Helen is, of course, the perfect name for the wife of a Classical Greek mystery writer. She's my first reader for everything. I know I have a scene right when I want to read it out to her before I'm finished.
Helen is the Goddess of Punctuation. When she checks my writing, the conversation goes something like this:
Gary: What did you think of the scene?
Helen: There's a missing semi-colon on the first page, I fixed all the commas and broke up several sentences that were too long and--
Gary: No no no! What did you think about the story?
Helen: The story? Oh, it was fine.
At least, that's what used to happen. We now have a deal whereby she has to keep her hands off the text and can only comment about the story until the book's finished. Then Helen is unleashed and she fixes everything. Kathleen, Janet and Jo have all commented how clean my manuscripts are. It's nothing to do with me and everything to do with my wife.
Helen has an astonishing memory for text of any sort. She not only knows off the top of her head the phone number of everyone she's ever called, she can tell you what their phone numbers were twenty years ago too. I haven't remembered a single phone number since we got married; I don't need to when I have a walking database beside me. Helen used to do immigration law, when she could recite from memory the entire immigration act. Not only that, but the applicable law for a visa is whatever it was on the day of application, and there are hundreds of tweaks made to the rules every year. If you nominated any random date, Helen could recite what the law was on that particular day. This remarkable ability found its way into my stories.
Here is Diotima, wondering why the other priestesses are a little bit annoyed with her. Nico says:
“I suppose, when you arrived here, they asked you to learn the local prayers?”Despite her outstanding memory Helen has zero willpower when it comes to study. When we were first going out she did everything in her power to avoid studying for her law exams. This drove me up the wall, to the point at which one day I removed all the shoes from her apartment so she couldn't leave, and then left her to spend the day with nothing to do but study. When I returned that night her oven was spotless. She'd spent the whole day cleaning it.
“Every temple in every city has its own festivals and rituals and prayers. I could hardly do my job if I didn't know them.”
“Tell me, did you by any chance learn the rituals better than women who've been here for years?”
“Well...maybe,” she admitted. “The actions were a bit complex, but mostly I only had to remember some simple lines.”
“How many simple lines?”
“I don't know, I didn't count. Should I have?” She chewed on her thumbnail as she thought about it. “I did get through all the rituals for the year, plus the special events...umm, three thousand, maybe four thousand?”
“Let me guess; you had them word perfect within a month.” Diotima could recite much of the Iliad from memory. If she hadn't been a woman, she could have become a famous bard.
“Eighteen days. Practically all of it rhymed.”
“And now you're wondering why the other priestesses dislike you? Diotima, couldn't you at least pretend to make a mistake?”
“Is it my fault their memories aren't good?”