Category Archives: Fiction Novel Writing

Read on: Recommended media for fans of Ancient Rome …and opera

nero

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

This is a collection in progress, a heartfelt, juicy and rewarding list of the pieces of research bringing me great joy, inspiration and explosive insights as I attempt to write my third book, a retelling of George Frideric Handel’s Agrippina. I’ve been digging deep since last September, and as many historical fiction writers will attest, it feels as though I’ve only scraped the surface. But that is the pleasure of it, isn’t it? Our books should inspire our curiosity. If our writing bores us, we’ve lost our way. So here is my scrapbook of treasures, which I’ll update as I move forward with my novel. If you share my passion for all things Italian, please comment with your suggestions!

Books (There are many excellent books about Ancient Rome. The following are those I find myself returning to repeatedly while I research and write:)

Agrippina: Sex, Power, and Politics in the Early Empire Author nthony A. Barrett is the go-to expert on Ancient Rome. This book is proving highly useful.

The Emperor Nero: A Guide to the Ancient Sources There are several texts about Emperor Nero, but this guide by Anthony A. Barrett, Elaine Fantham, and John C. Yardley is, in my opinion, one of the most insightful.

The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero by Tacitus, and The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Volume 06: Nero by Suetonius can be considered “required reading,” but I do prefer texts that compare their passages, along with Dio’s, and provide commentary. (Hat tip to Anthony Barrett and Stephen Phillips.)

Veni, Vidi, Vici by Peter Jones, is an infinitely enjoyable and digestible compendium of Ancient Roman history, beginning with the Etruscans. I picked up a copy at The Coliseo when I visited last summer.

Visual Media
Agrippina A DVD of the opera starring Véronique Gens, and Philippe Jaroussky, directed by Tiziano Mancini.

Rome This HBO series is superb.It follows the story of Julius Caesar’s triumph over Pompey, and the rise of Caesar Augustus, an introduction to Marcus Agrippa, along with the an unforgettable portrayal of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. The fictional plot highlighting the friendship between two Roman soldiers creates a believable pleb view of life in Ancient Rome. It’s rumored that the period sets spanned a whopping 5 acres and that would make it one of the largest period sets ever. The joint BBC/HBO production had an estimated budget of $100,000,000. Highly recommended.

Da Vinci’s Demons This Starz series is a wonderful (extraordinarily fictional) story about Leonardo Da Vinci’s beginnings, primarily set in Florence. The acting, costumes and sets are wonderful. The view of Rome and the Vatican during the Renaissance offers an interesting counterpart to the Ancient Roman Empire. Actor Tom Riley is a compelling (and sensual) Leo.

 I, Claudius (35th Anniversary Edition). Rated one of the “100 Best TV Shows of All Time” by Time magazine, this epic BBC series spans the history of the Roman Empire from Augustus through Claudius, a stuttering scholar who learns early to play the fool and stay alive. Based on the novels by Robert Graves.

National Geographic When Rome Ruled 3-DVD Set I ordered this on my smart phone while standing in the shadow of the temple of Jupiter at the Palatino in Rome last summer. Tablets of communication have come a long way.

Music
Handel: Agrippina (3 CDs) featuring Alastair Miles, Della Jones, Derek Lee Ragin, Donna Brown, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner, and Michael Chance.

YouTube: George Frideric Handel – Agrippina

Web pages
About the opera Agrippina: Wikipedia; Synopsis at About Entertainment; NPR Music;
Julia Agrippina | Roman patrician | Britannica.com
heroinesofhistory – Agrippina the Younger
How Empress Agrippina the Younger Scandalized Rome
Roman Emperors – DIR Agrippina the Younger
Women in the Roman World: Agrippina the Younger
Nero – Ancient History – HISTORY.com
Nero | Roman emperor | Britannica.com
Emperor Nero – The Roman Empire
NeroEmperor, Theater Actor, Poet – Biography.com
Nero – Ancient History Encyclopedia
Roman Emperors DIR Nero
BBC – History – Historic Figures: Nero (37 AD – 68 AD)
Nero – Citation of Nero’s homosexual relationship with Marcus Otho
Marcus Otho, Emperor of Lusitania, lover of Nero; Poppaea
Roman Emperor Claudius
Synopsis of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

Italian and Latin
Italian words we don’t use in English

palatine

One of my favorite pics from my trip

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NaNoWriMo Write-in TONIGHT

Hello local Pacific Northwest writers! I’m inviting all my writer friends and neighbors to nanologojoin me tonight at the Kitsap Regional Library in Poulsbo, where I’ll be hosting a NaNoWriMo write-in from 6pm-8pm.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.
We all value writing together as a community–regardless of genre, or level, or age (young writers andtoday teens welcome!) We’ll have yummy snacks, writing craft books on hand, and prizes for word sprints. So get your laptops and pens warmed up! I’ll see you tonight.

What: NaNoWriMo Write-ins
Where: Poulsbo Public Library, 700 NE Lincoln Rd. Poulsbo, Wa 98370
When: Every Monday night in November
Time: 6pm -8pm

Sponsored by the fabulous Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network, and the Poulsbo branch of Kitsap Regional Library.

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A new book, the Doctor, and Shakespeare

What inspires your writing?

I’ve been pulled in several literary directions recently, and I just wanted to take a moment to check in.

today-3I began plans for my third book by engaging in Author Accelerator. I love having weekly deadlines, and the helpful insights of my Author Accelerator book coach, Kemlo Aki. This week, I’ll be working on the opening scene.
The two sixth grade classes at my older son’s school are putting on productions of MacBeth, and Julius Caesar. I’ve been so impressed by my kid’s total embracing of Shakespeare that I wanted to lend my support and encouragement. It’s been a while since I’ve painted, but I found myself challenged with the task of designing the stage to suggest both a brooding and murderous Scotland, and a sun-swathed Roman betrayal. Common to most writers, English was always my favorite subject, but I am especially fond of Ancient Rome, so the research has been akin to a Julia Cameron/The Artist’s Way “Artist’s Date.”

Speaking of Ancient Rome, my next book will be a modern retelling of a comedy-drama (“dramedy”) written in the 1700s about the ascent of Emperor Nero to the throne. I’m still playing with the details, but it’ll likely be set here in the Pacific Northwest in the early 2000s.

halloween16On Halloween, I was roped into showing up at my fourth-grader’s classroom dressed as a fortune teller. My son and I had created 60 secret fortunes and enclosed them in small envelopes. Sitting with each student in the fourth grade and talking about his or her hopes and who they love was the best “treat” I ever received on Halloween, second only to seeing both my kids in jackets and ties for the first time since they were wee ones without specific clothing opinions. (They trick-or-treated dressed as the 10th and 11th doctors from Dr. Who.)

But wait! The literary good times don’t end there. On Wednesday, November 2nd, the first annual Teen Story Slam will kick off. The brainchild of a small circle of committed writer friends, we’re very proud to see this opportunity finally arrive.

Please comment below with whatever is inspiring you. Or tell us if you’ve had an Artist’s Date of your own!

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Kitsap Area NaNoWriMo Write-in

nanologoHey neighbors, friends, and PNW writers!

We had so much last year hosting Monday night NaNoWriMo write-ins at the Poulsbo library, we’re doing it again!

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

It’s especially meaningful because so much has changed over the past year. Our group, formerly known as Field’s End, as been folded into the fabulous Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network, but our ongoing strong friendships are what make this year’s Monday night write-ins possible.

We all value writing together as a community–regardless of genre or level–and the awesome people at Poulsbo Public Library have graciously opened their doors to us, and will supply yummy snacks and writing craft books to keep our wordcount moving toward the 50,000 mark.

If you’re in the Kitsap area, and you like the positive peer pressure borne of the sound of fiercely typing fingers, come join us every Monday evening at Poulsbo Public library. I’ll be hosting on November 21st, from 6pm to 8pm.

What: NaNoWriMo Write-ins
Where: Poulsbo Public Library, 700 NE Lincoln Rd. Poulsbo, Wa 98370
When: Every Monday night in November
Time: 6pm -8pm

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I met the cast who inspired me to write Middle Grade

Over the weekend, I was invited to present my book to 100 Emmy nominees. (Tune in Sunday, September 18 to see who wins.) Believe me, I was both excited and honored to share what I’d written. The day was spent meeting young actors, bands, and recording artists who have been tapped to pick up an Emmy.

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A familiar face appeared before me, and I realized it was Sloane Morgan Siegel, the uber-talented young actor who played Gortimer on Amazon’s Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. My heart filled with the kind of happiness you feel when a kid you love graduates and you realize how impressed you are with the young person he or she has become.

I am on the author appearance circuit with my adult novel, but I’m especially proud to have recently completed my first Middle Grade novel, How I Learned To Play Guitar, after two years of writing and revision. It’s no coincidence that my children also entered middle grade over the course of writing my new book. But I owe tremendous gratitude to the writers of Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. The mix of magic realism, authentic relationships, humor, and thoughtful approaches to real-life family issues was hugely inspirational for me. gg-gf2

An excellent TV show is as transcendent and emotionally powerful as a beautifully written book. Siegel’s Middle-Grade show marked their transition from “little kid” stories to wrestling with bigger questions about friendships, family, and school. david-bloom-2While my boys liked the mysteries and laugh-out-loud humor, I couldn’t make it through a Normal Street episode without crying. The show depicts what growing up is all about, and often the lessons are bittersweet. Sloane’s portrayal of Gortimer, and the adventures and conflicts explored by the trio of main characters, including Ranger (Drew Justice) and Mel (Ashley Boettcher), riveted us. As I chatted with the cast, I thought, “I wish my boys were here. They would FREAK.”

I wish the cast, creator David Anaxagoras, and crew every success.

 

 

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Memoirs of Teen Writing Camp

There’s something magical and heart-warming about teens who choose to set aside a week of their summer break to craft their daydreams and ideas into captivating stories. I had so much fun teaching at the filled-to-capacity Teen Creative Writing Summer Camp last year, I couldn’t wait to do it again this year.

The Teen Creative Writing Summer Camp is the brainchild of co-host and Middle Grade author, Margaret Nevinski, MFA. Just as the previous year, we had a full house of 22 talented writers from Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard, and Kingston, Washington. I can honestly say that the talent of our participants is astounding. Modern students understand instinctively how to begin a story, building to an inciting incident, and setting tone and character. I learn so much from watching them do what comes naturally.

What I loved about Teen Writing Camp Held at my beloved local public library, each day, we met in small Writers Circles, an encouraging and safe setting to read our work aloud. Often, the writers created fantastical worlds with strange creatures, but the problems their characters faced were very close to the teens’ hearts. Teens tend to write about what’s troubling them, or explore unknown territory, or sort out fears and anxiety. When a story is shared as fiction, the peer group offers solutions to the character’s problems, and in the process, help the teen writer feel supported, heard, and understood. By the end of the week, the bond between writers grew profoundly, and it was an honor to witness.

The teen writers submitted pieces to our annual camp literary magazine. This year, the writers chose the name THE QUILL. Teen Librarian Stefanie Reddy provided fabulous snacks, writing craft books, laptops, and a good sense of humor.
Margaret Nevinski agreed that camp was a resounding success. “I was inspired by the talent, ideas, and caliber of writing,” she said. “Several pieces came from the writing prompts we started out with each day, and others were from their own works-in-progress. Writers met with Rebecca and me for 1:1 consultations, and several chose to share their work with the group in the Writers Circle. We also had a good day at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, writing about a piece of art.”


todayDay 1:
The  writers had a mere seven seconds to scourge the Teen/YA section of Bainbridge Public library for a book. Their quest: find the seventh sentence of the seventh page, and write a story beginning with that one, random sentence. Some chose to apply the sentence to their work-in-progress. Others created fresh, new characters on the fly, crafting tense, energetic mini-stories.

Day 2: I lead a Fish Out of Water activity created by screenwriter Blake Snyder. This prompts deep, intricate story ideas, and often results in longer prose, including novels. The teens voted on proposed book cover designs for Lisa Manterfield’s A Strange Companion.

Day 3: Field trip! Our Teen Writers enjoyed lessons on Ekphrastic writing and book-making with Kristin Tollefson at BIMA. The stories that came out of the paintings, sculptures, and installations were astounding.

Day 4: The pressure was on! The writers worked one on one with me and Margaret Nevinski to edit and revise their pieces for our camp literary magazine, THE QUILL. Getting professional feedback is critical for writers at every level. Local editor Christina Tinling helped shed light on how new writers can open their work to constructive critique; “Consider any feedback a gift, not an insult. It’s assistance, help to make your story shine. Also, remember that each edit is just a suggestion, that it’s your story, and you get to make the final call. It’s not like English class, with your teacher marking something “wrong.” It’s just a “hey, I see what you’re saying here; it might connect more cleanly with readers if you put it/punctuate it/etc. like this…” Well said.

Day 5: The students learned the power of a deadline. All story submissions to THE QUILL were due, and the writers were eager to have us help them polish them. Some students were finished, and began new stories. We met in the Writers Circle and shared our best work. At first, some felt terrified about reading their private words aloud. But, in the safe and encouraging Writers Circle, our participants discovered they were on to something wonderful, that their peers admired what they’d written, and with peer feedback, they gleaned new ideas for taking their stories to the next level.

Would you like me to visit your classroom, book club, or libraBook Club or Classroom (1)ry? Learn more here or contact me at rjlacko (at) gmail (dot) com.

Live in the area? Margaret and I will be co-hosting the monthly Teen Writers Workshop at Bainbridge Public Library, the second Thursday of every month, 3:30pm -5pm.

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My book selected as a gift at New Media Film Festival

newmediafilmfestival-logo-press-downloadI’m so excited to announce that Radio Head was selected as a gift for the judges of the 2016 New Media Film Festival.

The only book included in the gift bags, the judges for the Film Festival represent HBOThe National Academy of of Television Arts and Sciences (the Emmy’s), Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-Aftra), The Grammy awards, Marvel, and The Oscars.

About New Media Film Festival®

All Ages • All Cultures • All Media

For years, The New Media Film Festival has led the way in the pursuit of stories worth telling, the exploration of new media technologies, boundary pushing resulting in new distribution models. The New Media Film Festival embodies the transformative power of the cinematic arts and it reaches across cultural bridges to wed story and technology for everyone. What people are saying:

  • “The New Media Film Festival seemed like an outlier when it started in 2010, with their strange categories, web series, 3D storytelling, digital comics, now all of a sudden these phrases are the new normal. The NMFF is always looking to the future, challenging creators, the market and the audience to discover new storytelling. There are not many festivals pushing the limits – go NMFF!” ~ Nicholas Reed
  • “Festival worth the entry fee.” ~ Movie Maker Magazine
  • “Makes the cutting edge accessible” ~ Huffington Post
  • “Stories that exemplify the power of the cinematic arts to inspire and transform” ~ Hero Complex

Judges from

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