How's the Editing Going?

Today's my first day using the Google Chrome browser. It is noticeably faster, and I like the "Paste and Go" option in the address bar. However, trying to access the settings involves a little bit of hunting - I tried to log into Blogger and it said my cookie settings were too high - well, I haven't changed those settings on Explorer in months, and Chrome is supposed to be picking up on that. Plus, I just entered a new post two hours ago without any problems; who changed my settings in that time? Ah well, small quibbles.

Onto editing. Yes, I've been editing for about three hours, including the time I spent with E. L. Konigsburg :-) I'm now exactly halfway through The Face of A Lion, which stands at 189 manuscript pages, with about five scenes left to fill in and much imagery to explore and dialogues to tweak.

I've started to wonder why this process seems so endless - in "real" terms, it hasn't been that long; I started the novel sometime between January-March 2007 and "finished" it around January 2008. Since then I've been editing and revising, on and off, and finalising all my research notes. But it feels like it's taking too long. Where does this sense of urgency come from? I thought it had to do with the Q word - the need to somehow finish it and get it out there, since I've never gone this far with a novel before. That must be the answer (mostly) - in my pre-self-professed-professional days, I used to finish novels and just let them go. I did play around with my two romance novels quite a bit, but I had an avid beta reader at the time.

Another reason, though, has to do with all the other ideas that bubble up. I've been giving them short shrift in my need to finalise The Face of A Lion and they're bubbling and steaming inside me. If only they took place at around the same time, I could pretend I was at least working on a sequel or something. But they don't: one takes place in 1492, and the other in the 1930s. Which means all kinds of new research! And I don't want to start all that until I've given Austin closure. Sigh.

Here's a snip!

“Hey Austin, your cat’s following us!” Theseus had recovered his breath already. Austin grinned down at Kedi, yellow eyes fixed on him from the darkness at the foot of the stairs, and continued climbing. The building had not looked high from the front, and as they passed the roof, he could see that the steps were changing, from stone to dirt, and were cut into the side of a hill, continuing behind the top of the building, looping around back in the direction they had come.
A landing opened up before him and he saw that there was a kind of private terrace, with benches and tables, and a low railing along the ledge, beyond which –
“Oh, wow!”
Austin turned his head this way and that, unsure where to look first. All four sides of the amphitheatre were visible below them. A hooded crowd was seething in to the arena from the doors on the other side of the hill from the apothecary’s shop, to join the mass of people already crowded in on the dusty floor and slowly climbing the tiered seats on all sides. Everywhere torches and lanterns flickered, and sticks and clubs were brandished. A jumble of shouted cries rent the still night air. The crowd now entering was loudest, and had soon drowned out all other voices with its chant. Those in the arena picked up the new cry and the voice of the entire assembly swelled until it became one awful high-pitched whine. “Great is Diana! Diana of the Ephesians! All who oppose her shall die!”
Austin thought the words sounded familiar. He watched the red lights of the torches moving snakelike around the arena, as hooded figures wound along the lowest tier of seats and slowly rose through the ranks, to encircle the rest of the mob, chanting all the while. “Great is Diana! Diana of the Ephesians! All who oppose her shall die!” The rest of the crowd waved their arms and shifted in an agitated fashion, but the hooded men moved slowly, in one long ordered line, and there was no end to them; more and more figures in hoods and cloaks came in through the gates, like a line of sheep following a shepherd – a shepherd who carried a blood red torch and a tall crook.
And Austin knew, suddenly, where he had heard the phrase before. In the Temple of Artemis, on his second day, during the ceremony were Lady Porphyry’s brother had sacrificed one hundred sheep to the chanted repetition of the same awful words.
He was afraid, then, and had a swift, passing yearning to be back with his parents, reading comic books in the den, surrounded by the four walls of home.
But his parents were not at home. Going back now would mean going to the house in Kuşadası, and he would be no closer to the comfort of his childhood.
As he continued to watch the aweful procession below, the first shaking quiver of his fear passed, and he was aware once again of his nearer surroundings. Theseus stood beside him, leaning as far out over the parapet as he dared, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
“Isn’t this exciting? I wonder what they’re going to do to that group?”
“Which group?”
Theseus pointed to the furthest end of the arena.
Austin’s head swam, but now the last of his fear ebbed, and was replaced by a soaring sensation in his chest, as if he was about to leap off the hill’s edge and go flying over the abominable crowd, to the succour of the tiny group of people in the distance. He couldn’t see their faces, or tell whether Pliny – or even Miss Julia – was among them, but there were the Christians sure enough. He saw now that the orderly snakelike procession had moved all along to block off the crowd, and that the hooded figures had surrounded the little group completely. The followers of Artemis were now strategically placed so as to control both the mob and have sole access to the object of their fury. But what could he do, one boy against thousands of purposeful sinister men, who nevertheless hid beneath hoods and cloaks?
He swivelled around to look for Kedi and try to talk to him undisturbed, when his eyes fell on Althea. He had forgotten that she was with them. She stood at the top of the stairs, and he could not tell if she had come to the edge and seen what was taking place in the arena, then moved back in fear, or not stepped away from the stairs at all since they had first arrived.
Theseus was cheering and calling along with the crowd now, though he did not use the chant of the hooded ones. Austin slipped away from him and made his way over to Althea. Kedi was there, he saw, watching from his own perch atop an overturned urn on the wall.
She had been crying. She looked up at his approach, dabbed a handkerchief at red and swollen eyes, and suddenly curved her body, reaching out a hand and running it along his arm.
“You’re very brave, aren’t you?”
“What – what do you mean?”
“On the ledge just now. You raised your arm, in the direction of those miserable huddled people, as though you would scoop them up and rescue them.”
“I did?” So she had seen them. And, unable to bear it, had retreated.
“Yes. It was a noble thought.”
He was looking at the Althea from the arbour again, the one who batted her eyelashes, and kept running light fingers up his arm, over the cloak on his shoulders. The fingers of her other hand came up and stroked his cheek. This close, he could see even more the redness that rimmed her eyes, making a strange contrast to the line of black shadow on her lids. She had said she wanted to be friends – what had she really meant?
“Augustine,” she whispered, close in his ear. There was a smudge below her mouth where her lip colour had run. He stood frozen, looking at it. She kissed him. The shouts from below mingled with Theseus’ calls and the croak of a late night bird in the hills above them. Her lips were soft, but cold. There was a faint taste of wine. This wasn’t what he had imagined at all. Althea’s hand moved slowly down his chest. Her fingers tightened on his thighs. He kissed her back, concentrating, wondering if he was doing it right. Her hands were flushing parts of his body he had never had reactions from, but still there was a voice in his head that kept yelling, louder than all the outer noises, “stop! stop!”
“Althea, stop.” He pulled away. She stared at him for a moment, hands slipping to her sides, mouth bruised with colour. And burst into tears again. Perhaps he should have let her keep kissing him – anything but floods of emotions he did not know how to handle. But no, Theseus was there, and Kedi too.
He glanced at Kedi, who blinked once, slowly, to show he understood Austin’s thoughts. And Pliny and Miss Julia would need his help – if they weren’t already in that sad huddle below.
A new resolve stole over and eased his awkwardness. He knew what to say to her now. “Althea, we have to go and help. We can’t just think of ourselves.”
“We’ll go to your house.” Theseus was beside him, staring at Althea as she wept and hiccoughed into her handkerchief.
“Okay. Come on.” Austin put an arm around her shoulders and Theseus hesitated, then stood on her other side, passing a hand around her waist. *He* probably wouldn’t have stopped her kissing him, Austin thought, making a face. Together they led her down the stairs, Kedi stepping softly behind them, and waited at the bottom as she straightened her hair and her tunic. Theseus led them once more through the streets, keeping as far away from crowds as possible.


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