 30th that will be a good fit for one of my other stories, which recently was rejected by Writers of the Future. I want to take some time to review it before submitting though and possibly add another scene.

What are you talking about? I’m not busy. June is all crickets and basking in the sun. 😉