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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Affairs of the Gods: How Could These Victims Have Been So Clueless?

There are two ways to approach questions like this:
1) The Events of the Myths Really Happened
2) The Events of the Myths Are Stories/Propaganda/Explanations/Metaphors/etc

If you've been hanging around me or my blog(s) for any length of time, you probably know that the fiction writer in me favors the first approach -- and imagining these characters and trying to discover their motivations and understand the choices they might have made is where a lot of the fun of writing about them comes from. So with this question, it's only natural that I'd start with the more literal perspective. (It's more just more interesting guys!)

The Short Answer:
I suspect that they were less clueless and more just uninformed.

The Long Answer:
The Flight of Europa by Paul Manship
photo by me!

Here's the thing. Today, if some king's daughter were kidnapped by a really pretty bull, the whole world would know about it. Or at least the part of the world that pays attention to that kind of information, anyway. (She'd also be found and returned home, probably, rather than dumped in another country to marry into their royal bloodline, but I digress.) Back in Europa's time? It was probably more of a quiet, regional event. Why should she expect the bull of being a god in disguise, intent on stealing her away, if she'd never heard of Zeus pulling that kind of stunt?* Maybe, possibly, some kind of rumor of Zeus coming down as a shower of gold to... make sweet love? to Danae** might have been making the rounds somewhere in the Peloponnese, but it is REALLY unlikely the story would have made it as far as Phoenicia, where Europa was hanging out with her maiden friends, enjoying the attentions of a particularly tame bull.

Now maybe these two examples are cheating, because both of these women were earlier victims of Zeus' proclivities, but the fact remains that there are no guarantees that any one of the  importuned women who followed would have had extensive knowledge of the god's other exploits. There's a couple of exceptions of course. Alcmene, for example, was the granddaughter of Perseus, so the story of Great-Grandmother Danae could easily have been part of family lore before her run in with Zeus and the subsequent birth of Heracles. But since Zeus took the form of Alcmene's own husband, Amphitryon, there is really no possibly way that forewarning might have helped her avoid his attentions.

It's easy for us to see all these stories laid out neatly and chronologically, with repeated themes of Zeus putting one over on some poor beautiful girl, and wonder why these people couldn't figure it out. But the truth is, those stories weren't assembled into the written word at all until centuries after the fact. If you consider that the Trojan War was basically the end of the Age of Heroes, and all the philandering that entailed, then the majority of these events would have taken place during the Greek Bronze Age -- the Mycenaean and Minoan periods. At the end of which, civilization kind of collapsed and the Greeks not-so-promptly forgot how to write for several hundred years.

Oral history is a lot more limited, regionally, though Homer provides us with evidence that even oral stories could be spread -- if the bard thought the audience would be interested. But if he didn't?

Well. It sure makes me appreciate the bounty of the internet for self-education, that's for sure.

*Europa was mother to Minos, which means she was at least one, maybe two generations before Theseus and Heracles.

**Danae was the mother of Perseus, who was himself the very FIRST of the Greek Heroes. He did not actually ride Pegasus, and the Kraken is a sea monster out of Scandinavia. Just for the record.

Available April 1, 2015 
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Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods.

A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
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Thursday, February 19, 2015


Antonio Canova-Theseus and Centaur-Kunsthistorisches Museum
Theseus and Centaur (photo by Yair Haklai
[CC BY-SA 3.0  or GFDL], via Wiki Commons)
In January, I finally finished TAMER OF HORSES, a historical novel about Hippodamia's marriage to Pirithous, and the war with the Centaurs that followed. I started writing TAMER in 2012 -- prompted by an anthology call for ancient Greek themed romances. At the time I thought that turning a tragedy into a romance was just a question of picking the right end point in the story. There was no way I was going to turn the war with the centaurs into a happily ever after, if I included it in the novella. There was just too much death, too much destruction, and too much STORY to pack into anything with a 40,000 word limit.

So I wrote the romance novella and submitted it. Lucky for me (no, really!), I got the big R. Finally, I had the time and the words to turn that novella into a full length novel and cover the WHOLE story. And I am so stoked that I did. The more I wrote, the more I loved writing it. Hippodamia didn't have to be a typical Greek -- she'd been raised by Centaurs, after all. And with Pirithous came Theseus, and even better, his Amazon wife, Antiope. There is nothing not awesome about getting to write the four of these characters, particularly after I'd written HELEN OF SPARTA. I got to explore what Pirithous and Theseus were like in their glory days, and meet the women who had the strength not only to match them, but even to exceed them. Together, the daughter of the centaurs and the daughter of Ares make a very formidable team!

It was a stop and start struggle to figure out the path of the book and pull all the threads together. When I started during the summer of 2012, I never expected that it would be a two year journey. But I'm pretty proud of the nearly 110,000 words I ended up with! Hopefully my early readers will feel the same way, and after that... well, publishing is unpredictable at the best of times, but whether or not Hippodamia's story sells, I'll never regret having written it!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Hippodamia (The Centauromachy and Art II)

I'm not sure why Hippodamia's abduction by Centaurs is such a popular motif for artists -- just like I'm not sure why Leda and the Swan is even more so -- but this particular sculpture (at the National Gallery of Art) is one of my favorites.

I love the contrast between the grace of Hippodamia's form, all smooth lines and curves, and the emphasis on the Centaur's pure muscle mass, brutish and physically powerful. His shoulders ripple, his flanks and forequarters dimpled and defined. In comparison to Hippodamia, he's massive!

Unlike the centaur in the previous bronze (which was far more Art Deco in style) there isn't anything elfin about his features. Hollow-cheeked and thick-nosed, this centaur is rawly human. A man lost to madness, made all the more clear by the fallen amphorae, spilling wine beneath his hooves.

Hippodamia on the other hand, seems either to have fainted from the shock of her abduction, or else she's flopping like a fish to make herself as awkward to carry as possible. Generally, she's portrayed as helpless -- a damsel in distress. But I can't help but think it must have been more than wine which provoked the centaurs to kidnap one of their own. And I really have a hard time believing that a woman referred to as "kin" to the centaurs and tamer of horses would just give up without a fight.

If the centaurs are uncivilized, brutish and barbaric, how civilized was Hippodamia herself? Why should she have been anything less than wild (by Greek standards), as well?

Maybe that's why I like the myth of Hippodamia -- because there's so much potential there, to build a strong woman from the bare-bones account of her life. What's more, it strikes me as something of an untold story, because the depictions of Hippodamia tend toward the hysterical woman, despairingly throwing herself about while waiting to be rescued by her pirate-hero-king husband, Pirithous.

After all, no "ordinary" woman could really hope to cope with such an outrageous personality as Pirithous possesses, and I'm willing to bet he wouldn't want to be saddled with just any woman for a wife. Hippodamia must be something more, something greater, than what we're given to understand by these works of art, and that is definitely a story worth telling.

Photography in this post © me.

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Centauromachy and Art (I)

Centaur and Dryad
by Paul Manship
The Centauromachy began, according to most accounts, with the wedding of Hippodamia to Pirithous. Because Hippodamia was kin to the Centaurs, they were invited to the wedding feast -- but apparently Pirithous was a little bit too generous with his wine, and the centaurs, unused to such strong drink, got drunk. And not giggles and daring fun, either. Angry and Lusty drunk. Wild and Violent drunk. So wild and so angry, in fact, that they thought it would be a good idea to make off with the bride herself, along with a fair number of other women, for the purposes of, well, violence and lust.

As you can imagine, Pirithous did not sit still for this, and with Theseus at his side, and the help of a number of other guests as well, they attacked and defeated the centaurs, rescuing the women, and driving the remaining horse-men from the city, and perhaps even the lands of the Lapiths entirely. Hippodamia escaped mostly unscathed, though I can't imagine she looked back on her wedding day fondly after that.

Which brings us to today's terrible photography -- because I happened across this bronze by accident (as usual) at the Wadsworth Atheneum. But the style was both fascinating and beautiful, and definitely inspired me when I started writing about Hippodamia and her marriage to Pirithous (even if this isn't a depiction of her abduction.)

There's a reason that mythology has been a subject of creative endeavors for so long. There's so much room in it for dynamic emotion and beauty. There are so many conflicts waiting to be brought to life and characters to explore. For instance -- how is Hippodamia, a woman, related to the centaurs (bred from mares) at all? And what relationship did the Centaurs feel they had to the Lapiths, if the centaurs came from Ixion's line, and Ixion maybe wasn't necessarily Pirithous' father? How did they all get along BEFORE the wine and the wedding came between them?

Half the fun, for me, is figuring out the story which leads to an answer.

photos taken by and copyright belonging to me!

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Imaginary Friends (VIII)

(I) (II) (III) (IV) (V) (VI) (VII)
Thirty-five and a quarter.
The first month I walked on eggshells, but after two months I realized I was listening with dread for a voice that wasn’t there. I was actually starting to enjoy myself when Laura arrived with Katie. After a five hour nap on the plane, she was bursting with energy when they arrived at seven in the morning, but Laura was exhausted.

“I’ll watch Katie,” I told her, grinning. “Get some rest.”

Laura kissed us both, and I took Katie out for breakfast.

“Mama says you go to school for stories,” Katie said, swinging her legs beneath the bench. Every other swing, she managed to kick my shin, but I tried to ignore it. “She says you know all kinds of old stories about funny things.”

I pressed my lips together and wished I’d thought to bring some kind of coloring book or something. While I was more than happy to talk about my work with adults, I was uncomfortably aware of the fact that being told stories on the same topics had started a good portion of my problems as a child.

“She said if I asked, you’d tell me some,” Katie said, reaching for her water glass. I narrowly prevented it from spilling all over the table when she tipped it too far. I wanted to curse Laura.

“Do you have any imaginary friends, Katie?”

“What’s that?”

“A make-believe friend. Someone no one else can see or hear but you.”

“Like George?” she asked.

“Who’s George?”

“My dog. He’s big and purple and he lets me ride on his back.”

“Just like George,” I said. “But you didn’t bring him with you on the plane, did you?”

“No,” she said. “Mama said I’m not allowed to bring him places. He’s only allowed at home and in the backyard.”

“How about you tell me a story about George?” I said.

It wouldn’t be the end of it, with Laura prompting her, but it bought me a little bit of time. For the rest of the meal, Katie told me about all the games she played with George in the backyard and I encouraged her. A dog was harmless. A god was something else altogether.


I dreamed about the house burning, and my mother. The same dream I’d always had, but this time Eric was there too. I woke panting, my pillow damp with tears, and stared at the ceiling. I hadn’t had that nightmare in so long. Not since I’d stopped spending my days in bed and gone back to school.

Eric shouldn’t have been there. We’d buried him properly, not cremated him the way we had my mother. My heart still raced and my palms were sweating. I wiped them off on the sheets and took deep, even breaths. It had been so much easier to shake off the nightmares when I was younger, but I refused to think about why.

Laura and Katie had cornered me that day, on the black sand beach in Vik. We were driving around the Ring Road, spending the nights at farms along the way. My faculty advisor had been trying to get me to sight see since I’d arrived and was all too willing to give me the time off for this trip. I could appreciate why, after today. Standing on the black beach with the waves pounding against the shore, surrounded by rock and rich green mosses, was like hovering at the edge of the world. And it was exactly that reason I hadn’t wanted to come.

Iceland felt like a place where gods could exist. Even more so when Laura had me reciting the myths and staring into Katie’s wide and believing eyes.

Donar. The name slipped through my thoughts more easily in the dark, while my body ached with the pain of my nightmares. I had done everything I could not to think of him since Eric’s funeral, but I had seen him so clearly this afternoon as I told Katie the stories my mother had once told me. I imagined his footsteps in the sand, the shadow of his body against the rock face, and the longing I’d fought so hard against for so long rose up from my heart, thick and bittersweet at the back of my throat.

He felt too real here. Like I might turn a corner and find him waiting for me, solid and warm. And for the first time in years, I wanted him to be.


Katie stood before an old fashioned loom with a woman dressed as a Viking. She looked over her shoulder at me and grinned. Eriksstadir, the reconstructed longhouse of Erik the Red, was our last stop before we returned to Reykjavik. You couldn’t throw a stone in Iceland without hitting a vista worth staring at, and we’d stopped at more than a dozen in the last week, following the other tourists. Waterfalls, old volcanic craters, glaciers, lakes, and the historic Thingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament met for almost a thousand years and the mid-Atlantic ridge had formed a rift in the rock.

Each night I spent thinking of Donar, dreaming of his hand on my cheek, his arms around my waist, the familiar sound of his voice, laughing in my ear. Telling the stories had reminded me too much of him and opened a door I couldn’t close. But he hadn’t appeared or spoken to me, and I was beginning to wonder if I was wrong about Iceland, after all. Maybe a trip to Norway was in order, or Denmark, or Germany.


My heart thundered but I didn’t turn, afraid that if I did he wouldn’t be there. I didn’t want to see his watercolor outline, or the blurred smudges of his body where he should have been muscle and sinew and bone. I kept my eyes on Katie instead. Whatever she saw, her eyes were a perfect pair of full moons.

“Why Germany?” he asked, a ripple of laughter in his voice.

He pulled me gently around until I stared at his chest. He was immense. Tall and broad, and filling my vision completely. But I couldn't look at his face. I didn’t want the illusion to shatter. I wanted to believe for one more moment that he was real and solid.

“Because you call yourself Donar, not Thor. It’s Germanic, not Norse.”

“Oh, that. I just didn’t want people to think you were crazy when you were small, praying to some pagan god. Mrs. Philips would have had you hauled before a priest if you’d been muttering about Thor.” His hand covered my cheek, his fingers threading into my hair, and a gentle pressure brought my chin up. “Won’t you look at me?”

A coarse chin on a strong jaw, covered in stubble. His nose was fine and long, but for the scar tissue that made a bump on the bridge where it had been broken. Probably more than once. And blue eyes. They were so blue you could fall into them and swim forever. The corners crinkled with a smile, and he guided my hand to his face. My fingers trailed over the stubble, skated across his lips, traced the outline of his ear. Solid and warm, he still made my skin tingle with his touch.

“You’re real.”

He laughed. The sound was infectious and I felt myself begin to smile in return. The hand that had pressed against my cheek slipped down along my throat to my shoulder. “I’ve always been real, Anna. You just forgot how to believe it, for a little while.”

“Was it always that simple?”

“It's as simple as you'd like, now. If you want me, I'm yours.”

“Just like that.” I traced the curve of his jaw, and his lips found my palm along with his teeth. The bite was so soft that it tickled, but he caught me by the wrist before I could pull my hand away, and his eyes, those blue eyes that I had known all my life, stared into mine.

“Just like this,” he said, his lips caressing my fingertips.

I couldn't breathe for the way my heart tripped. “I want you.”

His lips met mine before I finished the words, and my knees no longer held me up. He caught me around the waist, his arms crushing the breath that was left from my lungs and his free hand wrapped in my hair, twisting it like a rope around his wrist. I would have given him all of me then, in the mossy grass with everyone watching, but he pulled back just enough to let us both breathe.

I gasped, my hand against my heart. He laughed low in his throat, tucking my head beneath his chin. I closed my eyes, pressing my face into the cloth of his shirt and breathing in the scent of rain and ozone and good clean earth.

He was everything I had imagined, everything I had remembered, everything I had wanted without knowing it. I lifted my head and kissed him again, until the other tourists started whistling and making cat-calls.

Because he was there.

And everyone could see him.

(I) (II) (III) (IV) (V) (VI) (VII)

Forged by Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1) Tempting Fate (Fate of the Gods, #1.5) Fate Forgotten (Fate of the Gods, #2) Taming Fate (Fate of the Gods, #2.5) Beyond Fate (Fate of the Gods, #3)
Honor Among Orcs (Orc Saga, #1) * Postcards from Asgard * Helen of Sparta
Buy Now:
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