The Queen and her Brook Horse, An Orc Saga Novella, Book 2.5, is coming soon!
Facets of Fate, a Fate of the Gods novella and short story collection, is available now in print and ebook!
And don't forget to subscribe to THE AMALIAD, to stay up to date on Authors!me.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hair dye in Homeric Times

In my book, Helen dyes her hair twice to disguise herself. The first time with a home-made concoction that turns it black or brown, and the second time a proper dye which turns it red. The challenge is finding a home-made dye which Helen, as a child of twelve, would be able to get her hands on, mix, and apply without help. Now, she does have access to information that a normal twelve year old wouldn't, and so her knowing how to make dyes isn't my problem. My problem is that I personally have no idea what went into producing a good dye during the period in which Helen would have lived, which means that I have to do research.

And the process that was used during antiquity to dye hair is mind-blowingly awesome in its simultaneously simplicity and complexity. You see, during antiquity, Greeks and Romans and Egyptians dyed their hair using nano-technology without even knowing it! Of course the downside is that it required lead oxide, which probably didn't do much for their health. The other problem is, how the heck would Helen get her hands on lead oxide or lime? And that kind of dye process is absolutely permanent--which is, of course, what Helen is going for, but not at all helpful to ME for later events, and Homeric Greece was certainly not Antiquity. I can believe that these kinds of techniques were known in Egypt, however, and in the east. Troy by all accounts seems to be very rich in these kinds of things-- a center for trade. But Helen at age 12, working under the radar, can't really engage in trade at this juncture.

Now there are a variety of pigments that were available to people in those times. Umber and Ochre for browns, reds and yellows, Bone and Carbon blacks, for, well, black for certain. (Incidentally, this webpage is kind of AWESOME for tracking pigment use through history.) But could any of these pigments be made into dyes? I'm thinking it would require some kind of solvent (and I'm totally wishing I had blond hair of my own that I could trim and try mixing dyes in my kitchen sink about now), vinegar would be a good one, or possibly even just wine or water. Helen could easily get her hands on any of those, but I have no idea how permanent that kind of dye might be, if at all.

But the only information I've been able to find on making ochre based dyes involves soy milk as the bonding agent. Earliest records of soy milk do not stretch back to Mycenaean times, even in China. I know cow's milk has a similar amount of protein to soy milk, but I'm not sure it has the same enzymes to allow the bonding-- or it might require the addition of an acid to activate them (like Vinegar or wine, I'd imagine, though I have no idea how the chemistry would all work out), or maybe egg would do. I have a feeling that even Helen, with her working knowledge will be spending quite a bit of time engaging in trial and error tests. I hate when my character is smarter than I am!

Late in the game I did finally find something that could be a practical and easy to make dye for Helen's hair, mostly by luck and persistence through wikipedia--walnuts! Boiling the fruit of the walnut tree apparently makes a dye which will darken as it oxidizes. Somehow I have a feeling that the adventures in milk and vinegar are now over for Helen. All she needs is to collect some nuts! Believe me-- the answer to this question did not come soon enough.

After all this, the second instance of Helen's ventures into hair dye is much, much simpler to handle. Henna makes a very simple red dye, no tricks involved, and it's something that she could easily buy or trade for now that she's not doing it in secret. In fact, it's probably something she could get from Troy, which works conveniently with the rest of my story when all is said and done.

On the plus side, I did learn how to make Casein Paint. Seems pretty simple, when all is said and done. Hooray for useless information I will never use found in the search for the information I actually NEEDED.

What was your last research time-suck? Is there anything that you tried to learn for a book, but could never find the information for?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Prep for the Dream Sequence Blogfest!

For all of you guys who have signed up to take part in the fabulous Dream Sequence Blogfest coming to us on June 4th, I have a very special link!

Valerie at As The Moon Climbs has put together a discussion of fortune telling in writing, and how it can be used effectively, including but not limited to, the prophetic dream! Definitely check it out-- if not for the info she presents (which is excellent) than for the examples she uses, including a short excerpt of a dream from one of my books! Head on over and talk about the trials and tribulations of fortune telling in your own books, or books which you have read! Fortune telling is a tricky thing to do well and right in a book, even trickier to do it in a way that isn't cliche.

And don't forget to sign up for the Dream Sequence Blogfest, either! :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh, Aphrodite!

The trouble with writing about mythical figures, is that so often people already have an idea of what they should look like, and when you try to describe them as a writer, you risk putting off your readers by clashing with their already defined mental images. To offset this, I tend to avoid overt description of the major players outside of what is commonly accepted. For example, we don't really have a cultural concept of what Adam and Eve look like (outside perhaps, of a standard white-washing), so I keep my descriptions of them very limited-- to allow my readers to fit their own Adam and Eve into the blanks (and really, Adam and Eve, to my mind, ought to look like everyone at once, and no one at the same time). In regard to Thor, I try to keep to the standard descriptions: Huge, neatly-bearded, muscular, I even hedge my bets by giving him red-gold hair, instead of a true red or a real blond so the Marvel fans won't argue (mythologically speaking, it really should be red, but Marvel's Thor has skewed the cultural impression).

I spent the evening recently trying to find a good reference and source of description for Aphrodite. I hadn't had to do much with her before now, because she's only a tertiary player in my other books, and I hadn't realized she was going to make an appearance in HELEN at all until she literally sat down next to her in the book. And then I started researching. What did Aphrodite look like to the people of Mycenaean Greece? Helen already has blond hair, and it seems to me that this is a key element of her beauty-- that the reason she is so beautiful, is because her coloring is so unusual. If I give Aphrodite blond hair also, does this diminish Helen's uniqueness? Would the Greeks really envision their goddess as a blond, when they were probably dark haired for the most part? Maybe more importantly: How have other people already illustrated Aphrodite? What is our cultural opinion of her coloring?

I googled her. After talking to a few Classics-oriented people on twitter, and realizing that I could not for the life of me remember any lines in the Iliad which described Aphrodite's hair color, it seemed the best recourse. But the wiki entry didn't give me anything about her hair-color, and the other less reputable (yeah, I just said that) sources seemed to ignore physical description as well. At that point, I turned to the wiki-commons for the masterworks.

The Masters from the Renaissance may have fooled with their myths, giving Pegasus to Perseus when they don't belong together, and re-interpreting other stories as needed for artistic convenience, but they were influential. Our ideas of these major mythological figures are, like it or not, informed by these pieces of artwork. What I didn't expect to find in my search through the commons was art dating back to antiquity. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me until I saw it, honestly, but what better reference than art from the culture which spawned the myths? (image: Birth of Venus, by Botticelli from wiki commons.)

There are images of Aphrodite on pottery-- of course, that kind of art is usually fairly stylized, and the red and black Attic style (dated to about 410 BCE) especially seems kind of unhelpful. In that medium, Aphrodite is bound either to have red or black hair, regardless. Still, it's worth noting that her hair was colored black. It seems like if she was a blond, the artist would have gone with the natural red tone of the clay instead. But I'm no art historian, and that's just my personal conjecture. It isn't proof enough to give her dark hair in my book, that's for sure. (Image © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons)

So I kept looking. And man, why did I not even think of frescoes?! There are a couple of good ones in the wiki commons where I can clearly identify Aphrodite in the picture. Both of them show her with dark hair, not blonde. One image is from a wall in Pompeii, dated to roughly 79 AD. Aphrodite is the smudged woman in the background, dressed in white. (I'm not posting it here because I feel like I'm going overboard with the pictures here.) This image seems to also be from Pompeii, but wiki information dates it to about 25 BCE. I can't explain the difference in the dates here, as I said I am no art historian, and so I can only give the the information that wiki has given me-- dubious though that may be. Aphrodite, of course is the woman in the blue dress, and I might argue that her hair is almost an auburn color. Certainly, it is a rich shade of brown at the least.

The trouble is, while these older images may be more valid as representations of Aphrodite, giving her dark hair goes against the more recent cultural memory, so to speak. So I'm still left with a choice to make-- do I risk alienating my readers by choosing to give her a darker hair color which might clash with the idea they have of Aphrodite in their mind's eye? Or do I follow the historical images, and hope that my readers absorb it as information they didn't know, or at the very least ignore me if they find it personally problematic? When it comes down to it, is our image of Aphrodite informed MOST by the current perceptions of what is beautiful?

My followers, what about you? When you envision Aphrodite, what color is her hair?

It's almost enough to make me wish she wasn't going to appear in the book. :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Dream Sequence Blogfest, In Honor of 100+ Followers

Guys, I wish that I had announced this blogfest last week when I thought of it, because there is a glut of blogfests going on in the blogosphere in the month of May, most of which were announced this week. But! I will not be derailed! I will, however, adjust my schedule to give you all some elbow room.

So, I will be hosting the Dream Sequence Blogfest on Friday, June 4th! Inspired by the bajillion and two dream sequences I have had to write for HELEN, and in honor of the 100+ folks who think I have something interesting to say. Because, let's face it, dream sequences? They are tricky buggers! Getting them right, and inserting them in a way that works for your book is a challenge! Like flashbacks, sometimes the dream sequence gets the stink eye, too. But done right, and done well, they can reveal amazing things about your characters. So why not give it a try, or at least get some practice in! Tell your writer friends, and we can whoop the Dream Sequence once and for all!

In addition to being a blogfest, I also want to give something back. One lucky Follower who participates in the Dream Sequence Blogfest will be chosen at random to receive a 10 dollar gift certificate to Amazon.com. In order to be eligible for the prize, you must 1) be a follower of my blog, and 2) post a dream sequence on June 4th on your blog. You must also 3) comment below to enter the drawing in addition to signing up for the blogfest with Mister Linky. I will post the name of the winner on my blog on Tuesday, June 8th, at which point they will hopefully provide me with an email address to which I may send their Electronic Gift Certificate.

Any questions? Awesome! Sign up below!



Also guys, don't forget to sign up for all the other awesome blogfests coming up! I would list them, but Andrew at The WriteRunner already has! (Thank you, Andrew for providing such an excellent service!) When I figure out which ones I'm participating in, I promise you'll hear from me, here, too.

Edit: The dream sequence blogfest is about sharpening our skills at writing dream sequences, so to be eligible to win the Amazon GC you must post something you've written! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Trouble with Castor and Pollux

As I'm rewriting HELEN, I find myself completely at a loss as to how to handle Castor and Pollux, Clytemnestra and Helen, as far as birth order and immortality/mortality goes. There are so many conflicting accounts as to paternity, and so many conflicting accounts even of how they were born-- but the one thing that pretty much everyone agrees on (cross-culturally even!), is that Castor and Pollux are twins.

Now, in itself that isn't necessarily problematic. But it becomes so, when you take into account the mythology of Pollux being a demi-god, a child of Zeus along with Helen. Now, unless Pollux and Helen were born at the same time-- be it by egg or not-- one has to ask, how many times was Leda raped by a swan? And, after the first time, isn't it kind of odd that she'd fall for that same trick again? Or did she solicit Zeus for round two, and if she did, was it with Tyndareus's permission and approval?

In combination with this, we also have the issue of inheritance. It's Helen's marriage which puts Menelaus on the throne of Sparta/Lacedaemon, not Clytemnestra's. Does this mean that Helen is the oldest daughter, or the first born of a twin pregnancy? Are Helen and Clytemnestra (which by the way, I find it HILARIOUS that Microsoft Word never questions whether that name is misspelled), older than Castor and Pollux? Since Helen's mythology specifically relates to the rape of Leda by the swan, I'm inclined to think that her conception was Zeus's first offense in that regard.

The easiest solution is probably to give Leda quadruplets, but I'm curious about the conflicts and stresses it might put on the situation if Leda had carried on more than one affair by Zeus, by choice or otherwise. Was the first time a swan seduction, and the second time Zeus took on the guise of Tyndareus (not unheard of)? And if so, how is Pollux identified as a demi-god rather than simply the son of his father the king? Coloring and appearance? Do demi-gods mature faster than normal mortals--or is it just his stature which proclaims him a hero? Demi-gods do seem to be physically larger than normal people, to some extent. Strength, Stamina, Some Special Ability? What differentiates Pollux from his brother Castor? The other trouble with following the quadruplet myth is that Castor and Pollux, were responsible for liberating Helen from Athens after Theseus kidnapped her-- if they were all born together, and Helen was stolen so young, how did Castor and Pollux manage that at so young an age, themselves? (Mind you, Theseus' abduction of Helen was somewhere between her 7th and 12th birthday. I've stretched the age a bit for my book, but I have a hard time believing two 7 year old boys riding all over Greece and rescuing their sister.)

My first impulse on rewriting was to rearrange the pairings, and make Helen and Pollux twins, with Castor and Clytemnestra coming later. But after re-reading the myths, I don't think I can get away with it. Castor and Pollux are just too well known as twins EVERYWHERE, but if they were born with Clytemnestra and Helen in eggs, aren't they not twins, technically, but now quadruplets? Helen and Clytemnestra certainly are not bonded in mythology or in the stories surrounding them the way that Castor and Pollux are. They don't have the same closeness of relationship, where they can't bear to be parted even by death. Some of that might be attributed to the fact that women had less control over the lives, maybe, but I'm not so sure that's all it is.

Still, it doesn't really suit my purposes in this book for Pollux and Castor to be younger than Helen, and making her a twin of Clytemnestra (or a quadruplet) could allow for more conflict between the sisters. I wonder if Clytemnestra regarded Helen's paternity to be an accident of birth? Or, was Clytemnestra born first, but her claim of inheritance usurped by Helen's obvious divine lineage? Are Helen and Pollux the favorite children of Leda? Does Tyndareus prefer Castor and Clytemnestra? I wonder if Leda prefers the children who are not Zeus's, because they do not remind her of the circumstances of Helen and Pollux's conception.

I really do wish I could just make Helen and Pollux twins. Since I can't, I think I have two choices:

1) Leda is raped/seduced/tricked somehow a second time by Zeus and bears two sets of twins a year or so apart-- and if I work with the established idea that Zeus perhaps assumed Tyndareus's form the first time, then I could even make Castor and Pollux the older pair of siblings, Helen and Clytemnestra the younger and the result of the rape by the swan. Of course, there is no hint in any of the myths that Zeus raped Leda twice, and that is a definite drawback, however convenient it might be to employ such a device. On the other hand, it isn't totally out of the realm of possibility either--there is certainly plenty of precedent. It solves the problem of the boys rescuing Helen quite neatly if they are a few years older than she is, too.

2) Quadruplets, born in two sets, with a lull of labor in the middle between the girls and the boys. I suppose it doesn't matter who comes out first then, and the precedent of the story is already present in the myth of the two eggs, later addition or not. I can't quite bring myself to hatch these kiddos from eggs, honestly. That's too fantastic for the rest of the story to support.

Now, I just have to choose which premise I want to work from! Feel free to weigh-in below, in the comments--what makes more sense to you? Quadruplets, half of which were born of Tyndareus, the other half of Zeus's rape? Or a second deception resulting in a second set of twins? AND! What do you do when the historical facts (I use the term historical here loosely) create contradictions for your story?

Conveniently, there's just been a post over at Scienceray about how twins are born, if you're interested in the scientific elements. My favorite part is this quote: 
The non-identical twins (also called dizygotic) may be conceived at the same time, or one following the other in a single menstrual cycle – so non-identical twins can even have different fathers.
I just thought it was fitting to mention, since it popped up coincidental to this mythological twin crisis in my book. And I never realized that non-identical wins could have different dads! Very interesting!

**Picture from Wiki-Commons: Leda and the Swan, by Cesare da Sesto, modeled from a lost DaVinci.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Coming Soon!

I'm so excited about my next couple of blogposts that I am going to tell you what you can expect for topics! This could be a total error in judgment, but I can't stop myself because I'm stoked and wish I could post all these posts right now for your reading pleasure. Stupid Blog Schedule!

TOMORROW I'm going to be discussing the problems with birth order I've been stumbling across in HELEN regarding her twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, and the myths surrounding parentage and events. Seriously, it is much harder to determine who came first and how than you'd think.

FRIDAY I am going to be announcing my plans to celebrate 100 followers with: A BLOGFEST! with a PRIZE even! I will also draw attention to a new blogfest that is coming to us, also.

NEXT TUESDAY! (Yes I am that far ahead of myself. It was an accident.) I will be discussing Aphrodite's hair color-- a case study in character description issues in HELEN and my other books, because last night I started researching it, and all of a sudden it was 3am and I still did not have the answer. It also involved shopping at the Walgreens website, apparently, where I found this:
I'll leave you with this box of hair dye to consider until Next Week's fabulous Aphrodite post.

Rewriting HELEN seems to be good for the blog! Not so good for MY hair, because I feel as though I am spending a lot of time Pulling it out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Origin Story

Stephanie Thornton asked what got my writing about Adam and Eve, and the Classical Mythology of the Greeks, and I promised her a post answering, so this is it!

 It began with "what if it was all true?" and it wasn't limited at all to mythology. In my mind, whole worlds and universes opened up-- what if writers had this ability to see beyond the usual limits, and their stories of fiction were more like journals of observation? I had always toyed with this idea in my head, thinking of my favorite book series, my favorite characters, as old friends as a really little kid. Living, breathing people who lived elsewhere. I wanted a way to bring them all into balance-- even from as early as 1996, I was writing on this topic, while I was in middle school. I still have the "book" that started it all in a gray binder, in a pink crate, sitting in my bedroom right now. (It is terrible.)

She wasn't Eve at first. At first she was just a woman, reincarnated. A girl, even. She had been separated from her family at birth somehow. (There may have been cosmic rays and crazy sci fi tech involved. I distinctly recall something about her being stolen from the womb, and exchanged with another baby still in the womb.) But I knew even then that getting the permission to play in other peoples' sandboxes would be nightmarish, so I could never write about a girl who lived and traveled between the worlds of fiction, like I had dreamed about--of if I did, it could never be published. There was a force of evil trying to keep her away from her family, punish her and them with unhappiness, and she was struggling to get back home to them. And in my mind, she was always part of a set of twins. From the very beginning, she had two twin brothers-- the one who was her real brother, pre-crazy-baby-stealing-device, and the one who was her birth brother, post-crazy-baby-stealing-device. I wrote a lot of pages of garbage with this idea, and I was really too young to know what I was doing with it, but it never left my mind.

And then the first scene came, upon which I built everything else. I was, of course, in the shower. Where all the best thinking happens for writers! I remember that first scene which came to me, and the premise behind it in my mind, almost exactly. It was the first time that this woman really became rooted in one world, where she began to take shape as Eve. A woman who was reborn through the generations on earth, who had been reborn more than once to the same family, who could recognize her, who knew her history. This scene has been preserved in essence and emotion and is still in my book today. I cut out the idea that she had been crazy-baby-stolen, and that the man she was about to marry was somehow her brother. But she still had a brother, and there was still a threat.

The thing is, I don't really remember when I first realized that she WAS Eve. So I can't really explain how I got there. I just knew, and now it seems impossible that she was ever anyone else. But once I rooted her into the "real" world, Eve seemed like the most logical choice. If there was a woman who was special, who kept reliving life, who kept coming back again and again, who else could it be? How else could it happen? Explaining how a regular human was doing it would be difficult. Why are they living and being reborn and no one else is? Why not just begin at the beginning? If she was being reborn over and over again, shouldn't it have started at creation?

So I did. It was the only reasonable solution to me. And Eve and Adam began their journey--the journey of antagonizing one another for all of history. As for the gods, well, they were late in coming to the game. I've said before that Thor showed up late, and I couldn't get rid of him. With Thor came every other pantheon. The Olympian gods and the Egyptian, the Hindus, the gods of civilizations I did not even know. Because if one god, other than God was real, it only seemed logical that the rest were there too, moving around behind the scenes. The idea captivated me, of course, for reasons I discussed here. When I rewrote the book, I realized just how much influence they had. Eve and Adam themselves did not explain everything.

As far as working with the Greek myths, it began kind of on a whim. I wanted to write a book about Eve in one of her lives, and I wanted it to be something that wouldn't be boring. Some of her lives are, you know, just boring and normal. I already knew that she was Helen of Troy, so that life seemed like the most action-packed life to begin with. But then I got to really know Helen for herself, and Theseus and Menelaus for who they were-- and I was pretty much hooked.

So, I think that is the answer of how I started writing on these topics-- or at least it's the best answer I can give! Hope I didn't bore you all! :) If you guys want, I can post the scene that started it all, but I thought this post was getting pretty long already so I left it out! Let me know! And hey-- what's your origin story?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

100!!

A HUGE Thank You to all my followers! Thanks for reading! Thanks for following! Thanks for commenting and making suggestions! Thanks for joining me in this blogging and writing journey!

I am brainstorming a contest to celebrate you fabulous 100 followers, and as soon as I figure out what I'm going to do, I'll let you all know! In the meantime, you guys rock! I want to get to know you better! So I'm asking:

What's your favorite genre (to read or write) and why?

My favorite Genre to read used to be science fiction, but historical fiction is beginning to grow on me! I may be in the process of a conversion. But I'm picky about my science fiction-- I like stuff that deals with social issues and makes me think. I like to see what people think we're going to make the world into, as a society, as a culture, as a people.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you guys in the comments!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blogfest Wrap-Up!

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by the blog this weekend! And extra thanks for all the comments! You guys are great!

I also wanted to welcome all the new followers to the blog! I'm only five three away from 100 now, and it seems like 100 followers is some kind of milestone, requiring some kind of contest or celebratory giveaway or blogfest around these parts, or something? I mean, I wouldn't want to disappoint anyone...

I am NEARLY back to myself again, but this week I am still on wrist-probation, so I'm supposed to not be writing yet. I'll let you all know how that goes, I'm sure. (hint: not well, now that I'm feeling better! Lugh is making a nuisance of himself, which is even MORE of a nuisance because I'm supposed to be working with Helen and Theseus this month.)

So, now that those other blogfests are behind us, let me give you a quick peek at what lies ahead!

There are four blogfests upcoming:
Now, I'm not sure I'll be participating in absolutely all of them, but I thought you'd like to be informed! And I'm for sure, for sure going to be participating in the first two, because I'm dying to make someone bake. Eve already does, of course, and she's quite good at it, but I have a feeling it would be more entertaining to see someone else attempting to do so... Does pizza-making count as baking? The sad thing is, I'm afraid that most of my characters are pretty proficient cooks. When you're immortal, or constantly being reborn, there probably aren't a lot of things you can't do reasonably well.

Feel free to plug any blogfests I missed in the comments! It's good to know about these things. And again, thank you so much to everyone for all your comments this weekend. It really was great to hear your thoughts! It was a great way to end a hard week.

Be sure to leave your suggestions for what should happen when I reach the big 1-0-0 in the comments, and let me know if there are any topics you'd like to see me cover in the near future!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bar Scene Blogfest!

No cheating over here this weekend-- only because I didn't want to throw out spoilers. Welcome to my Bar Scene Blogfest contribution! This fabulous fest is hosted by the phenomenal Tara of Secret Story. Don't forget to follow the links and check out the other participants!

This is a scene that was originally, originally, originally, part of THE BOOK OF GENERATIONS, before I rearranged everything and filled in 2000 years of history (actually, before it was even titled BoG, when it was still DoE). Now it appears in the sequel which has not been revised--after the rewriting of parts of GENERATIONS, book two no longer syncs up exactly the way it should. Things will have to be excised and rewritten, for sure, perhaps even this scene!

Anyway, the year is sometime around 1000 AD. Thor will tell you the rest himself, I think. I did omit some spoilers, but the scene should flow just fine, regardless.

[Excerpt removed]

And that is that! I wanted to post another scene with Lugh, but unfortunately there was no way to cut the spoilers without ruining it. But someday he will show up again! Gah, now I want to go reread some Thor stuff...

Thanks for a fabulous blogfest weekend everyone!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Murder Scene Blogfest!

Right.

So it's Murder Scene Blogfest day, hosted by the fabulous Anne Riley and I broke the injunction against writing, because sadly all the murders I have already written are too spoiler filled to be presented for the blogfest today! That means all new, freshly minted, content. Love it or hate it, and I honestly don't even know if it is really any good, as I just wrote it ten seconds ago and that generally means I'm still in the glow of yay!Iwrotesomething! but the likelihood that it will ever make it into a book is very very low, so consider it bonus background content or something. My book on Helen begins 20-30 years after this event. I present you with some Theseus, and his most famous slewing. (That is a terrible misuse of slew.)

The Minotaur's breath was hot and moist on the back of Theseus's neck, but he did not increase his pace. His legs were burning, but in another moment he would reach the outside wall of the labyrinth and the corner where the masonry had crumbled just enough to give him a foothold. At least, he hoped it would.

He could not hear anything but the sound of the Minotaur's heaving breaths and heavy footfalls, and then he jumped, his nails scraping against the bricks, somehow finding purchase, and he hauled himself up. The Minotaur howled with rage beneath him as he clambered to the top. He could see his sword, half covered in dust, two turns back, but somehow he had managed to keep hold of the string. It was too great a risk to reach his weapon with the Minotaur beneath him, panting and pacing and bellowing with its bull's voice. He would never make it to the sword before the creature was upon him.

Theseus wrapped a length of the string around each hand, standing on the edge of the wall. He could, of course, leap over the other side, but Minos would only throw him back into the maze. No, he had to finish this now, but it would require more precision than he was certain he had left in him. He silently thanked Poseidon for Ariadne's help, and prayed that the string would hold long enough.

Then he dropped, landing on the beast's shoulders and forcing it to the ground and the dirt. A horn tore into his bicep, but he ignored the blood, pulling the string taught around the creature's neck, a knee in the animal's back. He pulled up with the string and pushed down with his knee and prayed that his strength and the string would last. The blood was hot and cold down his arm and the Minotaur struggled beneath him, trying to throw him free, but Theseus held on, and the string sunk deep into the throat of the beast. The animal's bellows were silenced abruptly, turned into a guzzling gulp, and the dusty ground stained with blood. Theseus wasn't certain how much was his own, but he stood there long after the Minotaur had stopped struggling, staring at the red-black puddle as it grew, until his fingers grew numb from the string which wrapped around them.

Theseus did not collapse in the dirt, though the idea was more than tempting. He rose to his feet, pulling the string free from the monster, causing a fresh spurt of blood to flow, and carefully disentangled it from his hands. He did not think this was what Ariadne had intended when she had given it to him, but it had served. Theseus retraced his steps back to his sword and then followed the path of the string back through the turns and twists of the labyrinth. He did not have much time, now, before Minos sent someone to be sure the Minotaur had done its job, and Ariadne waited.

His arm ached, hanging as if deadened by the time he reached the entrance. Ariadne hovered, her eyes widening and her lips pressed together into a thin line at the sight of him. He fell to his knees before her and bowed his head. Her fingers moved through his hair, light and gentle, the touch of a butterfly on a flower.

He raised his eyes to hers, but did not touch her, for he had no wish to smear her with its foul blood. "The Minotaur is dead."

She nodded and bent, taking hold of him by his good arm, and helping him back to his feet. "Then we must hurry."

Of course, by most accounts Theseus slew the Minotaur with his father's (Aegeus, not Poseidon) sword, so my interpretation is, in that respect, quite incorrect, but I don't know, it just felt more dramatic this way. Besides, how the heck did he get all the way through Crete to the labyrinth with his father's sword, when he was taken as a slave?  It seems kind of impossible that he would manage it, so I feel like if he DID have a sword, it was a generic one. Not that any of that matters here, really! I am terrible at fight scenes though, and not all that good at death, so feel free to take it apart.

Happy Blogfest!

Friday, April 09, 2010

March Books!

Since I'm still on wrist-rest, and not allowed to computerize it up, I'm cheating and just going to tell you about the books I read in March! I am including graphic novel trade paperbacks, because I love comic books. You may count them as real books or not as you see fit!

The Saga of the Volsungs
A must read, in my opinion, for anyone interested in Norse mythology and sagas. I have other posts about my feelings regarding parts of the Saga of the Volsungs here and here. The narrative can be a little bit confusing if you don't read attentively, and there are definitely a lot of names to keep track of, but I think the story, especially the relationship between Sigurd and Brynhild is compelling-- and it certainly left me wanting to explore it in greater depth myself as a writer.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I love this book. It's one of my favorites-- I've read it at least a half dozen times. There's a richness in this book and the world it is set within that is really beautiful and easy to fall into. I wish that there had been more development of certain character relationships, but I still enjoy it, regardless!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I reread this one because the first time I read through it, I was rushing through it as if my life depended on finishing. This is definitely a hard book to put down, and the historical elements are really fascinating to me. I love the time travel elements, and I think that the first two books in this series are hands down the best.

Ultimatum
Ultimatum: Requiem

I'm putting these two graphic novel trades together because they're part of the same arc, really. And it was entirely disappointing. When all was said and done, I felt as though I had gotten a cliffs notes version of something that might have been interesting if the proper time had been taken to tell the story. Everything after Ultimates 2 just kind of went down hill. Ultimatum is no exception, though they did have to go some to surpass the terribleness that was Ultimates 3. Somehow, they managed.

Thor vol. 3
I'll be writing an in depth review of this for GeekaChicas one of these days, but for now, I was not entirely disappointed, but it did not live up to the level of the first volume of the series, either. I felt, at the end, that I had more questions than answers, and there was altogether not enough Thor for my satisfaction. Also, I'm really not sure how I feel about Marvel's Sif, when it comes down to it.

Superman: Red Son
My review for this can be found on GeekaChicas, here! Long story short, I LOVED it.

Superman: For Tomorrow (vols 1 and 2)
I will write up an in depth review of this trade soon, also. It was amazing. I thought it was beautifully written and beautifully illustrated, and I thought that the agony of Superman and his "sins" of ego and heartbreak were really well done. It addresses to some extent the question of what happens when Superman loses the links that really tie him to humanity and the world, though I think it could have gone even further and deeper into that, but it was a great taste. It reminded me of why I love Superman so much, and sent me on a Superman kick.

Supergirl: Who is Superwoman?
This trade I picked up mostly just because it involved the New Krypton EVENT which I've been trying to read only somewhat successfully. I loved Supergirl's introduction in the Superman/Batman title, but as usual, her character has gone into kind of a downward spiral. Supergirl is one of my favorite characters, though, so I can't quite stop myself from trying to love her when I read her books. This one was only a marginal success for me. It wasn't awful, but I find the New Krypton story to be really interesting, so she didn't have to be all that awesome for me to be interested in the book, I guess.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault
I have so much to say about this book, all of it good. Mary Renault explores Theseus's life as a youth into adulthood, and she does it quite well. There were some bits of history I wasn't entirely sure about, but as far as characterizing Theseus goes, I think she did an amazing job with him. The most interesting part of reading this was seeing the similarities and differences between her interpretation of Theseus and my own--and the way that ultimately, the myths guide us both to the same kind of place. Theseus is honorable and compassionate and heroic, while still being a troublesome teenager trying to find his own identity. It got me all hyped up and ready to dive into writing my Helen book! I'm chomping at the bit. In the meantime, this is another Must Read, in my opinion!

So there you go. Lots of reading in March! I would kill to get my hands on the second Mary Renault Theseus book, and I would also love to get my hands on more Superman. They will both have to wait a bit though! I've got more Sagas to read and lots of Icelandic to study!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Misc. and Award

I have unfortunate news. At this time I am under orders to lay off the computering for the next week or so (I pulled something in my right arm/wrist). Basically this just means that my internet presence will be diminished, and my posts won't be quite as awesome as usual unless I'm feeling particularly rebellious. It also means I am WAY behind on the First Page Blogfest entries and I'll be slowly getting around to them in the next week or so a handful at a time. Thanks so much to everyone who visited and commented! First Person seems to have won the vote by a landslide! I haven't been able to respond to all the comments, due to the fact that I was out of town for Easter weekend, but I am very grateful to everyone who weighed in!

I'm hoping for a quick recovery and for things to get back to normal quickly, since I am really really anxious to keep working on Helen. There's nothing worse than getting all geared up to start working on a project, and then getting delayed from the start date.

In the meantime, I wanted to thank Ms. Maggie Desmond-O'Brien over at Maggie's Bookshelf who recently awarded me with the Beautiful Blogger award. There are some rules for this one, which have drawn me out to stretch my arm against Dr. Husband's command. I'm supposed to give this away to 15 fellow bloggers and list 7 things about myself, for your entertainment.

First, the facts:

1) I hate hard boiled eggs. I do not even eat them at Easter. bleh.
2) One of my favorite movies is The Big Chill. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's awesome.
3) I will read Lois McMaster Bujold's Cordelia's Honor at least twice this year. It's one of my favorite books--well, technically it is composed of two of my favorite books, Shards of Honor and Barrayar. It's sci-fi intergalactic war and politics meets romance.
4) I do not miss the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Even though I don't have cable, I make my brother tape it for me then avoid all news sources for a week to make sure I don't see who won until I've gotten to watch it. This year, the results were conveniently lost in the mass of Olympics coverage.
5) I can't stand the toy group. Dogs that tremble make me sad.
6) Thor was never supposed to take up half of my book. He just happened, and then I couldn't get rid of him.
7) I hate when movies have more than one ending. Perpetrators of this Pet Peeve include: The Dark Knight, LOTR: Return of the King and James Bond's Casino Royale. Otherwise enjoyable movies, but that three ending finish drives me nuts!

As for the 15 blogs, I'm afraid that is going to take more typing than my arm can take right now-- so let me start with five, and see how it goes from there!

1) Margo at Margoblog!
2) Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time
3) VR Barkowski at VR Barkowski: A Writer's Blog
4) Muse in the Fog at Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog
5) Valerie at As The Moon Climbs

Okay, I think that's the best I can do for now. See you all Friday, hopefully with something substantial, and good news about my arm!