Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Notes from the writer-cave: Math Never Goes Away.

I've been working on a novella since the 15th or so, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else in my life in the hopes of finishing before the 31st. It's set in the 15th century (if you couldn't tell from the blogpost about the terrible fashion of that time) and I've been doing a lot of research. Research that sounds suspiciously like word problems for someone's math class.

I never knew I'd need to know how to do volume conversions to be a writer. All those days I spent in class doodling, (hey, whatever, I wasn't even BAD at math, I just didn't love it, okay? I was an A++ student... when I did my homework...), and repeating over and over to myself "I'd rather be writing" I never dreamed EVER that I would be sitting here tonight trying to figure out how many fleas per cubic millimeter, and how many in a cubic centimeter, and if there are 15,000 fleas, how many cubic centimeters would they take up swarmed all together? Also: if there are 3-6 fleas per rat, how many fleas on 2500 rats?

All of this after trying to determine how many rats per household in a village of maybe 1000 people in the 15th century...

I'm going to pull all my hair out before I'm done, and I'll tell you right now, the next time I think including rats and fleas in a story is a good idea, I'm going to slap myself across the face and tell my brain to try again with something less insane.

Of course, now that I know the size of a flea and the average of fleas per rat, it'll be a lot easier to figure all this stuff out on a second round.

And this is today's lesson for all you aspiring writers out there -- if any of you are reading my blog, anyway -- make sure you pay attention in math class. It's definitely going to come back to haunt you at some point or another. In the strangest most aggravating ways, if you're lucky.

Friday, January 25, 2013

15th Century Fashion was kind of awful

A post of illustrated evidence, because really, I'm not sure the 15th century was a good look for anyone. Here are a few examples of why:
From Wiki Commons and it has ANNOTATIONS! GO LOOK!
The woman in red is the queen consort of France, I guess, Queen Isabeau, who I am told is, herself, Bavarian. The sleeves are pretty wicked but seriously the rest. I may be put off in part by the shaved gleaming white pasty forehead look and the crazy horned headdresses also, if I am being honest here. But I do kind of love the patterning on the red fabric so. There's that? I would so trip over those skirts all the time, guys. all the time. And speaking of tripping over things...

Another of the Queen (from wiki commons, natch). Talk about fancypants. How did they keep dresses like that clean? I mean really. I had a train on my wedding dress, and my white skirt was scuffed and dirty within 40 minutes of putting it on, even though I tried to keep it draped over my arm for 30 of those minutes. I'm just saying. Impossible.

So maybe not everyone was as crazy as the French, hm? Maybe there were better looks! BEHOLD THE SPANISH!

(from wiki commons)

These dudes, dudes. Those robe-like things! But I have to admit, that woman in the background with the black and blue and white dress is pretty sharp-looking, and if I had to pick one of those dresses to look kind of pregnant in (because seriously they all look like they are a little bit pregnant), it would be that one.

And only that one.

Lest you believe the lower classes had any kind of better deal in fashion, let me just give you a glimpse of what every man was wearing under those super long and ornate robes.

wiki commons

And now you know.

(Yes, I am researching the early 15th century. again. There are days I curse myself for including this particular period in the history of my novels. Thank goodness my character can defy convention and skip the headdresses of doom.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Arrow-Odd's Odder Religion (Seven Viking Romances)

About twenty pages from the end of this first Viking Romance (Seven Viking Romances, Hermann Pálsson, Penguin, 1985) Odd exchanges some poetry with a priestess of Frey, that goes like this*:

Priestess: Whose the leader of this monstrous army?!
Odd: Me! and I burned all your temples, destroyed your idols, and couldn't care less!
Priestess: Frey will smite you, and so will the other gods, who will support me, their priestess!
Odd: I'm not afraid of you or your gods! God is my God!
"Who fostered you
to be such a fool,
as not to offer
sacrifice to Odin?"
Odd: Ingjald, what of it? I was totally ungrateful and rude to him, too.**
Priestess: WOE! my husband is dead!
Odd: And I killed him! HA!
Priestess: Who helped you, you monster?!
Odd: Just my wicked sweet magic arrows from this random mysterious guy I was drawn to sup with, AND, I never worshipped YOUR worthless gods! because they're worthless!
"These gutless gods
ran like scared goats
before a wolf
wherever I worried them.
Odin's bad
as a bosom friend:
so we'll do away
with devil-worship."
Priestess: WOE! *flees to hide in a temple*
Odd: Ha HA!

Odd then proceeds to be nervous about entering said temple, and ends up killing the priestess by throwing a giant boulder through the skylight, so he doesn't have to go in after her, in spite of the fact that he just proclaimed her gods totally made of lame.

But earlier in this story, a number of things take place which kind of makes all this anti-Odin stuff a little, well, odd.

1) Odd says he doesn't really believe in or worship ANY gods, though admittedly he states explicitly that he does not worship Odin.
2) Odd confesses that among the Christians, after his baptism (which he only agreed to upon the condition that he could keep on killing all the peoples in this matter-of-fact, I-guess-I-will-get-baptized-since-you-people-will-not-leave-me-alone moment that inspires no one), that he's "never been so bored in my life." And he SNEAKS AWAY to go back to his raiding, murdering, ungrateful ways.
3) One of his blood-brothers, "Red-Beard" is theorized in the story to be Odin, Himself, who gives Odd all kinds of help and good advice, and is repeatedly praised for giving good advice.
5) After his baptism, Odd proceeds to go on for 40 pages without the slightest reference to Christianity or his supposed faith and trust in God.
6) This Norse-God loving priestess appears to have lived in Antioch, and Odd? he was fighting for Greece.

On this basis, I am going to call shenanigans on this insertion of religion into the story, and the whole "devil-worship" bit. Odd is easily the LEAST Christian person in the history of men baptized for convenience. Now, Odd's story does get recorded late -- the end of the 13th century or so. But reading this, I have a really hard time believing Odd's story didn't originate much earlier, with the Christian bits as an overlay, added at the time it was written down. Why else is Odd hanging around with Odin and going to Giantland where he's making babies with Giant-Ladies, even though he only comes up to their hip in height?

That said, I don't know what the scholarly consensus is, regarding these stories, so, maybe I'm way off base with my thoughts. Maybe Odd really is just a really bad Christian in a time of really bad Christians.

But I still say he is REALLY weird.

*forgive my paraphrasing
**this second part is my own addition

Friday, January 18, 2013

Liebster Award!

Cait nominated me for the Liebster Award and I am taking advantage of the filler content while I write up a gazillion blog posts for my upcoming blogTOUR for Forged by Fate! You should also know that Cait is supremely talented and awesome, so do, please, go check out her blog if you are not already following her!

Liebster works like this:

1. 11 random facts about me.

2. 11 questions answered for the person who nominated me.

3. I nominate 11 picks for the award, and make up another 11 questions for them to answer.

4. Nominated peoples will be listed below with their 11 questions of DOOM.

5. Nominated people do the same; paste the award badge to your blog, give us 11 random facts about yourself, answer my 11 questions, and choose your nominees…but you cannot nominate the blog who nominated you.
okay, Random Facts:
1) I wish I could skip the random facts and jump straight into the questions. (this fact might be a cheat)

2) Sometimes, making choices when given too many options really overwhelms me. I have a hard time choosing books in the bookstore for this reason, but also I have a terrible time picking what movie we should watch from the DVDs we own, or the Netflix queue.

3) Usually this results in my going for an old favorite. It's just the easier choice. I know I'll love it already, so there's no room for disappointment.

4) I hate glitter and I run a glitter free household. When cards come in the mail with glitter on them, I make el husband open them and then dispose of them. I do not handle anything that has glitter on it if I can help it, because inevitably, said glitter ends up on my face. I saw a GLITTER PUZZLE at the store yesterday and shuddered. (Why would anyone want that?! Why?!)

5) I love the scent of Geranium. It just smells so CLEAN in this really natural way.

6) I cannot stand the scent of Vanilla handsoap if it is in a bathroom. I prefer lemon or pretty much anything that isn't vanilla. Outside of the bathroom, vanilla handsoap is fine.

7) I have always dreamed of living in the house I am living in today, and being a writer. Now, I am.

8) I nearly had a chunk of my thigh bitten off by someone's pet tiger. The only reason it didn't was because I was too stupid to flinch.

9) After it licked my hand and almost bit me, I realized I was REALLY allergic to tigers -- my eyes would NOT stop itching.

10) And so died my ambitions to be a tiger keeper in a zoo. well. Okay, that didn't actually kill my ambitions. It was just another nail in the coffin when the time came. The thing that really killed it was the idea that I would have to take ALL science classes for three years to get my degree in wildlife biology, and I realized, you know, I just do not love science that much. Also, some of those classes involved doing animal skins, and I *really* did not love science enough for that.

11) When I moved to North Dakota, I hated how friendly people were. Like a good New Yorker, I avoided eye-contact and kept my head down. I hated that I could not go anywhere without people I knew saying hi and asking how I was and stopping me to chat. Like the random guy in Target whose name I didn't even know, for whom I made copies once a week or so for his club, and was all "I was wondering what had happened! I hadn't seen you at the desk in weeks! What's going on with you? Where have you been?!" To whom I answered "um, I graduated and got married?" I believe he hugged me in congratulations and enthusiasm with some extra nice things said and I walked away a little bit confused and shell-shocked, but feeling really, really, special. Now that I am back on the east coast, I kind of miss it sometimes. Strangers do not make you feel special on the east coast, normally.

1) What category/genre do you write, and why?
      Adult Fantasy/Historical Fantasy/Historical Fiction/Romance. Why? Because I love mythology. And mythology involves three things: Love -- even if it is crazy obsessed love with no consideration for the other person; History -- it wouldn't be mythology if it happened today, it would just be religion; and Gods -- which sadly means, sometimes, that your work gets put in the fantasy folder, whether it really should be there or not. Forged by Fate belongs on the fantasy shelf. But. In my humble opinion, my manuscript, Helen of Sparta (which has yet to find a home) does not. Both have gods and myths.

2) What category/genre do you wish you wrote, but just doesn't speak to you?
     Science Fiction, I guess. And sometimes I think that my writer-life would be easier if I wrote YA. But I don't really feel like I wish I wrote it. I'm totally satisfied with being a writer of adult works! And I like that I don't have to really worry about "is this okay for teens?" when I'm writing. 

3) Tattoos/piercings/hair dye?
     I used to have my ears pierced but they closed up a while ago. I just can't be bothered with keeping earrings in them. I dyed my hair a couple of times in college, but only because it was part of the social grooming of living in an all girls residence hall, and someone else was willing to do the work for me. I would LIKE to do a couple of streaks of blue in my hair one day. Maybe to celebrate my book release in March :)

4) Big 5, Indie, or Self? And why?
     I am currently going Indie/Small Press, because Forged by Fate and the rest of the Fate of the Gods trilogy definitely belongs at one. But I hope and dream that Orc Romance and Helen and maybe even Pirithous will go Big 5 -- Why? Because it will mean that more people will be able to read the books. It will mean that they might one day be on a shelf in those holy grails of TARGET and WAL-MART, where EVERYONE has the opportunity to impulse buy them. And of course if one of those books gets to that point, it will mean more sales of Forged by Fate as people look up my other work! But I am very happy with World Weaver Press as a publisher, and the personal attention they give my books! And I am very happy with the distribution WWP can provide. Frankly, the whole experience has been painless, and I'm absolutely positive it would not have been so, for these books, at a larger press.

5) What's your weirdest/most interesting talent?
     I make bathmats from those potholder kits with the loops? I don't know. I've got nothing. I don't have interesting talents outside of writing, really. I guess I am pretty good at making photocopies? That was my job in college. I am NOT good at selling appliances. Yeah. I've got nothing.

6) Dog or Cat?
     Both! I have a cat now (who is easily the most ungraceful and silliest cat ever), and had one growing up (she was much more poised), but I *love* dogs too, and I'm looking forward to getting one in the spring! Yesterday I was sorely tempted to impulse buy a ball python, though, also. For the record. And I still really want goats.

7) What inspires you to write?
     Um. I don't know. A particular song that speaks to me, a really good movie, a really fascinating story. A really interesting relationship between two historical or semi-historical characters. A phrase. There's this one thing I saw someone tweet a while back, a Latin saying, and I opened the tweet in it's own tab and have been keeping it open since, because man, there is a book in those five words.

8) What is your favorite character you've written?
     That's a really hard question. I love Thor and I love Theseus and I love Pirithous and Thjalfi and Ullr. I love my heroes the most, I guess. So that narrows it down. But choosing between those three... I guess I will have to go with Thor. I do love Thor a lot, and he's stuck with me since I wrote him. Since before I wrote him. He never goes away, and I like that too.

9) What is your favorite character you didn't write?
     From someone else's books, you mean? The answer to this might still be Thor, but let me think for a minute. Oh! Han Solo. Yes. I am going with Han Solo. And then maybe Aral Vorkosigan. And then maybe Lars Dahl.

10) If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
     I would like to try Iceland! 

11) What is your favorite book of all time?
     Gah. Of all time?! Uhhh. I reread Shards of Honor at least once a year, but I also love, love, love Giants of the Frost, by Kim Wilkins. It might be my *new* favorite book. Only time will tell, I suppose! Dudes, I do not know the answer to this question. Maybe it is the Crystal Singer Trilogy, for that matter! or Moreta! STOP MAKING ME CHOOSE THINGS.
okay, I am so glad that is over. Let's see. Now I have to come up with 11 questions. Hmmmm.

1) What do you LOVE? (Not a person, but a thing)
2) What do you HATE? (again, not a person -- this could be a pet peeve of grammar or glitter or whatever)
3) Favorite Author?
4) What's your favorite period in history? why?
5) What's your favorite Myth (or fairy tale)? why? 
6) Or, if you have not read enough of mythology/fairy tales to have a favorite, what's your favorite god/goddess in mythology?
7) Which character of your own would you most like to have show up on your doorstep? 
8) For Friendship or Romance? Why?
9) Which character of someone else's would you most like to have show up on your doorstep?
10) For Friendship or Romance? Why?
11) What book have you read the most? Or if you don't reread books, what book do you most remember the experience of reading?

My Nominees:

Frankie Diane Mallis (because you are blogging every day in January and you are bound to need some filler!)
Stephanie Thornton Author of The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora (I um. I'm sorry. I won't feel bad if you ignore this! But, I'm sure your answers would be interesting!)
Diana Paz Author of Timespell! (heart!)
Zachary Tringali (build that platform!)
L.T. Host (because I want to read your answers too!)
Mr. Radon (you blog a lot!)
Valerie Valdes (because you all should read her work, and again, interesting answers!)
Kristina Wojtaszek Author of Opal! (because interesting answers, a third time!)
Trisha Leigh Author of The Last Year series! (tell me EVERYTHING!)

Yeah, okay, I am done now. I am definitely not picking 11 people. that is a LOT of people. But. You all who are not these people should be looking these people up and checking out their work and following their blogs so go! go now!

(guys. guys! we are AUTHORS now!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fairy Tale vs Myth vs Legend vs Fable: With Kristina Wojtaszek, author of OPAL

Amazon, B&N
Myth, legend, fable, fairy tale -- where are they similar and where do they diverge? Kristina Wojtaszek, author of OPAL, is kind of the Fairy Tale equivalent to my Mythology love, over at World Weaver Press, and we thought it would be fun, and productive, to get together and talk about our two, very related fields. So of course we started at the beginning!

Amalia: I'd like to ask, do you think fairy tales/fables and myths serve kind of the same role in society? Where do they diverge? or don't they? 

Kristina: Myths, to my mind, are set in specific cultures, even specific locations (whether real or imagined), and the characters that inhabit them are all named specifically and accomplish specific tasks.  Fairy tales come from the foggy lands of glass mountains and dark woods that have no specific place on a map, or even a name usually.  They occur at figurative places in time, not imbedded in any certain culture or era, and even their characters are often unnamed.  "Long ago there was an old woman..."  The Greek Homer who traveled to such and such islands in the year blah (you're going to have to help me out with the details here!  Maybe that's why I do better in the fluffy, abstract world of fairy tales-- there are no dates, locations or even many names to remember.  [...])  That's why I get easily hooked on fairy tales; they're timeless.  Yeah, I know, spindles and glass slippers may not be all the rage in the 21st century, but falling in love, death (or eternal sleep), a woman's suppression in marriage, a mother's love and devotion, and all things magical... life after death, bravery, speaking bones that betray truth.  Oh, the possibilities of retelling those old tales are just endless!  I could totally see someone writing a modern murder mystery based on the old Grimm's The Singing Bone, for example.

Now myth and legend-- those babies are what made society, what bound a specific grouping of people together in a certain locale.  Those are the stories of how the world came to be, the embryos of culture.  They are far from nebulous, born like pearls around some tiny grain of truth, and worked over and shined through the centuries.  They have names, faces, places and dates.  They are hidden beneath thumb tacks on a map, in someone's head anyway.  And they serve to make the norms of a culture more alive and valued.  Vikings, for example-- I can't imagine a viking myth that didn't involve some aspect of fighting.  That was the life they were born and bred to, and it's only natural their tall tales should be armored with the same weapons of war.

Fables, as I've always understood, are lessons, or tips, serving guidance in short, quick-witted tales that make one nod.  Fairy tales also serve as lessons (hey little girl, don't go wandering in the woods all alone, there are wolves and uncivilized men out there...) but fables are more about preserving idioms to ward against idiots!  If you beat your donkey, one day he's going to kick back.  Don't flash your valuables in the face of others, like the tree who retains its pretty leaves all year, or you might get hit with a heavy snow storm that breaks your branches, while the naked trees survive just fine, and then how will you feel?  Things like that.  They are like the older versions of our mild sayings today, like "a watched pot never boils," only so much more creative and visual, with a bit more story to flesh them out.

Amalia: What you're saying about fables is really interesting, especially so close to what you're talking about with the Norse myths -- in the Havamal (from the Poetic or Elder Edda), there is a very, very long tract of common-sense words-of-wisdom from Odin that sound very fable-esque by your definition. I've talked about them a bit on my blog here and another grouping appears in the Saga of the Volsungs, spoken by Brynhild, giving advice to Sigurd, which I talk a little bit about here (and more on Brynhild and some of her wisdom in the first part of this post). Odin lands on the "A fool and his money are soon parted" side of the spectrum, for sure -- those little one liners that stick in your head. In this sense, I think the Edda is serving the role of both established text of mythology, and also that of the Fable, by your definition. But then again, the more I read of the sagas, the more I think they also serve a kind of fairy-tale role -- and where the sagas themselves fall, under myth, legend, or fairy tale, is something I think is up for debate.

I think that mythology serves a dual purpose though -- especially among the Greeks -- of cautionary tales. Over and over again you see this repetition of a mortal becoming too proud, and then being punished for his or her hubris. There's the story of Arachne, who boasts about her weaving, offends Athena and is turned into a spider. We see it also with Tantalus, who thinks himself so above his place that he dares to trick the gods by serving his own son for dinner, and when the gods see through it, he's punished by being put into a pool of water that recedes when he tries to drink, and surrounded by trees, the fruit and branches of which are always just out of reach. Narcissus who is so proud of his beauty, who because of Nemesis falls in love with his own reflection. Maybe the examples are more concrete in person and place and setting, but I think in part that's due to preservation of the source material more than anything else. You also see "punishments" for deviant women. Europa wandering off and being whisked away by the bull, Ariadne betrays her family to help Theseus and winds up abandoned by him on an island to die. The Amazon queens who are constantly being raped and carried off by heroes (and those names get awfully confused awfully fast).

Where do you feel Opal falls? Is it a story you can see having been told at the hearth by the old grandmother as a warning or just for sheer entertainment or to explain how something came to be? 

Kristina: Although Opal is a retelling of Snow White, a well known fairy tale, I fleshed the story out so that it takes place in a specific world of men and Fae with very specific characters.  So what's interesting is that the story of Opal actually becomes myth in the sequel I am working on!  In Obsidian, the events of Opal are now history, and those events and characters have lost quite a few details over the years, details that have been artfully replaced.  So, in Obsidian, Opal is a form of mythology where the men and Fae of long ago have been turned into gods and goddesses that are worshiped by a changed population.  And yet, Obsidian will also be a fairy tale retelling (not of Snow White again, but of another classic tale that I will let the readers figure out on their own).

What I've played around with is the idea that there is a grain of truth in every "lie," or story.  And this, I think, is true for fables, folklore, fairy tales and mythology alike.

Whether you prefer fairy tales or mythology, fables or legends, Opal just might be the book you're looking for!

White as snow, stained with blood, her talons black as ebony… In this retwisting of the classic Snow White tale, the daughter of an owl is forced into human shape by a wizard who’s come to guide her from her wintry tundra home down to the colorful world of men and Fae, and the father she’s never known. She struggles with her human shape and grieves for her dead mother — a mother whose past she must unravel if men and Fae are to live peacefully together.

Trapped in a Fae-made spell, Androw waits for the one who can free him. A boy raised to be king, he sought refuge from his abusive father in the Fae tales his mother spun. When it was too much to bear, he ran away, dragging his anger and guilt with him, pursuing shadowy trails deep within the Dark Woods of the Fae, seeking the truth in tales, and salvation in the eyes of a snowy hare. But many years have passed since the snowy hare turned to woman and the woman winged away on the winds of a winter storm leaving Androw prisoner behind walls of his own making — a prison that will hold him forever unless the daughter of an owl can save him.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Masquerade Bloghop AND #FridayFlash: Mortal Flesh

Fellow Mythology Fan, Meg McNulty invited me to join her bloghop -- the theme, Masks and Masquerade! 500 words or less of fiction or poetry. And on top of that, it's FRIDAY, so it seemed natural to kill two birds with one stone, and make this a #FridayFlash, though I have been anything but reliable in that department.

Of course, I couldn't resist coming up with something related to my forthcoming book FORGED BY FATE. Call it bonus content, as this scene happens off page in my novel -- and I promise you, the players are much more than what they seem.

May I introduce to you, Assurbanipal? In all his glory.

Mortal Flesh
By Amalia Dillin
from wiki commons

Assurbanipal, King of the Universe, and High Priest of Assyria. He wore the role like a mask, ill-fitting and uncomfortable. His oldest brother had been too great a fool to be allowed to live, never mind to rule such an empire, and it had not been hard to convince the governors and vassals that he was the natural choice to replace Siniddinapli as King. But he had not thought it would chafe him so.

He bowed to the east, prostrating himself before an image of the sun god, Shemesh, the god of justice. “Guide me, Shemesh,” he said aloud, to please his vassals. “May the blessing of your light fall upon my people.”

At least it was Shemesh at the Winter Solstice, and not Adad. He had even less love for the storm god, whose lightning unnerved him more than he liked to admit. But he was a scholar, enlightened enough to know he could not place his trust in the gods. What became of his kingdom now would be the result of his own power, his own strengths, his own desires. And he desired much more than the privilege of bending his knee to such useless gods.

He made the necessary offerings and left the priests and his people behind, readjusting his robes. The embroidered fabric weighed heavily on his shoulders, just another part of the role he played, now. King of the Universe was a title he embraced, and the throne fit him well enough. The bowing and scraping of men and women before him felt natural. But the role of High Priest – he tugged at the neck of his robe, feeling the fabric choking him – no, he did not care for the role of High Priest at all. But it would not be forever, he promised himself, as he entered the library.

“Most honored master,” the slave bowed so low his forehead touched the ground. An Egyptian, useless but for his skill as a scribe. “You are expected at the Feast of Shemesh – ”

“Better to honor Shemesh by devoting myself to study and wisdom than pour more wine,” Assurbanipal said, collecting the clay tablets he required. He had demanded the contents of the library as tribute from all his vassals. Every religious text from every land ruled by Assyria, and still he had not found what he searched for. But he was close. The mention of golden apples, sweet with immortality – the gods could not keep their secrets forever. “You may go.”

“Yes, of course, most honored one.” The Egyptian bowed again and left him.

Because being only a man, a mortal king and mere high priest, that was a mask he meant to shed. One day, he would be King of the Universe in truth as well as title, and the gods…

The gods would bend their knee to him.

If you like this, definitely mark March 5 on your calendars (and add the book on Goodreads as a reminder!), because FORGED BY FATE is coming fast, and you won't want to miss it!

After Adam fell, God made Eve to protect the world. — Adam has pursued Eve since the dawn of creation, intent on using her power to create a new world and make himself its God. Throughout history, Eve has thwarted him, determined to protect the world and all of creation. Unknown to her, the Norse god Thor has been sent by the Council of Gods to keep her from Adam’s influence, and more, to protect the interests of the gods themselves. But this time, Adam is after something more than just Eve’s power — he desires her too, body and soul, even if it means the destruction of the world. Eve cannot allow it, but as one generation melds into the next, she begins to wonder if Adam might be a man she could love.

The above story is © Amalia Dillin, 2013

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Seven Viking Romances: Arrow-Odd

I'm reading Seven Viking Romances (Penguin Classics, edited by Hermann Pálsson) right now -- a fantastic Christmas Gift from my brother, who has read more of this stuff than I am likely to ever manage -- but I'll be honest with you, the first "romance" ARROW-ODD is kind of, well... Odd.

Odd himself is kind of a jerk, and not the least sympathetic. I'm not really surprised by this, because it was a different culture and a different time, and when you read the stories of Theseus and Pirithous and Heracles from the modern perspective, they're kind of jerky too. But Odd isn't just a jerk, he's pretty ungrateful and demanding, from the start. As a young man, he's gifted arrows by people (I don't know why, I wouldn't give him anything) and leaves them lying around for people to sit on and hurt themselves, and then when his foster-father takes him to task for it, he demands the man slaughter one of his goats to make him a premium-grade quiver to keep them, because, he says "I'd have thought you could only blame me if you'd given me something to keep them in," (p. 27).

Then, when that's settled (what a little punk kid!) his father invites a prophetess to give them their fortunes and tell them their fates -- but for some completely unexplained reason, Odd thinks this is a terrible idea and is furious with his foster father for doing it, even more so when the woman gives him his fortune, that he'll live 300 years before he's killed by the skull of his horse. He's so mad, in fact, that he ATTACKS HER with a stick, and bloodies her nose. (what!?)

And this is all before he ditches his foster parents (good-riddance) and starts going out and killing people, completely unprovoked, just to prove that he's "the better man." Oh. Okay, then. On one of these quests, for example, this exchange takes place (p. 59):
'[...] Shall we carry on fighting or part now, because I can tell you how our battle is bound to end. Your sworn-brothers Hjalmar and Thord will both fall here, and so will every one of your followers. All my warriors will be killed, too, only the two of us will be left standing, and then, if we fight it out, you will be the death of me.'

'On with the game then, till all our men and yours are dead,' said Odd.
In  contrast, his "sworn-brother," Hjalmar comes off as downright AWESOME when he proposes these rules for Viking-ing to Odd (p. 49):
1) His people don't and won't eat raw meat. (I'm not sure what the cultural significance is to this but I kind of want to find out.)
2) Never rob merchants or peasants beyond what is needed to cover IMMEDIATE needs.
3) Never rob women. No matter how alone or how rich or how easy a target.
4) No woman is to be taken against her will, upon penalty of death.
Odd agrees, sure, because he perceives Hjalmar as his equal, but the first time things don't go his way, he's ready to throw number 4 out the window for revenge, and is only stopped by the bribe of a magic shirt. I'm still kind of hoping that it will poison him before the end of the story -- but alas, we already know Odd's fate: He gets to live 4 times longer than he has any right to, to continue being a jerk to people in four countries.

I'm hoping the story of King Gautrek in the next romance will offer me some kind of hero I can root for.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

No Kiss Blogfest the Fourth!

In honor of Frankie's fabulous No Kiss Blogfest (go ahead and read the other entries while you're at it!), I bring you a scene from a novella I've been working on in fits and starts tentatively called LIBATIONS AND LIGHTNING.

Samantha is struggling to figure out what she believes and where her life is headed, and in the meantime, she's living with her Grandmother, for the price of fixing up the house. Enter Ullr, alarmingly beautiful, and even more alarmingly friendly, who offers to help her with the work, but he's not exactly what he seems, and Sam can't decide how she feels about that, either.
“If you need a place to stay, I’m sure we can come up with something better than sleeping in a tree.” I would not invite him inside. That was just one step away from inviting him into my room, and then into my bed. A recipe for disaster, embarrassment, and heart break. The whole trifecta. Especially if he said no. “I’m sure I’ve got a tent in the garage, and sleeping bags. There’s plenty of room to camp in the woods.”

“I am not disturbed by sleeping beneath the stars, Samantha. We are old friends by now.”

“It isn’t that,” I said. “But if my grandmother finds out about this, wild horses could not stop her from giving you a bed to sleep in.”

He smiled, releasing my hand. Was it my imagination, or did he linger? “You know I would not accept it.”

“She won’t accept you not accepting it,” I said. “She’s a determined old lady, and stubborn as a rock.”

“A trait you seem to have inherited in full measure,” he teased, his eyes glowing with warmth and amusement. “For you do not suggest you will offer me a bed yourself, nor did you make your own offering of supper last evening.”

I flushed. “If I had known you’d go to bed hungry and spend the night in a tree, maybe I would have made a bigger fuss.”

“I am a god of archery – as long as there is game, I will never starve.”

“Well, see, then you didn’t need me to invite you to dinner anyway. And in my defense, I did offer you a tent and a sleeping bag, and you refused me.”

“And you fear I would refuse a bed as well?”

“No.” My cheeks were on fire now, and I looked anywhere but at him. The willow tree over his shoulder, the coffee cup in my hand. “It’s just, yesterday was kind of a lot to process, and I needed some time to come to terms with it all, that’s all.”

“Is it?”

I shrugged, fixating on a cloud that looked like a horse. With eight legs. I shut my eyes.

“You were not easy with me even before you learned I was a god, Sam. I hoped telling you the truth of myself would reassure you, that you might know I am your friend. Yet still, you hesitate. Why?”

I blew out a breath and glared at him. “I don’t know, maybe it might have something to do with the fact that you’re a complete stranger, and I have no idea what it is you want from me?”

His forehead creased. “But I have told you already, the pleasure of your company is all I ask in return.”

“Coming from a god that isn’t exactly reassuring,” I grumbled.

He was clearly still confused. “You do not trust me, but I have done nothing to betray your faith. Or if I have, it was only through misunderstanding.”

It wasn’t why he was here. The familiar disappointment settled into the pit of my stomach like lead, and I sank to a seat on the porch steps, not realizing until that moment how much I had hoped, in spite of everything he’d said. I set the coffee cup between my feet and hid my face against the water bottle in my hands to stop the flaming of my cheeks. I was so stupid to think it at all. I wasn’t special. I was just another sheep being gathered into the fold.

His hands closed around my wrists, the warmth of his palms almost startling in the morning chill. Gently, he pulled my hands away from my face, and I found myself staring into his searching grey eyes, incapable of looking away, of even moving at all.

“Sam,” he said softly. His forehead touched mine. “What must I do? Only tell me.”

I shook my head, but he caught my face in his hands, holding me still.

“Would you make a god beg?” His voice was rough with emotion, pain, I thought, and my own throat tightened. “For you, I am not above it.”

“No,” I said hoarsely. He was so close. All I had to do was lean forward, lift my chin, and our lips would meet. He would taste like honey, I imagined, and my hand was at his throat, my thumb tracing the line of his jaw without thought.

His fingers curled into my hair, his mouth so near I could feel his breath against my skin. “Is this what you fear?”

I licked my lips, pressing the tips of my fingers to his mouth, the roughness of his beard tickling my palm. “No.”

My heart was racing, but I didn’t want this to end. I didn’t want him to turn his face from mine and stand. I didn’t want him to leave me behind and go on to some other woman. Maybe if this moment lasted – maybe he would stay longer than it took to fix the house.

He closed his eyes, holding himself still. So still.

I leaned forward, just enough, lifting my chin until our noses brushed. “Please.”

He exhaled, catching my hand and pressing my fingers to his lips. He kissed my palm, and then sat back, dropping his head, turning his face into the sun, and my heart ached for the loss of him, my body cold without his heat, without his touch.

“When you trust me,” he said. “Not before.”

The burn on my hand stung dully, the skin stretched too tight. I swallowed against the thickness in my throat and the press of tears behind my eyes.

“I’ll just – just get you some breakfast.”

I don’t know if he nodded or not, because I didn’t look at him as I turned to go back in the house. I couldn’t look at him, knowing what kind of fool I’d just made of myself.

Maybe he was right. Maybe I had been afraid he’d refuse me, all along.