Nanowrimo is about to start, yes.

What? You ask if I am nervous?


Why would I?

I mean, do I look nervous?

I thought so.

Because . . . Well, just because my main character (MC) doesn't yet have a name? Because his younger brother, which is the initiator (narrator character that starts and ends the whole thing) doesn't yet have a name, either? Because their father doesn't yet have a name? Because the MC's wife and sons don't yet have a name, either?

Details, details . . .

Argh! This is frustrating. I have some tons of nice, real, Persian names, and none of them is fit! Either they are too similar to the ones of the historical figures (and I already have a repetition!) or they are fairly hard to read.

Bummer. In my LJ you can find a chain of letters between me and my characters (in Spanish, sorry) where they, simply, declare themselves in silent strike (hehe).

Hehe. Like I'm gonna let 'em do this to me . . . Hail, Eris, hail! I will crush them into tiny bits of pieces of minuscule particles! Disintegration!

Sigh . . . If it only were as easy.


Anyway. I'm ready, name or not, to write. No, slash that: I am eager to start writing!

Good luck to all Nanoers this year, and Blessed Samhain to all wiccans and heathens out there that Celebrate!



Ionian power

Herodotus was a great narrator. Reading his books is really entertaining, and he manages to simply estate things and give quite a good deal information without it becoming a burden. He has some agenda, but I find him more trustworthy than Ktesias, for example!

What I have gathered from him and other sources, for the time being, is that, as Pierre suggested--and until I can read Briant's book to get a more Persian POV--, the Ionian state-cities were indeed very powerful by themselves, probably more powerful than the Western Hellás cities (not in Italy and Sicily, I mean the Continental, Balkanic cities).

Authors suggest that Ionians were less powerful than mainstream, Hellenic cities like Athens, Corinths, Megara... because they didn't have so many colonies, which indicates a lower growth rate.

But the truth is that most Ionian--and Cycladic--cities enjoyed better fields and crops, most of them grown on aluvial planes of the water rich Ionian rivers, which dragged lots of minerals from the mountains after defrost and rains, and could sustain bigger populations before engaging the colonization resource to keep the population under control. We then have a handful of cities (traditionally around 12, but it fluctuates with time) in the Asia Minor coast, and then several important islands (the most prominent were, probably, Naxos and Chios, although Samos , Lemnos and Lesbos were very important as well) with big cities, large forests and important naval power.

Bigger population means bigger hoplite-class citizens, which means they could field larger armies if need arouse. The fact that Athens, as metropolis of Miletos, was able to send 20 trirremes, which was half her navy at the moment--they were about to have trouble with Egina, and decided it was wise to keep something for themselves--, is very significative. Athens only managed her huge navy the next decade after getting hold of important silver mines which were put to massive ship construction by the leading democratic party of the moment. Eretria--not exactly a big state-city, it's truth--could just send in five ships. That was probably a big war effort from the most impotant Euboean city.

As a comparison, just four years later, Chios sent 100 trirremes to the Battle of Lade, and they probably had several more to defend the town while the fleet was out. Each ship was sent with a compliment of 40 hoplites (or epibatai, which are a kind of Marines which could work both at naval battles or to form a phalanx on the ground) instead of the usual 10 in later, Delian League times. Samos sent 60 trirremes, Mytilene sent 70, and gave 8 more to Histriaios, Aristagoras's father, who became a Hellespont pirate.

The total war navy the Ionians could gather to the battle of Lade--which is, by necessity, lower than the total available at the moment, and the quid is in assessing how much smaller than the full navy it was--was composed of 353 trirremes, full of fighters.

An equivalent fleet gathered at the time in the Continent would have seen Athens 40 ships, Eritrea 5-10, Corinth probably was the most powerful navy at the time (let's suppose double the Athenian, 80), and not many more cities would have had big navies, their war bussinesses mostly conducted by land troops...

So the Ionians were powerful, prosperous, and conducted their bussiness with success, even under Persian rule, until they lost access to the enporion in Naukratis, after Great King Cambyses II took over Egypt ca. 525-4. The decreased revenue from such an important market must have been a strong blow to the Ionian cities, and it may have threatened their ability to keep their high life-style and paying their taxes to the satraps.

My thinking goes in the following direction: while the cities in the Panionion (the Dodekapolis) were able to get together a big hoplite army, they weren't as motivated to do so until the Athenians arrived in Ephesos. After the sack of Sardes, and the Battle of Ephesos, the Ionian, Karian, etc cities were pretty busy defending themselves from the Persian army which was striking the rebel cities in many simultaneous fronts, and the possibility of a big, grand, final land battle was denied because they could not move their land armies to get together. Therefore a naval battle was proposed, which the Persians, probably led by Prince Datis (of Marathon fame) after recovering the insurrect territories on Chiprus and Karia, didn't fail to accept.

What's for sure is that they were able to put up a good fight, and that's probably why the Great King Darius the Great decided to create a "buffer zone" between the Western and Eastern yaunâ, a sent Datis and Artaphrenes Jr. to take over the Cyclades and Euboea. i think Marathon was just a 'plan B' to get Hyspias back into the power in Athens, but that it was far from being the main goal of the expedition.

But we will discuss that later on... :)

As Samhain approaches, and the weather is foul, Nanowrimo is closer and I am eager to start writing (even when I haven't yet been able to find suitable names for my Persian main characters!). With the Sun and the leaves Fall, we will enter into a darker period, the Season of the Chrone, a time of inner reflection, deep mysteries, magic and shadows, ideal for staying home writing... :-)



Tripping to Somewhere

First things first: thanks a lot, Kris! Really!

Now let's get down to bussiness: Some months ago, Kristopher Reisz gave us the good news, he had found an editor for his novel, Tripping to Somewhere!

About a month ago, Kris started an experiment: he would hand free copies of his book to some readers, provided they posted a revision of the book on their blogs. I offered myself for such an experiment, and here's the result:

Kris sent me a wonderfully signed copy of his book, a kind-of pocket-book edition, nicely bounded, and with a cover price which is way lower than its true value, and also way smaller than the s&h fares, I must say.

The cover of the book is pretty, in a weird sense of prettiness, and it's easy to spot within other books on a store. The craftmanship of the book is correct and it has dealt--after some 5,000 miles of flight--with handdling on commuter trains, subway, bus, walking and what-nots with fortitude and stoic elegance. The pages look clean and ample--not crampled like some other books you get out there-- and the fonts are easy going and, in some cases, right to the point as well.

That's for the physical book. Let's go to the entity.

Tripping to Somewhere is a strange book, a kind of Hero's Journey in several levels, which goes to nowere easily discernible, a tripping, indeed, of some adolescent girls. However there's method in the middle of this crazyness, and there's a definite goal in the middle of the confused minds and lives of the girls. Several monomyths, each with its own purpose, in a book where no character could be erased without affecting the story, maybe in a dramatic way.

I must say I have enjoyed this book a lot, way more than I even thought I would enjoy a fantasy book. Kris is a really skillful writer, and the reading flows easily and mesmerizingly from the book pages. Each chapter irremediably leads you to the next one, it was hard to close the book to go to sleep.

It was weird, the deeper I read it, the most I thought 'this would be a really great movie'! For the legions of those who don't read, at least it would be a poor substitute. But if you can read, then don't be fooled. The whole concept of the plot, flow of the story, the characterization of main and secondary characters, the way of cycloning them into the plot... Great rythm and powerful images!

The characters' language is... colorful, but the narration is very cult and correct; Kris manages to build the sentences and paragraphs so to look as natural as single words. I must say I am envious, I wish I was half as good in writing!

The subject is a bit alien to me, urban fantasy, when I am a historical fiction bunny. However the magic helped. The magic that got off the book, not inside the pages. That I am wiccan is certainly secondary. I felt some Neil Gaiman, some Silverberg, going on... Gotta be good!

The veredict? Go. Get. It. Now!

Thanks for the great gift, Kris!

You've won a fan in Spain!

Blessed be!



From Artaphrenes, to Dârayavahu, Great King, King of Kings, King of Many Lands and their People, Blessed of Ahura Mazda, Atar's Sacred Arm, Protector of the Earth and Water,

Dear brother, may the Lord bless you and our family for many years.

I write you to let you know of matters of utmost importance.

The Yaunâ cities are in revolt. After sending along men and ships to help the Yaunâ Aristagoras, of Miletos, he failed to use them to pay retribution to the islanders of Naxos, and failing to pay the fine we had agreed, has converted Miletos into a
`demêkratos' and is raising the other Yaunâ cities to revolt.

I am told that the mainland, mother Yaunâ cities, Athênê and Lakedaemonê among others, are considering sending troops and ships to assist their Yaunâ people on our territory. We are preparing for war. At this very moment my spies are reporting the uprising of an army in Naxos, Samos, Lesbos, Éphesos, Colophon, Mitylene, and other important, coastal cities. I am dispatching the army to siege Miletos; I think that if we cut the head of the
adeva its many paws will follow suit.

I have been informed that Histiaeos, Aristagoras's father, who's serving you in your Court, may be aiding them from within. I beg you to keep an eye on his activities, in order to avoid a treason from our deepest core.

The situation is grave, for the revolt could spread beyond Yaunâ into all the coastal cities to the South, in Karda, and to the North, in Tyaiy Drayahya and even accross the Troada, to Skudra. However, I hope to be able to stop it by taking Miletos. I'll keep you appraised.

Be well, my brother, and may Ahura Madza bless you and all our family.

Your loyal servant, satrap of Skarda

Yes, NaNoWriMo strikes again. Instead of trying to strech Damned Linneage or The Libyan for 50 more Kwords, I've been bitten by the plot-zombie-bunnies. Thus, I'll keep writing (if I manage!) "Inaros" until November, and then jump head first into the "Ionian Revolt".

Besides being the spearhead of the most important series of events for the Ancient World in Western Eurasia--it ended with Aléxandros, and, ultimately, with the fall of the Oikoumene under the hands of Romans, Seleucids and Parthians--, it became the cornerstone of relationships between Near East and Far West (in the Ancient conception, of course) for many years to come.

The starting point, however--and paradoxically--will be, of course, the Battle of Marathon, which I hold dear to my heart because it's my 2004 NanoBits short tale (a failed project, but a nice tale nevertheless) which I wrote in English and which, after some revisions, I will try to market in the Saxon circles of the Historical Fiction Society or any other related magazines. I'll appreciate comments and corrections from my dear readers when time comes, thanks!

However, Marathon, and the end poitn of the First Assault, will be the conecting point from where everything will nicely pivot in the novel. As I want to win this year (last year victory was sweet :-) I'll have a great time and will be letting you know promptly of progresses and seeking advice . . . :-P

And that's the (disastrous) state of things around here: bitten by a zombie plotbunny, poisoned by Nano's sweet scent, I resemble noble, clever Oddysseos at the land of the Lotophagi. Let's go through the stormy seas and--after the Revolt--return safely to the coasts of Íthaka, and the pacification of Mudraya and Putaya, I mean, Egypt and Libya.

But first, let's pacify the Yaunâ!





What had Alexander the Great (or Magnus, as it has derived in Romance languages from Latin; known as Iskander to the Persians) that still mesmerizes us, in the XXI Century?


What could a youngster Makedonian king, son of a Warrior king, of the IV BCE Century, 24 and a half centuries ago!, have made that we wouldn't be able to do today? And faster, and better, and more reliable, and reproductible?

Well, he lifted the bar so high that it's still well over our heads as persons. Not just he, but his army, his generals... He did what basically nobody had done before, and what only a handful did after him. Of the things he achieved, we can probably find only a comparable feat in history, and it was almost 18 centuries later: Chinghis Khan (or Genghis Khan, as you wish). They (he and his army) did something some of us probably can only dream of: walked some 15,000 miles around a quarter of Eurasia. That's a feat in and on itself (not speaking of all the fighting, digging, sieging, killing, destroying, dieing, suffering, enjoying, etc that they did in the meantime). From Greece to Asia Minor, then Syria and Palestine, Egypt, back to Syria, Armenia, Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), Media, Persia (modern day Iran), and then all the way to the Indo through and around the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and back, with visits to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and who knows where else? You can nowadays find cities and remnants of cities named Alexandria in the most unsuspecting places. I'd bet there are still places where he set a colony of veterans, or whatever, that nowadays still speak in Greek (or a pidgin) in the most unexpected places (it happened in Italy, there are still some ancient Greek colonies in the Magna Graecia that speak Greek, in the XXI Century, after the Roman Empire and all what happened there aferwards!).

Amazing Alexander.


I have read several novels about him, many I have forgot. Of the "modern" ones, Valerio Massimo Manfredi's trilogy was entertaining and good enough; Nicolas Nicastro's Empire of Ashes was a different take on it, indeed. He's a very good writer, and I enjoyed it a good deal. I surely read others, but I don't recall them (I have Mary Renault's home, I'll eventually read it).

This time, after Scott Oden's truly excellent Memnon, I was ready to tackle Stephen Pressfield's Alexander. The veredict? Maybe not as good as Gates of Fire (it depends on many things, you know), but very, very good. He shows a mastery of narrative and research that goes beyond my ability to praise. His ways of telling, showing, exposing, are impressive. His battle of Issos is really cool; and what to say about his Gaugamela? Speechless, breathless... I'll get, when it's out in Spain (English or Spanish, I don't care), his Afghani Campaign (title not really that one, surely), because I've been left with wanting more, and more, and more...


And now? I should be writing, but I got a good cold and writing is hard, when I am starting to get into the writing session, the train is arriving to my destination, argh! therefore I'll enjoy some more reading. And wanting more, I'll finally go to Gisbert Haefs's Alexander. He's one of my favourite writers, and I am sure to be inmersed into a huge adventure. I know, it's Alexander.