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Friday, May 27, 2011

Four Romantic Greek Myths by Erin O’Riordan

In ‘The Smell of Gas,’ diner waitress Athena imparts her wisdom through Greek myths. She tells the story of the birth of Aphrodite, the birth of love. Greek mythology is full of power struggles, violence and gore, but there’s also an element of romance. Here are four of the Greek myths most cherished by romantic souls like Athena.

1. Orpheus and Eurydice
She was a beautiful wood nymph. He was a lonely shepherd who amused himself by playing lovely songs on the lyre, ancient Greece’s version of the acoustic guitar. When he first laid eyes on her, Orpheus composed a song just for Eurydice, and it was love at first listen. One day as she ran through the woods searching for him, Eurydice was bitten by a poisonous snake.

Not content to allow his love to languish in the Underworld, Orpheus went to the land of the dead to bring Eurydice back. His audacious campaign was successful, though Lord Hades and Lady Persephone (won over by his songs) made him agree not to look back to see Eurydice until they reached the land of the living. Unable to keep his eyes off her, Orpheus turned to see Eurydice again, and she had to return to the world of the dead.

2. Cupid and Psyche
Psyche was the youngest and most beautiful of three sisters. Her beauty made the local people neglect their worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Aphrodite appeared to Psyche’s father and demanded the girl be left on a high mountain, where she would be sacrificed. A terrified Psyche made her way to the peak alone. What she found was not death, but the soft breath of the wind, which carried her to a sumptuous palace.

There she married Cupid, the son of Aphrodite, though the bride was never allowed to see the groom. Psyche’s sisters convinced her that if her husband didn’t want to be seen, he must be a terrible monster. Taking their advice, Psyche crept up on Cupid as he slept and held a candle to him. He was the most lovely creature she had ever seen. A drop of hot wax hit his cheek and he woke up, banishing her for breaking the one rule of their union.

Their story does not end tragically, though. A soft-hearted Aphrodite offers Psyche the chance to complete a series of grueling tasks. Psyche rises to the challenge and is rewarded with being made a goddess, reuniting with Cupid. C.S. Lewis wrote a wonderful version of this myth in ‘Till We Have Faces.’

3. Persephone and Hades
Hades, the god of the Underworld, judged the dead all night and day and was known for his heart of stone. That heart melted when he saw Persephone, the young daughter of his sister, the powerful earth-goddess Demeter. Like a gentleman, he went to Persephone’s father, Zeus, and asked for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, he forgot to inform either Persephone or Demeter of this Zeus-sanctioned arrangement, and Persephone took their “wedding” as an abduction. Yes, this sounds more cruel than romantic. However, in Nigel Spivey’s excellent account in his ‘Songs on Bronze: The Greek Myths Made Real,’ Hades treated her with respect. He offered Persephone the gift of a pomegranate, comparing himself to the fruit: tough on the outside, but secretly full of sweetness.

After the initial shock of transitioning to the cool, dark Underworld, Persephone fell in love with the god, who was every bit as handsome as his more amorous brothers Zeus and Poseidon. In later myths like that of Orpheus and Eurydice, the pair is always portrayed ruling side-by-side as equals, Persephone tempering her husband’s harsh judgments and offering humanity hope of reincarnation.

4. Aphrodite and Adonis
Even the goddess of love herself was not immune from having her head turned by a lovely mortal. Good-looking men are still compared to Adonis to this day. Adonis was off-the-charts hot. Although the goddess adored him, the hottie still had to go out and earn his living as a hunter. Sadly, he was gored by one of the boars. In his dying moments, he sought Aphrodite and died in her arms as she bestowed a farewell kiss. Where each of his bloodied footsteps fell, a beautiful red Adonis flower (also known as pheasants’-eye) springs up every year for eternity. 

Blurb - Love pulp fiction? Just try putting down The Smell of Gas. TSOG is full of saints and sinners you'll love to hate. There's Brigid, the high school basketball player and secret heroin addict. Fred, a Catholic lesbian teen, loves Brigid, but doesn't know about her affair with Edward, a married Evangelical preacher. Sex, ethics, religions and mythologies clash as you dig deeper into their connection to the death of a young couple.

PG-rated Excerpt:
    Athena sat across from him again, reaching behind to place the pot on an unoccupied table. “Let’s start at the beginning,” she said. “The Book of Genesis. It says that in the beginning, God created the light first, and then the sky, the land and the seas. Then the trees and plants, and so on and so forth. Just like that.” She snapped her fingers. “Out of nothing.”
    “That’s what the Bible says,” he agreed. “God split the waters of primordial chaos, creating dry land, and then created the things that live on it. You could say that He created them out of nothing, or that He created them out of His word.”
    “However, it doesn’t say God created the Devil,” she said. “The serpent that tempted Adam and Eve, yes. A serpent is only an animal, though. Do you know what the ancient Greeks used to say, before Christianity?”
    “I read a little mythology in grammar school,” he said. “The Iliad and the Odyssey, I think, but it’s been so many years. I wouldn’t remember…”
    “In the beginning, there was only Father Sky, who called himself Ouranos, and Mother Earth, who was called Gaia. Ouranos saw Gaia, loved her, and made himself one with her.” She brought her hands together to emphasize the point. “The sun, the moon, the ocean– these were all the children of Ouranos and Gaia. They had hundreds more, and they were the grandparents of the gods and of human beings. Ouranos didn’t make any of this out of nothing, and neither did God. There had to be a wife.”
    “Do you really believe that?” Edward asked. “That’s paganism, Athena. You can’t honestly call yourself a Christian and believe that God has a wife.”
    She shrugged. “He had a wife, or She had a husband. Gaia couldn’t do it all by herself either. But do you know what I really think, when I lie in bed at night thinking about it? That God and the Devil were married.”  

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Other Books by Erin O'Riordan

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Secrets of Character Creation by Mysti Parker

Thanks so much for having me today. I’ve been asked to describe how I write the perfect character in terms of villain, hero, and heroine. While I’m sure you could find book after book on character creation, my short answer is simply: I write them how I like to read them. Years spent reading and watching films and TV have naturally given me preferences on what constitutes a good baddie, a heroic hero, and a heart-stopping heroine.

However, in the spirit of all things list-worthy, I’ll list a few things that are must-haves in my character creation, starting with:

The Villian
1.      He/She must be multi-faceted. This means not 100% evil. I’m sure even Hitler had a good point or two about him. Maybe he liked bunnies. Whatever the case, showing a soft side to the baddie is essential in making them realistic.
2.      The villain must have motivation. As a writer, you have to be the psychiatrist. Put the baddie on the couch and ask him/her why exactly they wanted to blow up the Eiffel Tower. Did his papa blow up his mama when he was a boy? Did her mama blow up her doll house when she was a girl? Give ‘em a reason for the meanness.

3.      The villain must have the upper hand at some point. You can all remember times in famous films and books when all hope seems to be lost. Luke Skywalker is facing off with Darth Vader, and for a moment, you fear that Darth might just kill him after all. That’s good villain writing!

The Hero
1.      He has a genuinely good heart, but he’s not perfect. I love writing flawed characters. My heroes have weaknesses. They’ve done things they regret, but when worst comes to worst, their hearts are in the right place.

2.      He’s not dark and brooding. I’ve liked my share of vampire guys, certainly. But, for me, those guys are hard to acclimate. My heroes like to have fun, and when they find a woman who matches their goofy side, all the better!

3.      He doesn’t always save the heroine. In fact, she just might save him! In “A Ranger’s Tale”, one of my favorite lines is, “I think we saved each other.” Which brings us to…

The Heroine
1.      She’s not a naïve virgin, for goodness sakes! I’ve read so many 80’s era romances about naïve virgins and velvety shafts, that I very rarely write my heroines that way. She may have had a lover or two or been married before. At the very least, she’s had some experiences in life and she’s not fresh off the farm, ready to transform the dark, brooding, promiscuous male into the perfect hero with her innocence.

2.      She may be a diva, a damsel, or somewhere in between, but she’s going to learn just how strong she really can be during the course of the story. My girls may thirst for adventure or long or a quiet life in a small town, but they’re going to have to work for their goals. They don’t completely depend on the hero to save them.

3.      Speaking of goals, her only goal isn’t to land the hero. Caliphany in A Ranger’s Tale set off to live on her own and leave everyone else behind. She just happened to fall in love along the way. I think it brings us back to the multi-faceted trait. She’s got to have some aspirations in life other than living happily ever after with her man.

I    I hope this has given you some idea of how this writer forms her characters. This isn’t the only way, and I’m still learning what makes the people in my stories tick. It’s rather fun to get to know them over the course of the story, and I truly miss them when the tale comes to an end. I hope my readers feel the same!
    Now grab a good book and a hot cup of coffee and enjoy meeting some new characters!

Blurb: Set in the fantasy world of Tallenmere, the high elf Caliphany Aranea longs to explore the world and escape from her controlling father. Her dreams are fulfilled when she meets ranger and ship captain Galadin Trudeaux. But, when secrets from the past bring tragedy to those she loves, Caliphany must fight to hold on to the life she's always wanted.

Excerpt from Chapter 18:


Cali stood and flung her bow over her shoulder.
I waved my hands at her. “Cali, I think you should stay here in the camp.”
“I will do no such thing.”
“The goblins aren’t to be taken lightly. They can swarm on you in an instant.”
“Which is all the more reason I should go along to help.”
There was no arguing with her, not with that stubborn set of her chin and those flashing blue eyes. Damn, she was beautiful when she set her mind to do something.
“All right, then, let’s go, but we have to be careful.”
We climbed the narrow path up the cliff side to the ancient temple. Bastivar was a crumbling, pillared fortress carved into the mountainside in honor of the goddess Innessa. Worshippers had long since vanished, and as long as anyone could remember, the only current inhabitants were goblins.
“Hidari mi compli,” we chanted, and sneaked inside. Our eyes adjusted to the dim light in the entryway.
“I’ll draw some of them out,” I whispered. “Stay concealed, and when you see one coming, shoot it.”
Down one corridor, a group of three goblins came toward me. I aimed and shot one, then ran back when the other two charged. Cali’s first arrow barely missed my head, but she got one. I shot the last one as she readied another arrow.
“Nicely done,” I whispered. “Now, we—”
“Achoo!” Cali couldn’t stop her sneeze in time. She whispered, “I’m sorry.”
A great snarling ensued from within the main corridor.
A horde of beady, yellow eyes came toward us.
“Cali, run!”
She fled, and we ran down the cliff side as fast as we could without falling off. We reached the forest floor, and I looked back. Goblins streamed out of the ruins, so many that some fell off the cliff. There had never been this many before. It must have been a long while since anyone had cleared them out. We sped through the underbrush. Thorns scratched our skin and snagged our leathers, but they were gaining on us.
We reached the main path, and I grabbed Cali. “Give me my father’s sword.”
She unsheathed it and handed it to me. “Galadin, there’s too many. We’ll never fight them off.”
“Conceal yourself and run. Now!”
She clutched my sleeve. “I won’t leave you here!”
For the brief moment while the goblins closed in, I met her panic-stricken eyes. I’d never met a woman I would die for, until then. “Go!”
I pushed her on, and she turned to run. Goblins burst through the bush, and I readied my sword. Right and left, I swung, impaling and kicking them off the blade, chopping off spindly gray limbs, a head when I could aim just right. Piles of jerking bodies began to pile at my feet. The onslaught lessened, but before I could catch my breath, another wave of them burst forth.
One of them latched onto my arm, its jagged teeth sinking in through the leather. I cried out. Then, an arrow sank into its ugly body. Cali had come back, her next arrow nocked and ready. I shook the goblin off my arm. Still, they came, yet another wave.
She threw down her bow and ran to my side. “Galadin, get back!”
“What? No, I told you to run!”
“No time.”
She pulled me back, stepped in front of me, and held out her hands. Blue fire burst from her palms, like flaming blasts of lightning, but continuous, and dreadfully hot. I had to back away from the intensity of the heat. The inferno charred the goblins, turning them from gray, to black, to piles of ashes before my eyes. The fire consumed every bush and weed, everything in its path, until the goblins in the rear decided they were outmatched. Shrieking, they turned and hightailed it back up the cliff and into Bastivar.
Cali stared at her smoking hands. I ran to her, relieved to see that she wasn’t burned. But, she was weakened. I embraced her, letting her catch her breath, her head on my shoulder. I ran my fingers along her braid.
“I didn’t know you could do that,” I said.
She raised her head and peered into my eyes. “I didn’t either.”
Then, our lips met, and nothing else mattered.
* * * * *                 

Author Bio:
Mysti Parker is a full-time wife, mom of three, and a writer. Born and raised in Kentucky, writing has always been her first love. After many years of pursuing other things, she began her writing career in earnest in 2009. Look for more romantic tales from her fantasy world of Tallenmere, where magic, passion, murder, and mayhem are a part of everyday life.