Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heads Up!

In case you missed my ah, incessant tweeting yesterday, head on over to GeekaChicas to read my review of Superman: Red Son!

I actually wrote it originally for this blog, but then I thought it would fit better over there. It includes some social commentary! Superman: Red Son is an alternate reality Superman story, where he crashes as a baby in the USSR instead of America. And that's all I'm telling you here, so you'll have to head over to GeekaChicas if you want to know my thoughts on Communist Superman!

March was a BIG month for reading. I'm not sure if I should technically be counting Graphic Novel Trade Paperbacks in my bookcount, but I am anyway! It's reading! It just happens to come with pictures!

I may or may not write up a review of Superman: For Tomorrow soon, also. I don't know if it will be put up here or at GeekaChicas (probably GeekaChicas) but I will certainly let you all know!

Can't wait to dive in to rewriting Helen tomorrow! Thinking about switching from third person to first person, but I'm not sure. I suppose I can start in first person, and if I don't like it, switch back to Third. It isn't like this is going to be the final draft, unfortunately. We shall see!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Character and Storytelling as Synthesis

The other day, I was watching Beauty and the Beast. It's hands down my favorite Disney movie, without question. I love Gaston as a villain. I love The Beast. I love Belle, who is equal parts nerdy and stubbornly independent. The only problem is, while Belle is the lens through which we see the story, the leading lady, if you will, there is no real evolution of her character. The focus of change stays with Beast. He's the one who starts out horrible and slowly morphs into something more civilized. He's the one who ultimately becomes so changed that out of love for Belle, he releases her, in spite of the fact that he faces his own ruin by doing so. He evolves from a selfish being, to a selfless one, unable and unwilling to even defend his own life when Belle leaves him. He has nothing left to live for, right?

But what about Gaston? How did he become the villain he is? We have such a complete character arc for Beast, but ultimately Gaston is left as a relatively fixed character, not unlike Belle, though she at least does have the benefit of travel and engagement with new places/characters. Gaston though begins and ends in the same place. Selfish, self-satisfied, and arrogant, which of course results in his implied death as he plummets from the castle. He wants Belle, whether she wants him or not, but he clearly doesn't have any understanding of love or any interest in anything but his own desires. Does he even, truly, realize that Belle doesn't want him? Or is that such an impossible idea that he rejects it outright-- she just doesn't KNOW she wants him yet, perhaps? Certainly it seems like something he's capable of, that kind of trick of the ego. Even going after Beast doesn't really strike me as anything all that changed. Gaston is established from the opening of the movie as a premiere hunter. What better game is there than this Beast in the forest? Even if Belle weren't involved, I think he would have gone after the prize of hanging Beast's head on his wall.

But even as a sketch of what Gaston could be, he's still a compelling villain. Maybe because of how much isn't there. This is exactly the same thought process that occurs when I'm reading about gods in mythology. So often we're given this one dimensional sketch, this account of what a god has done or what a hero has gone through, and we're left to wonder what brought them there, what were their motivations in getting involved to begin with? Did the encounter alter them at all? What made Theseus agree with Pirithous that they both should have wives who were daughters of Zeus? What made Pirithous think he had the right to steal Persephone from Hades? What did Helen think about everything that happened because of her? Did she regret that ultimately she was torn from Theseus's hands, given the outcome? Did she wish she hadn't ever been returned to Sparta? What possessed Aphrodite to promise a married woman to another man? And what made Zeus decide he was sick of having so many heroes running around the earth? Did he in fact stage manage the entire Trojan War for the purpose of wiping out huge numbers of his own people, or is that just a vain hope of man to find meaning in the chaos that resulted?

When faced with these bare accounts, I can't stop myself from exploring the characters of the players, delving into further reading about their lives in order to find meaning in the fragments that are in front of me. When reading fails me, that's when I know it's time to write. But I wonder-- what makes what I do, exploring these established characters, heroes, villains, gods, histories, anything other than fanfiction?  What is fanfiction, besides the compulsion to explore created characters in greater depth? Or is that the definition of writing and storytelling? The other thing I wonder, in all this talk about having characters which are fully formed and fully developed no matter how small their roles are, is are we taking away from the reader? Not to excuse bad characterization, but is it really a flaw to give the reader something to imagine and wonder about? Something which might drive them to create a story of their own?

I think what it comes down to is that writing and storytelling are just synthesis. A way to understand and process everything from our own personal emotions, to social issues, to the entirety of the human condition. So when we see a character like Gaston, half-explained or static, the compulsion to synthesize the information we're given into something we can understand is what drives fanfiction. But when that character is in the public domain, or a part of our cultural heritage and development as a people (as opposed to pop-culture of the times) it becomes more acceptable to reach for that understanding through storytelling.

What are your thoughts, fellow writers?

Friday, March 26, 2010


First off thanks to VR Barkowski and Jon Paul for honoring me with blog awards! I hardly deserve it for having taken this last week off.

If you're looking for a writerly-content post here today, I'm afraid that outside of blogfest news, you shall not find it! Today I am guest-blogging for The Secret Archives of the Alliterati, and you will find my awesome (?) writerly-post concerning heresy and writing there. In my humble opinion, heresy is the best part. Head over yonder to read more about it!

Let me also draw to your attention some excellent blogfests coming your way because blogfests are awesome!

First we have the most excellent Murder Scene Blogfest, on April 10th, hosted by the fabulous Anne Riley. Well, okay, I don't really know her, but anyone hosting a murder scene blogfest has got to be pretty cool at least. Also, she just interviewed Frankie, which tells me she has some great taste for awesome! Go sign up, and then comment and tell me you did, and I will most likely cave to peer pressure and sign up also, and come up with something fitting. I am in possession of an excellent murder scene already, but I can't share it without spoiling some pretty important elements in my book, so I will be required to write something new and fresh, and what with the blogging hiatus and hermitting, I'll admit that I'm feeling a bit lazy, so peer pressure is required.

And right on its heels we have the Bar Scene Blogfest on April 11th, hosted by Tara over at Secret Story. Guys, there is so much potential for bar scenes. Literally anything can happen. Let us test those boundaries together and make it a fabulous weekend of excellent reads! Full disclosure: I actually kind of hate going to the bar. The only times I ever went were under duress, and one of those times I ended up writing terrible drunken poetry while chewing on quantities of ice. Needless to say I was never the life of the party, but that doesn't mean my characters can't have at it. Some of them certainly have the personality for it, and for some inexplicable reason, most of my characters engage in heavy drinking at one point or another in their lives.  I'm not sure what that says about me, or them, but I have no little experience in writing bar scenes as a result.

Now, unfortunately neither one of these blogfests allows me to put to use any scenes from HELEN, at this time-- funny, because you'd think a book set around Helen of Troy would have plenty of murder... But beginning April 1st I will be rewriting Helen start to finish, including a large portion from Theseus's point of view, so maybe something will turn up during that process. We shall see. Otherwise I can almost certainly promise some Thor, if you aren't sick of him. I will also consider challenges and requests! (I may regret having said that.)

There you have it. Expect some musings on characterization and storytelling on Tuesday. It's a pretty excellent post, if I do say so myself, and I think you will all enjoy it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Icelandic Love

If this video doesn't make you want to go to Iceland and/or learn Icelandic then you are some kind of strange being from another planet!

I will now return to my regularly scheduled hermit-ing until Friday :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Killer Whales: As Smart As Chimpanzees?

After the blogfest Wednesday, Lugh has taken up a solid residence in my brain. Highly distracting, and definitely not conducive to a break from writing. I've caved, and I'm putting down some words to satisfy him for the short term, but in the meantime I'm going to take a bit of a break from blogging here for a week or so. I'll be back with something for you next Friday (and a guest post elsewhere), but I'll be skipping Tuesday's usual substantive post. Anything in the middle means that I've either overloaded on research or driven myself a bit demented. I'll let you decide.

In the meantime, I want to talk a little bit about Killer Whales today, because they've been in the news a bit, and I found a really fascinating article about Killer Whale intelligence on (Man has it been a while since I surfed their website!)

The thing of it is, we work with these amazing animals and study them, and the more we learn the more we realize that we really haven't scratched the surface. Some scientists consider Killer Whales to be on par with Chimpanzees as far as intelligence goes, and you'll see in the article words like "Culture" thrown around. This is because we can't explain by any measurable scientific evidence why three populations, without significant genetic differences, have found such startlingly different ways to live, and not just live, but pass on their method of successful living through generations. These populations have distinct dialects, and distinct lifestyles. And what other animal, with startlingly few genetic differences, exists in distinct populations with distinct dialects, passing on those distinctions to their offspring for generations?

I've said it for years, and I'll keep saying it, not because I'm a tree-hugger or some crazed environmentalist, but because of studies like these that come out every so often and don't get the attention they should. Humans are animals, and the more research we do, the more I believe that we'll find ourselves less unique within the animal kingdom. The brain of a Killer Whale is 15 lbs. They're highly social animals, capable of learning, interested in interacting, and inquisitive. They are also, taking into account the incredibly different environment in which they thrive and the lack of opposable thumbs, not all that different from us.

One of the questions the article asks is whether Killer Whales, as intelligent as they are, could be capable of intentionally killing a trainer. Obviously we have no scientific way to know this, just as we have know way of knowing if a man murdered someone purposefully or not. That the question is even being asked at all is kind of a testament to the level of intelligence exhibited by these animals. Have you ever heard someone wonder if the tiger that attacked Roy did it on purpose, to lash out at the man who had been its trainer? It isn't exactly a common refrain. In my reading, the only other animal (non-ape, mind you) that has been accorded that level of consciousness is the elephant. The idea that animals might be capable of vengeance or the purposeful intent to kill a person which whom a relationship has been built is shocking. But so is murder.

Just because we have no way to measure it, does it mean it isn't possible? Just because we have no way of communicating effectively across the species divide, does it mean that we are the only animals capable of experiencing the things that we experience? Capable of thinking the things we think?

I'm inclined to think that it just means our understanding is too limited. And that's another thing that isn't really measurable by science, but we all know it exists in varying degrees. Ego. Hubris. Pride.

Sometimes we forget that science is just a method of observing the universe, not the entirety of the universe itself.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Drunk at First Sight!

Thanks to Jon Paul for hosting this event over at Where Sky Meets Ground! Head over to his blog and check out the other participants!

I just wrote this scene new, because my other scenes didn't really seem to fit the bill, and I'm not totally happy with how this one came out either, but at least it involves St. Patrick's Day and a bar and alcohol and relationships! I wish I'd had the space to get Adam a bit drunker, all the same.

Adam should have known better than to go to the bar on today of all days. St. Patrick's Day. He elbowed his way through the men and women packed in the pub to the bar and when shouting didn't work, placed his order directly into the bartender's mind instead. It was only cheating a little bit, and it wasn't as if Eve were around to notice, nor would the man himself know the difference in the uproar.

He clenched his teeth and tried to keep his hands from balling into fists. The last thing he needed was a temptation to start throwing punches. Getting himself knocked out would hardly be anything Eve could miss, even from America, and God forbid she be half-balanced on a ladder in that thrice-damned shop of her parents if he lost consciousness and hers went with it. Thor would have a field day punishing him for the resultant injuries.

A glass of whiskey slid down the smooth wood into his hand, and he dropped several large bills onto the bar, tapping the counter with an implicit "keep them coming" gesture, before knocking back the alcohol. He hadn't had nearly enough to drink on the plane, and St. Patrick's day or not, he was determined to get himself plastered enough that he wouldn't care that the woman he took to bed with him wasn't Eve. At least there would be a wide selection to choose from.

He grimaced at the burn in the back of his throat. St. Patrick's day always meant cheaper liquor. Everyone was too drunk to notice the difference, and bars made a killing by taking advantage of it.

The money disappeared from the counter and a bottle replaced it with a dull thunk. The bartender had bright red hair, and narrow green eyes. Adam glared at him when he smirked. "You'll like that one," the man said. "Hardest I've got, and well worth the money spent."

Irish, by the sound of him, or else pretending to be to capitalize on his tips. If he was pretending, he did a damn good job of it. Adam filled his glass and drank it down. The burn was much more pleasant, smooth and clean. "Better than the swill you just served me."

The barman grinned and jerked his head to the right. "The woman there said you were a man of distinguished taste and loaded with money enough to afford it."

Adam glanced over his shoulder, then turned and stared. She looked just like Eve. He checked the proof on the bottle, but he knew he hadn't had enough to drink to hallucinate. Not yet. The woman met his eyes and smiled, and all resemblance to Eve vanished in the curve of her mouth and a flash of gold in her eyes. It had to be some trick of the gods. Had they sent someone to Eve, too? Someone who resembled him just enough to make her look twice?

He poured another glass and slugged it down. The gods could keep their look-a-likes. He wasn't going to accept substitutes, or if he did, he wanted them to remind him as little of what he'd lost as possible. "Tell her thanks, but I'm not interested in any consolation prizes. She's better off going home with you."

The barman laughed. "I tell her that often enough. Sometimes she even listens, but you--" He shrugged. "You're exactly what she's been waiting for."

Adam shook his head. "She'll get sick of waiting and crawl back in bed with you, I'm sure."

"She surely will." He grinned and refilled the glass. "But not 'til she's finished in yours."

A hand covered his, manicured nails and soft skin. Even her fingers were shaped like Eve's. He swallowed the whiskey and kept his eyes on the bottle. "You don't even realize you're a pawn, do you? We're all just amusement for some higher power, hoping to see how twisted he can make us before we break."

"We're not all so cruel, Adam," she said.

He looked up at his name, his stomach lurching at the sound of it.

Her dark hair rippled and became gold, her eyes changing from green to the amber of honey. "Some of us just want to offer what comfort we can give. And perhaps something more. Satisfaction for the pain you've suffered by godly hands."

He blinked at the golden glow that seemed to blur his vision. She was certainly beautiful, and now that she no longer held Eve's form, nothing at all like her. "Do I know your name, goddess?"

She smiled and leaned closer, her hand stroking his arm and her breath tickling against his ear. She smelled like honey, too. Or maybe like mead. Whatever it was, he wanted it, though part of him knew it was because she meant him to.

"You can call me Sif," she said.

Sif. He should know that name, but at the moment he couldn't bring it to mind. Somewhere in the distance, masked by the dull roar of the other patrons, Adam heard the barman chuckle, and then the room flooded with gold and he heard nothing more.

The barman is supposed to be Lugh, something of an Irish god who may or may not be associated with Trickery, but I didn't have the time to develop him the way I'd like to. It seemed fitting that Sif would have taken up with him though. Maybe I'll explore him and their relationship a bit more in the future. I haven't really done much with the Celtic/Irish/Welsh gods, and know very very little about any of them, but I don't feel like I can neglect them!

Anyway. A bit more serious than I had meant it to be, but there you have it. My Drunk At First Sight contribution! Have a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Instead of PG Love, I Give You VIKINGS

Maybe I am a loser for not participating, or at least a killjoy, but my vacation from writing got right in the way of this blogfest participation (because we all know I'm a wait-until-the-last-minute kind of person. Oh, or maybe we don't all know! But you do now!).

However, I'd like to point out an awesomely interesting link that I stumbled across via Aardvarchaeology. I tweeted it, but I think it definitely deserves it's own post, because it is a really cool find.

An old mass grave, previously dated wrongly as Roman has been determined to be Viking instead! I don't know if it's interesting to you, but I thought it was fascinating that this so-called raiding party was made up mostly of young men and older teens. Maybe it's romantic of me, but I always pictured Viking raiders to be a bit longer in the tooth-- older grizzled men, with years of raiding under their belts.

Of course, then we have the story of Leif Ericson, who managed to get a ship of his own in his thirties, and go out a-wandering. So maybe it isn't all that odd that the older men had established homes and lands for themselves and left the raiding to the younger and more impetuous, or a few men in their 30s got together to lead a group of younger men. That being said, Leif Ericson only seemed to live about 50 years, as did his father (Eric the Red) before him, so it isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility that twenty-something was middle aged, which would make the younger raiders much less odd. It also begs the question, how young did they start boys raiding and pillaging? I need to do more reading...

A mass grave of vikings strikes me as unusual altogether, though. Generally speaking, I was under the impression that raiding worked out, on the whole, quite positively for the vikings engaging in it. Positively enough to be a staple of the culture, at least, and if they were losing 50 men to raids with frequency, that would have thinned out their ranks, and perhaps made people less interested in going off on that kind of adventure.

If reading the Saga of the Volsungs has taught me one thing though, it is that the Viking culture of reputation, honor, and glory, is not one which I can easily wrap my mind around, and what I think is a reasonable response has nothing to do with what the Old Norse people would have said or done. So take my conjecture here only as food for thought. When I have a better understanding, perhaps I'll revisit the topic.

In the meantime, I'll be anxiously waiting to hear if these 51 vikings are related to some historic event!

And don't forget that Drunk At First Sight is coming tomorrow!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Misc. Update.

Tomorrow we're talking Vikings. Be here or be square....

here and square really don't rhyme properly, do they?

Also: What the heck, Texas? You're really going after Thomas Jefferson?!

And a very poorly scanned Thor, take two. I'm proud of the feathers. Pose stolen unashamedly from Olivier Coipel. Sorry it's so blurry.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Writing Break

I took this weekend off from writing, which is a lot easier to say than to do, I have to admit. It's been pretty refreshing though, and I'm glad I did it. Hopefully I will be able to go back to the things I'm working on with fresh eyes Monday and way fewer crazy-laptop-out-the-window feelings.

In order to keep myself from opening word documents or jotting down notes in notebooks, I decided to do some sketching. I haven't done any in about two years, and lately I've been in the mood to draw. At least it kept my hands busy and my brain off writing!

Unfortunately, I'm not a very good artist. I can only draw something if I have something to look at, preferably someone else's art, and even then I'm not all that fabulous, but at least it's recognizable. I was pretty surprised at how quickly I got my hand back.

Now, I give you the anticlimactic reveal!

Unfortunately, my scan wasn't that great either.

But there you have it! An example of what I've been doing with myself this weekend!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Books Read and Stories Written

I know you're all dying to know what I've been reading since I started keeping track for the first time ever, this year. It isn't anything all that exciting or unexpected, I think, but I promised I'd update, so I'm updating!

Terry Pratchett: Small Gods
        I wasn't in love with Small Gods, to be honest with you, and I hated that it had no chapter breaks. It made it very inconvenient to find a good place to put the book down, and I'm kind of a compulsive reader, so that was problematic for me. The story itself was good, I think it was just a slow build up, and the stuff I was REALLY interested in was all at the end, and then the book was over, so that was kind of sad. It had some awesome moments, for sure, and it was necessary for me to read it, all things considered.

Rick Riordan: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
        I loved Percy Jackson. I think my feelings on that have already been made clear.

Diana Gabaldon: A Breath of Snow and Ashes
        As for the Outlander series, the first three I could not put down. The latter three I still loved, but my interest in devouring the books waned a bit. I think because of the shift into American History. As a citizen of the United States, I really don't have a lot of interest in American history. Sometimes I feel guilty about that, but I'd rather read something about Canadian or Australian history than American, if I'm going to read something colonial, and I was fascinated by the settings of Scotland and France, earlier in the series, though my passion is really for much much earlier history. I wouldn't have even picked these books up if my sister hadn't literally forced the first book into my hands at the bookstore. She so rarely reads fiction at all that when she does get into a series, it's a better than good chance it's good. I'm definitely anxious to get my hands on the latest, but I'm going to wait for the paperback because I'm cheap.

I also Beta-ed a book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I love the dialogue of revision-work, and really any excuse to discuss good books and good characters, which Beta-ing provides!

Books 2-4 of Percy Jackson.
      I'm waiting for the fifth to come out in paperback, again, because I'm cheap. Also, I like all the books in a series to line up neatly on my bookshelf, and hardcovers do not fit well among paperbacks! I can't be the only one who feels this way?

It may seem kind of an awkward time for this, but since I'm apparently incapable of doing a monthly round-up, I figured I might as well put it out there while I'm percolating on some other more interesting blogposts for your entertainment. March  books will come to you in the next one of these posts I put together. Probably in April or May, unless I get my act together before then.

March has seen me take a break from novels and start playing with some short stories. Mostly because getting into Theseus's head, and figuring out how I want to revise Helen is driving me somewhat demented, so I needed a procrastination tool. I've also been struck by some Shiny New Ideas which are distracting me from the focus required and resulted in my spending a lot of time researching unrelated topics (Sigurd and Brynhild, Samson and Delilah) that I otherwise would have spent rewriting and editing.

Part of my problem with Helen, I think, is that I'm lacking that critical first response to the book. I like to get a feel for the interests, and know if I'm boring people. Usually, as I'm writing, I send chapter by completed chapter off to my loyal fan club president, but since it was NaNoWriMo, and he was participating, it didn't seem fair, and then we've both been busy with other things, and I wasn't as confident in the writing as I usually am, especially toward the end of this book. I should really take my own advice and start writing it all again from scratch without looking at what I already have, but this is easier to do when I don't have the full document staring me in the face on my hard drive.

Be on the look out for posts on these hot topics in the near future, if not here, elsewhere:
  • Samson and Delilah: Samson the Fool
  • Plutarch's Heresy (Yeah, I may be stretching the meaning of that word, but I like it.)
  • Being a Hero Sucks: Female Edition
  • Superman's Fine Emotional Control
 One of these, I'm pretty sure is going to be written and posted on GeekaChicas, and a second will be a guest post for another blog. I can promise you that I will confine my ruminations on Superman to this blog, for better or worse.

Also, I will be participating in the Drunk at First Sight blogfest coming to us in time for you all to enjoy on March 17th. It's hosted by Jon Paul at Where Sky Meets Ground. Check it out and sign up! Join the fun with your own drunken characters. At least having something to read will keep your mind off of how terrible your green beer tastes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Yeah, maybe I was less outrageous than just sly. The answers you've all been waiting for are here!

1) I spent the first two years of my college career actively trying to repel my now-husband. Needless to say, it was not love at first sight.
ABSOLUTELY TRUE. I did not make it easy for him at all. I used to go so far as to swap shifts with people so that I didn't have to work with him on weekends. I avoided him at all costs. Thankfully, he didn't give up easily!

2) Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame was a close friend of my Grandmother's.  
False. However, Rod Serling did go to high school with my grandmother! To my knowledge however, they were not friends.

3) I convinced my parents I wanted to go to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, so that when I told them I only planned to go to North Dakota, they would be so relieved they wouldn't fight with me about it. It worked.  
False. I genuinely wanted to go to college in Alaska more than anything else in the world. My father loved the idea, but my mother was NOT sold, and put her foot down. Alaska was out. So I settled for the next best thing within the continental United States.

4) I'm fluent in Spanish.
False. I wish. I was passable with it in middle school and high school. I even wrote a short story with a friend entirely in Spanish entitled Bob el Murcielago. Unfortunately, my partial fluency did not last much beyond 10th grade, and now I'm a pretty hopeless case. Here's hoping Icelandic sticks a bit better.

5) My sister is named Raphaella, after the great renaissance artist. She got teased a lot as a kid because of the Ninja Turtles.
Close call. My sister was very NEARLY named Raphaella, but my father got to the birth certificate first. Seriously.

6) When my brother invited me to have a double-wedding with him, I refused.
False. I invited my brother to have a double wedding with me, and he agreed. It was a pretty awesome time! My other brother was kind of jealous that he couldn't join us and make it a triple wedding.

7) In a past life, I was Luke Skywalker, and I blew up the Death star.
Obviously, this one was true too...

So there you have it. Now you know. I hope it wasn't too much of a disappointment. :)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

An Award of Untruths

I had hoped that I'd be able to escape the "Creative Writer" Award, as it did its rounds, but VR Barkowski must have known that I was trying to keep my head down, and passed it along! According to VR's blog, I am now forced to tell you six outrageous lies and at least one outrageous truth. I feel rather unequel to this task, I have to admit, and I'm not sure where to begin-- but maybe that's the point! Sometimes we all need to stretch ourselves to meet the challenge of writing something we're not sure we can, and I'd like to thank VR for giving me this challenge!

Now, let me think...

1) I spent the first two years of my college career actively trying to repel my now-husband. Needless to say, it was not love at first sight.

2) Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame was a close friend of my Grandmother's.

3) I convinced my parents I wanted to go to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, so that when I told them I only planned to go to North Dakota, they would be so relieved they wouldn't fight with me about it. It worked.

4) I'm fluent in Spanish.

5) My sister is named Raphaella, after the great renaissance artist. She got teased a lot as a kid because of the Ninja Turtles.

6) When my brother invited me to have a double-wedding with him, I refused.

7) In a past life, I was Luke Skywalker, and I blew up the Death star.

(Yeah, okay, so I got a little bit carried away there at the end.)

Feel free to guess away! I'll let you know the facts tomorrow!

And I'd like to pass this award on to my friend SQRT(D) at Dmitri Demidov's MEAL who will no doubt have some way more entertaining items on his list than I had on mine.

Also, to TrishaleighKC over at A Novel History, because her last blog post ASKED for it :)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Concerning Brynhild

Disclaimer: This is long. It's also filled with spoilers--though the idea of spoilers being an issue when it comes to a manuscript this old is kind of moot, if you ask me. I find it fascinating, and I hope you will too!

The Saga of the Volsungs is a tragedy. There are no happy endings, no joyful reunions with loved ones left behind. Sigurd does not follow the path of the traditional hero, going out into the world to find his place in it and returning home triumphant with a magical bride to share everything he has learned. But he does meet Brynhild, who if not a Valkyrie, is at least a warrior woman, with an astounding foresight and great wisdom. On their first meeting, Brynhild passes this wisdom on to Sigurd without hesitation. She shares not just her common sense, but also everything she knows about runes and magic.

Specifically, Brynhild tells Sigurd:
Ale runes shall you know
If you desire no other's wife
To deceive you in troth, if you trust.
They shall be cut on the horn
And on the hand's back
And mark the need rune on your nail.

For the cup shall you make a sign
And be wary of misfortune
And throw leek into the liquor,
Then, I know that,
you will never get
A potion blended with poison.

Not much later, Sigurd begs Brynhild to tell him more of her wisdom, and she says this:
Beware of ill dealings, both of a maid's love and a man's wife; ill often arises from these.
And do not swear a false oath, because hard vengeance follows the breaking of truce.
and then:
Beware of the wiles of friends. I see only a little of your future life, yet it would be better if the hate of your in-laws did not descend upon you.
Sigurd professes his admiration of Brynhild's wisdom, and we are left with the impression that he takes her words to heart, treasuring them along with the apparent love he holds for her after this first meeting. Brynhild accepts Sigurd's praise, and admiration, but she warns him that they are not meant to marry or live together. Still, Sigurd insists, and Brynhild is persuaded. They exchange vows with one another, privately, and then part. 

In these three pages, Brynhild has both warned Sigurd of how he will be betrayed and given him the information he needs in order to prevent his downfall. Everything that happens to him after this point might have been avoided, had he used the "magic" Brynhild gave him, and kept her words of warning and wisdom in mind. Had he used the runes, Queen Grimhild could not have used the ale of forgetfulness on Sigurd, which caused him to forget his love for Brynhild. Had he been cautious of other women, and the "wiles of friends" he would not have trusted her to drink from the cup she gave him, and never would have married Gudrun, or helped Gunnar, his brother-in-law, win Brynhild's hand in marriage.

This isn't the only time in the Saga when a woman presents a warning to her loved ones and is ignored. It begins with Volsung's daughter, Signy, when she is made to marry King Siggeir, only much more explicitly. First she warns her father that the union will cause problems, and then she warns her father and brothers when Siggeir plans to betray and kill them. Both times, though they believe her, they choose not to alter the circumstances. Out of honor (pride? Hubris?) the Volsungs refuse to turn their back on a war, so that no one can call them cowardly. Nor will they break the vows exchanged to extract Signy from a marriage which is going to cause them nothing but trouble and bring about their ruin. Though Siggeir would betray them, they will not even consider dishonoring him. As a result, all the Volsungs but Signy and Sigmund, her brother, are killed. (Sigmund is Sigurd's father, but he dies in battle before his son is born.)

Regardless, Brynhild does everything in her power to prevent any other man but Sigurd from winning her hand in marriage. She uses magic to place a flame around her home and swears that she will only marry the man who is able to ride through the fire-- and Sigurd, being so much greater than any other man of the times, is the only man who can accomplish this feat. But by this time, Sigurd is already under the power of the Ale of Forgetfulness, and instead of finding Brynhild for himself, he uses magic to take on his brother-in-law Gunnar's form, and wins Brynhild for him instead. Brynhild, bound by her oath, has no choice but to marry Gunnar, not realizing that it was Sigurd who had ridden through the flames with Gunnar's appearance and using Gunnar's name.

Being sister-in-law to Sigurd, is bad enough, but when his wife, Gudrun tells her that it was Sigurd who rode through the flames, Brynhild is deeply upset. The Saga describes what may as well have been a deep depression, and Brynhild borders on a catatonic state from the shock and emotional upheaval at having been so betrayed by Sigurd, Ale of Forgetfulness or not. What Sigurd had done was not only force Brynhild to break her own oath (to marry the man who rode through the flames, which was in fact Sigurd) but also her vow to Sigurd himself. In essence, she had very really married him twice, only to wake up in bed with another man. An unforgivable bait and switch.

It's at this point that I have a hard time understanding Brynhild's responses and actions. Sigurd, at Gunnar's request, goes to speak with Brynhild. He confesses his part in things, and tells her about the Ale, the influence of which he was only freed from after she married Gunnar. He also tells her that he loves her, but they're both married, and Brynhild seems to have lost her faith in Sigurd after his deceit. Though he offers to forsake Gudrun to be with her, Brynhild refuses, saying she will not have two husbands. But she already does, and the only honorable way for any of it to end is for either Sigurd, Gunnar, or Brynhild to die. To this end, Brynhild repays Sigurd's deceit by provoking Gunnar, telling him if he wants to keep her, Sigurd has to die. Gunnar, though he swore on his own blood to aid and protect Sigurd, persuades his youngest brother who is bound by no such vow, to kill Sigurd for him.

Somehow, all of this has to do with Brynhild's honor, and Sigurd's deceit, but if she loves Sigurd so much that she doesn't even want to live without him one minute, why is she trying to orchestrate his death the next? And refusing to allow Sigurd to divorce Gudrun and marry her instead? All I can think, is that this is one giant tale of the tragedy which accompanies Hubris. Brynhild is so proud, she would rather die herself, and see the love of her life dead too, than be dishonored or find herself deceived into breaking her own vows.

Like I said, The Saga of the Volsungs is a tragedy. There are no happy endings. Sigurd doesn't follow Brynhild's advice, and Brynhild is too proud to forgive him for what happened because of it. But trust is a delicate thing, and once lost, sometimes it's impossible to reclaim. I'm not sure I blame Brynhild for mistrusting Sigurd after he tricked her into marrying Gunnar, but I definitely don't understand the tragedy that follows. After all that, Brynhild still chooses to die with Sigurd, and has her own body burned in Sigurd's funeral pyre, so that she can guide him into the afterlife--undefined as their destination is.

Then again, if the point of living is for fame and reputation, Brynhild and Sigurd certainly managed quite a bit of that. The Saga itself makes the claim that it will be known far and wide for all time, and as true as it was when it was written, it is just as true now. I suppose their needless deaths served at least that much purpose--giving them each a taste of immortality.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Notes from the Waiting Room

It seems my writer's process has become something like this:

1) Do massive amounts of reading on subject.
2) When I say massive, I mean to the point of information overload.
3) Dump information overload via blogposts, conveniently sharing all the cool stuff with my loyal readership while organizing my thoughts!
4) Digest newly organized thoughts for somewhere between 15 minutes and 24 hours.
5) Obey compulsion to write the STORY which rises to the top.

For all of you who enjoy my doctor's visit brainstorming, this last trip involved a conversation with a very smug Thor over the nuances of honor in Norse society and the fate of Brynhild and Sigurd. (During which, Thor may or may not have sat down on a child's knee-high stool which was shaped like a tooth, and I may or may not have laughed out loud at the image and caused people to stare.)

Expect a very informative post on Brynhild tomorrow! (actually, sometime around 2am tonight, but... it's the same difference!)

I've gotta stop with the parentheticals. I just can't help myself, sometimes.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Sweetest Giveaway I've EVER Seen!

If you're a total geek like me (and Stephanie, from whom I learned of this awesomeness), then you too will be stoked to learn that you can win a copy of Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran, along with (and this is why it Rocks my Socks) A GENUINE AND AUTHENTIC ROMAN COIN!

Guys, Go to Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog and check it out. Or don't! Less competition for me! :)

I'm keeping my fingers crossed-- but if fate must choose only one prize for me, then I hope it skips over me for the Roman-coin-and-book and gives me an agent instead. The Query Wars are in full swing!

Go! Go! Go!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Being a Hero SUCKS

It seems that no matter what mythology we find them in, being a hero is the crappiest of all lives to live. Maybe if you're a demigod and particularly lucky, you'll end up not entirely dead, but for the most part being a hero means one thing: years and years of struggle, conflict, and death defying acts of courage to be repaid with some kind of betrayal and a really pathetic and ignoble death.

Three Case Studies:

Son of Poseidon and King of Athens, Theseus fights his way through monsters as a young man when his trip to Athens takes him by the six entrances to the Underworld. Once in Athens and recognized by his other father, he defeats the minotaur, freeing his people from paying tribute, in lives, to Crete. He takes the amazon queen for his wife (he kind of has a history of womanizing). He battles centaurs. He travels with Pirithous to the underworld and comes back again! When he gets back he goes into retirement. Why not, right? He's had a long and busy life, and after a trip to the underworld, he probably isn't interested in continuing to push his luck. He makes arrangements with a King friend of his to move back to the country island lands of his ancestors. When he gets there, he's either betrayed and pushed off a cliff, or, worse, he slips and falls on his own. To his death.

Lame Factor: 4 (out of five) if he was pushed. 5 if he fell. But 3 if someone can find me proof or hearsay that Poseidon rescued his immortal self and turned him into a god.

Son of Zeus and most popular Hero of the ancient world. Tortured by Hera, pretty much from birth. Took on and overcame his 12 labors, during which he killed or captured a bunch of monsters, pretty much just for the entertainment of a king who wanted to see him dead, and as a penance for being driven mad by Hera and killing his own children. (Seriously. Hera induces madness, Heracles kills his children without realizing what he's doing, then he gets punished because Hera screwed with him. As if losing his kids isn't punishment enough. Nice.) Sailed with the Argonauts for the Golden Fleece. He saved Prometheus, and liberated Theseus from the Underworld, and helped Tyndareus (Helen's non-godly father) reclaim Sparta, and... well, I could go on. Suffice it to say, Heracles was the hero of heroes and there wasn't a lot he didn't do. (Also, kind of a womanizer, uh, and manizer?) His third wife got a little upset about it and in revenge, poisoned his shirt. Yes. His Shirt. When he put it on, taking it off ripped the flesh from his bones, or somesuch. Heracles had a pyre built for himself and burned to death. Because he was special, only the mortal parts of him burned away and he became fully immortal and joined the gods on Olympus. (Where he of course took a new wife. Some things never change.)

Lame Factor: 3 because I can't get over the poisoned shirt. I mean, come on.

According to the Saga of the Volsungs, Sigurd is descended from a line of men fathered by Odin. The Volsungs were all pretty incredible, but Sigurd was the greatest of them. His father died before his birth, in battle and as a young man, Sigurd avenged his father's death by killing all the sons of King Hunding, and pretty much slaughtering their entire army. Back home, he also slaughtered Fafnir the dragon (admittedly with a little advice from Odin) and became easily the richest and most powerful king alive. Sigurd was loved by everyone and said to be the "foremost in strength and accomplishments, in zeal and valor." He fell in love with Brynhild, but was tricked into marrying a different woman, and helping his brother-in-law win Brynhild for himself. It wasn't until after Brynhild had been married to his brother-in-law that Sigurd realized what had happened. When his brother-in-law realized Sigurd and Brynhild were in love with one another (though neither one of them betrayed their marriage vows) he betrayed Sigurd and had him attacked and killed in his sleep.

Lame Factor: 5. Betrayed AND attacked while defenselessly sleeping? At least Heracles was awake and chose the pyre. And at least Theseus was on his feet. Sigurd got a raw deal.

You'll notice that in our re-imagination of these heroes in the pages of comic books, while we may torture our mythical heroes a bit, they usually don't end up with super lame deaths. They go down fighting, or defending the world somehow, usually. When we let them die at all. And most of the time, we resurrect them again. (Though, one could argue that might be an even worse fate-- every time they get some peace in death, they end up brought back to face more hardship and continue the fight. Buffy is a good example of this, and she does not handle it well.)

I feel pretty sorry for them.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Misc. Moment

I'm super excited about tomorrow's blogpost, so make sure you check back here to see my take on why being a Hero is not all it's cracked up to be! I'm so excited I'm posting it at 1am. Technically tomorrow, but also kind of still today.

In the meantime, check out my spoiler free review of the Percy Jackson movie, a bit more in depth than my one paragraph blurb from the other day. I don't usually DO movie reviews, so let me know how you liked it, or what you thought was lacking so next time I can cater to the whims of the public. Or, uhm, improve myself?

Thanks to everyone who has found me on Twitter! I'm really enjoying the dynamics and discussions going on in that arena. Nothing makes my day like some good conversation about mythology and ancient history, and having easy access to a community of writers all going through the same processes in real time is amazing.