Meanwhile back on…Olympus

The lovely author Lorna George is hosting me today on her blog. You can visit to get a look at what is happening on Mount Olympus between books one and two. This visit to England is only possible on a virtual tour. I’m at home working on the next novel, which takes place here where I live.

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Posted in Before the New Moon Rises, Old Greek Stories retold | Tagged ,

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

In old western movies and TV shows where most of the action is somewhere out on the range, there was a segment that took the viewer back to the ranch to see what was going on at home. It occurred to me that in between a book and it’s sequel, there is quite a lot happening off stage. So as the sequel to my first novel (Moon of the Goddess) is released, I am going to do a series of “meanwhile off stage” posts. The blog tour will be happening in a number of places thanks to the great author’s who are hosting me on their sites. I will let you know here where to visit to catch up with me as of Wednesday Dec 9th.

 

Posted in Before the New Moon Rises, Greek Stories | Tagged , , , ,

Lorna George’s The Redwood Rebel

Today, I welcome Lorna George to this site. Her first novel The Redwood Rebel is just out. This is how she describes the book:cover_final_smallsize

In the aftermath of civil war, the people of Ffion starve. The trade has dwindled, the harvest has failed, and all power belongs to the cruel and corrupt. Those few who could have fled the forest continent for other lands, but most are trapped by their poverty and love of their homeland, with little hope for change.

Far beneath Chloris Castle, the rebel Naomi has been incarcerated since the tyrannical Princess Adrienne stole the Redwood Throne. Starved of light and warmth for the past four years, she has had only her rage and determination to keep her going as she both fears and yearns for death to claim her at last.

In a violent sweep of fate, she is dragged back into the light once more, the Princess and her Councillor hoping to use her as a pawn against the powerful Dragon King of Koren. Faced with an almost impossible choice, Naomi strikes a deal with her captors that will set her free at last.

Unfortunately, she soon finds she has taken on much more than she bargained for.

***

The book sounds wonderful doesn’t it! And it is. Here is a taste of her story:

‘Bring her.’

The prisoner was dragged forward and thrown unceremoniously to the floor. She tried not to flinch as the hard stone jarred her weak body; the bones far too prominent under her pale and dirt-streaked skin. To the unsuspecting eye she appeared to be no more than a youth of about twelve or thirteen summers, her form so small and feeble, but Naomi was in fact a woman of twenty-two.

The past four years had been cruel, locked away far beneath the depths of the royal castle in a cell with no light and little food, and it showed. She lay where the guards had thrown her, finding herself unable to even move. Her eyes still stung and watered painfully at the bright sunlight pouring through the windows. She dared not admit, even in the privacy of her own mind, that the water streaming down her cheeks could be tears of joy at the sight of the warm, pure light after so many years in darkness. The relief of heated sunlight touching her cold flesh was a balm, and she feared that any moment she would awaken back in her dark pit of despair. The appearance of the guards and her removal from her prison had been so sudden, so abrupt, that even now she found the situation surreal. She had expected to never again see the light of day for as long as she lived. Now unsure, confused, and afraid, she simply lay where she had been dropped, conserving her strength and savouring the gentle heat.

‘Leave us.’

Naomi realised through her hazy thoughts that she recognised that voice. It had been so long since she had heard coherent words from any mouth save her own that she found it difficult to digest. The guard that brought her the meagre amounts of food whenever he remembered she existed never spoke, and the only other voices she ever heard were those of the shrill, grotesque screams of the souls from the torture chamber on the floor above. At some point, she had decided that those almost inhuman sounds didn’t count and had done all she could to block them out. Her inability to do so had almost broken her mind, she was certain.

Naomi realised with a jolt that someone had quietly approached her prone form. She instinctively clenched her body in anticipation of a kick. A satin-shod foot did touch her, but only to prod her over from her stomach onto her back. With her filthy brunette hair no longer shielding her eyes, she gasped and threw her arms up and over her face.

‘Ah, I see. The light.’ There was a click and rush of magic, and the sunshine was shaded out to something much more subtle. ‘Better?’

It was better, but she missed the heat. She still felt disoriented and didn’t move her arms. Who was this man with this reedy voice? She vaguely remembered it. Something told her it was important, but she couldn’t quite grasp why.

‘I must say my dear, I remember you being far more intimidating than this. Perhaps leaving you in that pit for so long has made you useless to me after all?’ He seemed to be pondering aloud rather than actually talking to her. Just as well, as she didn’t have the coherency to respond. ‘That does ruin things a little, but I dare say our dear Princess Adrienne will be more than happy to finish you off once she gets here. Her hatred seems to have outlasted yours, apparently. Pity.’

Adrienne.

Her family. The fire. The deaths. Her parents. Murdered. The screams. The torture. The child. Her father cursing her with his last breath, the blood gurgling up and catching on his words. Master Gerrard… Adrienne. Betrayal.Adrienne!

‘Adrienne,’ she rasped, fists clenching as the memories returned in a rush of fury and pain. Her eyes were open. She glared up at the man she now knew. ‘Cygnus. I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you both for what you’ve done.’

Naomi knew that she must make a pathetic sight, laying on her back, weak, unable to even sit up, but his laughter at her words filled her with such loathing, she was certain she would die of it. He clapped his hands, apparently pleased, but stepped back as though afraid she might somehow find the strength to fulfil the promise.

‘Oh my dear,’ he mocked. ‘We haven’t even begun.’

***

LornaGeorge_AP

So who is Lorna? Well, she says she lives in a crooked little house in Norfolk with her husband, a lot of books, and a fifty year old begonia named Frank. She spends an inordinate amount of time dreaming up magic, dragons, and fearsome ladies, and has decided to try and make some sort of career from it by writing them down. She hopes this will give her a reasonable excuse when caught staring wistfully out of windows when she should be paying attention to the not-so-mystical “Real World”.
Since she has become increasingly vulgar with age, she writes predominately New Adult stories, and despite what a lot of people seem to think, she seriously doubts she will ever grow out of fantasy.

She doesn’t particularly want to.

To learn more about Lorna and her book, try these links:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Amazon

FeedARead

Barnes & Noble

And the Illustrations by Juliette Brocal

Posted in A good story | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Perseus: returns in glory to leave again

With Lorna George coming to this blog in a couple weeks–her novel The Redwood Rebel is out soon–I am continuing to think about princes who do not take their rightful throne in the stories of ancient Greece.

HPIM0145Temple of Zeus in Athens

Being a son of Zeus did not guarantee advancement in ancient Greece. More than likely, divine birth pushed one into competition and danger.

So it was for Perseus. With his birth came a prophecy: one of his mother Danea’s children would kill his grandfather the king of Argos. So the king kept his mother imprisoned in a chamber made of bronze. Still in that hidden place, Zeus came to her and she bore a son, Perseus. Fearful of the wrath of Zeus, the king did not directly kill the babe and his mother: he sent them adrift in a wooden box. Protected by the god, they landed on the island of Serifos and were taken in by a fisherman Dictys who raised the boy as his own.

Dictys’ brother was king of that land, and the king wanted Danae as his wife. When Perseus prevented this because he did not believe the king to be honourable, the king gave the young man the task of killing Medusa, the gorgon whose eyes turned people to stone.

With the help of Athena, Perseus succeeded. During many adventures on the journey home, he met and married Andromeda. When he got back to Serifos, he discovered that his mother had taken refuge from an increasingly violent king. Using Medusa’s head, Perseus killed the king and placed his foster-father Dictys on the throne in his stead.

Despite the grace Perseus showed in placing another on the throne of the island, he was fated to fulfill the prophecy and kill his grandfather. Even though he honoured Athena by returning the tools she loaned him to slay Medusa, he could not escape his fate.

Some say that when Perseus returned to Argos, his grandfather did not believe he fulfilled the quest, but when Perseus removed the head from its bag, the king looked on it and turned to stone. Others say that Perseus went into exile voluntarily in Thessaly, but when he competed in funeral games there, an unlucky discus throw veered from its course and killed his grandfather.

Still the gracious Perseus did not take the throne. He gave it to the next in line, and he moved south to the Peloponnesus, and established the city of Mycenae, a place that became a powerhouse in Bronze Age Greece.

This brings us to the edge of my novel Before the New Moon Rises (due out in December), but we will come to the stories of that great city later. Next time I reflect on why the competition between king and prince in a land that claimed honour within families as a basic value.

Posted in Old Greek Stories retold | Tagged , , , , ,

The Prince Returns

Soon I am hosting the first time novelist Lorna George. She has a marvelous story, called The Redwood Rebel about a deposed princess who has to co-operate with the one who imprisoned her in order to defend her land. Check out the book trailer.

She got me thinking about all the exiles in Greek stories, so I’m going to talk about them for a few posts.

When Jason’s father is deposed by his uncle Pelias, his mother mourns that the baby prince Jason died in the fighting. But she manages to send him from the city to the wilds of Mount Pelion where he is raised by the centaur Cheiron. Pelias rules securing in Iolkos, except for one prophecy from Delphi: beware the man with one sandal.HPIM1461

Cheiron is a master of healing and battle. He teaches Jason the skills of bow and sword as well as wisdom.

When Jason grows into a strong young man, he returns to Iolkos. On the way, he comes to a raging river with an old, old woman sitting on the bank. The woman tells him that she must reach the other side but she cannot endure the rushing water. He offers to carry her across. Half way he slips and loses a sandal, but the woman never touches the water and he bears her safely to the other side.

There she reveals that she is Hera and offers him the blessing of the gods in thanks.

When he gets to the city, news comes to Pelias that a man with one sandal has arrived. Jason comes to the palace and announces who he is. The ruler hosts a banquet for Jason. During the meal he tests the returned prince. “Do you have what it takes to be king, I wonder. Let me ask, what would you do with a troublesome young upstart in your kingdom?”

Jason considered. He saw what the usurper planned, but he also knew he had the blessing of Olympus. “I’d send him after the golden fleece.”

“Perfect,” said Pelias. “Return with the golden fleece, and I will give you this throne.”

The story of the search for the golden fleece is complex but with the help of Herakles and Orpheus, along with the timely aid of Poseidon, Jason succeeds. His arrival home is complex, and he ends up ruling Corinth, a prince in exile, but this is a story for another time.

Do check out Lorna’s deposed princess and look for her post here.

Posted in Greek Stories, Old Greek Stories retold | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Apollo and Dionysius

In the classical era, the Greeks emphasized intellect over emotion, mind over body. This split still defines much of western thought.

But there is a tradition arising in Delphi that suggests a different understanding lived. For nine months of the year, the god Apollo oversaw the work of the oracle, and the shrine and town sang his hymns. But as winter set in, he handed oversight to Dionysius, god of ecstasy and emotion. There is a vase which depicts the two shaking hands under a palm tree, a picture of this twice annual exchange of authority.

HPIM0263 - Copy (2)

During the winter, the people of Delphi sang hymns to Dionysius, and in the caves above the city, the mystery rites were celebrated. When spring came, Apollo came back and prophesy was possible again.

In his recent book The Oracle, William J. Broad argued for a scientific explanation for why the oracle could not work in winter. He could be right.

It is also possible that in this place where the mind broke through the boundaries of logical thought, the people understood that intuition, emotional knowledge, embodied thought played an important part in human understanding.

For me, there is a story lurking. One of these days, I will write of someone who seeks Apollo’s wisdom but arrives on the verge of winter and must live under Dionysius. I don’t know yet if it will be a time of impatience or suffering, but somehow I think that the winter will be essential preparation for them to receive Apollo’s wisdom.

Posted in Greek Stories | Tagged ,

Cherishing Diversity

I want to reflect on the way we approach diversity in our community. We have changed as a country so that we are more accepting of difference in culture, religious practice, race, lifestyle, but there are still tensions. There is still racism. We do not interact with all the respect and caring that we could.

Please forgive the rather indirect approach as I begin by talking about some purple cloth I have.

First is a dress made of purple cotton. It is light and comfortable to wear. The cotton keeps its shape, and it always looks fresh. It also stands out. You do not blend in when you wear purple. When I want to be a little less dramatic, I wear a purple skirt with a white top. Both are woven of many threads, but every one of them is dyed purple.

I also have a purple quilt made with a morningstar pattern. The background is white, but the pieces that make up the star are a variety of purples. A few are solid shades, but most are calico with purple flowers and swirls. Someone carefully cut the fabric into triangles and diamonds, chose which to lay side by side, then sewed them together to make a bright star.

quilt

The third purple fabric is a silk sari. It has a wide gold border, but the main fabric is a deep purple which shines and shimmers as the fabric moves. The interesting thing about this sari is that there is not a purple thread in it. It is woven with red and blue threads creating the impression of purple. The life and movement in the fabric comes because it is silk, but also because the threads are constantly interacting.

It is pretty obvious that the purple dress I mentioned is the opposite of diversity. The natural cotton was dyed all one colour. The skirt is a little better because it needs a top that is a different, but those two sit side by side without affecting the other. There was a time when we expected our society to be homogeneous, one culture. It never actually was that flat, but some of us thought it was, and some thought it should be.

As a country, we moved to multi-culturalism, the acceptance that there are differences within our society. This is a kind of cold acceptance, an acknowledgement that difference  exists in other people.

What happens in the quilt is a recognition that we need difference to create a complex pattern in our community. Placing different fabrics side by side highlights different aspects of each: a flowered calico looks different  when it is placed beside white or purple. We see ourselves a little differently when we place ourselves in a different cultural context. Here is a recognition that diversity adds texture and beauty to our lives.

For me, the quilt represents a warmer kind of multi-culturalism, one that appreciates and celebrates diversity. It is limited though. Quilt pieces need to remain distinct from each other: the pattern disappears if the colours bleed together. The pieces are cut and then sewn together to make the pattern. We have over the years made some adjustments so that we can live in the same community with our differences, but we keep our distinct identities. We do not move very far from what we are comfortable with.

The sari shows us what happens when we let other people change us. The individual threads start out red and blue, but they live as purple. They are changed in the interaction, and this fabric is the one that shines and shimmers. In a community, we can live together in a way that allows our differences to interact, to change us. Mutual transformation is an approach that runs deeper than multi-culturalism because the differences between cultures, lifestyles, spiritual practices are engaged.

Tolerance is better than intolerance. Respect is deeper than acceptance. But the differences between people can also change us and help us grow.  To build a healthy, whole society and world, we need to let who others are rub off on us. We need to be open to learn from people who are very different from ourselves.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , ,

The Rescuers’ Journey

Thought I would offer an excerpt from my novel Moon of the Goddess. Hope you enjoy it!

“This is the place where the tunnel narrows,” said Melanion. He turned sideways, leading with his shoulder. The tunnel wall was hardly a handspan from his face.

“Not supposed to be a long section,” said Panacea. “At least that’s what the priestess told us.”

Melanion  slid his feet sideways. He felt confined. It seemed as if the darkness resisted his forward movement. There was not a breath of movement in the heavy air.

A moment later, there was no rock in front of him. He leaned back on the rough wall as Panacea stepped from the cleft to stand beside him. The darkness extended in all directions, and he smelled a hint of sulfur. His lamp felt tiny in his hands. He could not judge the size of the cavern.

“Now we look for the markers that show us the way across.” Panacea pointed to the ground just at the edge of their lamplight. “There’s the first white stone.”

“White stone,” came a quiet echo from across the cavern.

“The echo took a long time to come back,” said Melanion. “This chamber is huge.”

“Time…huge,” repeated an echo of his voice.

“We had best start across then, and get to the other side,” said Panacea softly.

“Start,” the echo said.

Only start, thought Melanion. Why did the echo only pick up some words? “Let’s cross,” he said.

“Cross?” asked the echo.

“Just don’t say anything,” whispered Panacea, her lips too close to his ear for the echo to pick up her voice.

Melanion nodded. The shadow of his head danced against the rock wall. Panacea leaned away from the side of the cavern, and Melanion stepped forward beside her. Darkness closed in behind them. They reached the first white rock; the next sat just at the edge of the light. Melanion counted the rocks as they passed them, a way of measuring the distance in the empty darkness.

“Here,” came the echo of a whisper.

“Who is there?” Panacea asked.

“There, there, there,” said the echo. “Here,” it whispered.

“Who else would be here,” said Melanion, trying to ignore the echo of his words. Panacea shook her head and said nothing. They moved on past another white stone, and another. The rock beneath their feet seemed to shiver slightly, then felt solid again. He glanced at Panacea, but she was looking straight ahead. Maybe he had imagined the tremor. The ground sloped a little downward; they were nearing the other side. As they stepped past another white stone, Melanion stopped. He could not see the next marker.

Melanion touched Panacea’s elbow lightly, avoiding speech and the echo. They took a small step forward, and another. Melanion looked back and could just see the stone they had passed. Nothing marked the path forward.

“What now?” he asked.

“What, what, what?” asked the echo.

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A Birds’s Eye View

A Bird’s Eye View

I found this goldfinch nest in the centre of a small hawthorn tree. The home for its eggs was protected by sharp thorns ten centimeter long. Nobody, not a crow, not a racoon was HPIM2530going to reach past the savage protection offered by the tree.

Inside, the woven grass cup was lined with the soft, white down of thistle seeds. The nest was warm and cozy as well as safe.

As I imagined the goldfinch sitting on the nest with its eggs cradled by thistle down, I thought about how much I dislike thistles. When the rosettes sprout in my garden, I have to wear gloves to pull them out or my skin erupts in red blotches. In the sheep pasture, they grow along the fences and become three foot high walls. When you get too close, the plant can sting even through tough jeans.

Our sheep will not eat thistles until long after they have gone to seed, so they are clipped by us so they do not take over. Because they grow between rocks and around the rail fences, we cut them by hand with a line trimmer. By the time the job is done, my hands are shaking, and I am covered with a sticky, prickly green paste.

As I imagined the goldfinch weaving its way between the thorns of the tree to reach the nest, as I pictured the fledglings hoping out onto the branches for the first time, I thought about how much I dislike hawthorn trees. I bump my head on the thorns when I am picking wild grapes in the fence rows in the fall. We have flattened tractor tires by running over fallen branches in the spring. If we try to take down a tree that is reaching into the field, heavy gloves and an extra layer of clothing are required because the thorns will dig into our skin and those wounds get infected.

However, as much as I dislike thistles and hawthorns, this goldfinch made good use of both. Its nest made me rethink my view of these plants that proliferate on our farm. Both have a place.

The thing is the goldfinch and I see creation differently. We can look at the same pasture but we make a different judgement on what we see. I need to learn that my perspective is not the only one and not the most important one.

Humans tend to forget that we are part of the web not in charge of it. We decide what we want in our lawn or on our farm and then use every technique at our disposal to shape the land into what we think it should be like.

If instead we take a moment to see the landscape from the perspective of another creature, we will see something different. When I see a mosquito, I swat it; frogs and dragonflies see dinner.

Every creature has its place. We have moved some from their natural habitat and disturbed the balance–long horn ash beetles and purple loosestrife would be examples of that mistake. But the more common error is to assume that our perspective is the natural one, the important one. We forget that when we make our interest trump, there are creatures who go hungry.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged

Writing poetry as story telling practice

Being new to twitter, I just discovered the poetry prompts there. While most of them lead to love poems, I’ve been trying to let them spark a fantasy type poem. Something like this:

Prompt: deep inside

Light a tiny flicker of flame                                                                                                          Breathe O2 and feed                                                                                                                               a growing blaze                                                                                                                                deep inside                                                                                                                                            and burn the town                                                                                                                              the dragon sees.

I’ve argued before that poetry is a good place to practice building powerful metaphors and watching the tempo of the story. And in twitter length work, that takes attention.

We story-tellers need to learn to work as hard as poets. Too often, we put the structure of the tale—the need for a red herring in a mystery or a glitch in the new technology in sci-fi—right there on the surface for all to see. Metaphors are thrown in to liven up a boring scene, and symbols are placed like streetlights where we cannot miss them. The tools of the trade become a gaudy  frame that it is hard to look past.

The best stories, the best chapters in our novels, are the ones where the symbol has become the form, and the twist in the plot is also a metaphor. In the tales that work, dialogue is not just set in place like lines in a play script, but speaks with the voice of the character. These are the stories where the tools become the window we look through to see the world the teller imagined for us.

So those of us who want to write stories, should practice writing poetry. Talk to a poet or three about how they sublimate the tools of their craft into the poem. Read poetry, not just the epic story-telling kind, but the haiku that captures a moment. Write poems to practice attending to rhythm and sound. Then come back to the story and craft each scene, each sentence, each bit of dialogue, like a line of poetry.  True, there is a limit to how much time we have to devote to each chapter of a long novel, but the time we spend will pay off in a story that feels real and  alive, something the reader can almost see.

HPIM1088

 

Posted in The nature of story | Tagged , ,