While I should be excited that Finn, Mr Husband, and I are currently enjoying our Irish getaway, I’m even more ecstatic that we’re getting super close to launch time for the Bonds of Osteria: Book Four of the Osteria Chronicles. That means it’s time to stop rambling on about my writing life and start sharing with you bits and bobs from the upcoming book.
As with the other three installments of the series, I’ve put my own twist on classical myths and turned them into a fully fleshed out narrative. However, unlike the first three books that mainly focus on a single myth, in Bonds I’ve tackled a mash up of myths (Orpheus & Eurydice, Hades & Persephone, Helen of Troy, Pegasus, Bellerophon & Chimera), which means I have plenty of blog topics to choose from and tease you with as I head into Launch Mode.
Because the myth of Medusa and Perseus is likely the most familiar and the one that takes up more of Bonds’s pages than any other, let’s get the Sisyphean stone rolling with that legend, how I’ve changed it in Bonds, and an excerpt from the upcoming book.
Medusa and Perseus: Myth vs The Bonds of Osteria
Although many people will be familiar with the story of Perseus and Medusa, I’m going shout “SPOILER ALERT!” right now for the upcoming post. Below, you’ll find the original myth is in regular typeface, while I’ve enclosed The Bonds of Osteria’s version of events in **italics** like so. Got it? Okay, on with the myth and my twist on this classic Greek battle.
In early Greek myths, Medusa was simply born a monster, but as the mythology evolved she gained a backstory in which she started life as a drop-dead gorgeous woman. So gorgeous that Poseidon couldn’t control his lust and raped her in the temple of Athena.
**In Bonds, I’ve stuck with the sex-in-the-temple version of events, but Poseidon is much less of a creep and Medusa is a very willing participant in this defilement.**
For some unfathomable reason, Athena punishes Medusa for this crime, not Poseidon. The punishment turns Medusa into the familiar snake-headed monster whose eyes could turn you to stone.
**In the novel, I could understand Athena being angry with Medusa for defiling her temple, but the punishment of turning her into a deadly weapon seemed too extreme for the goddess of justice. Don’t worry, Medusa still turns into a deadly monster, but someone else steps in to make the final transformation.**
In the myths, Perseus’s mother, Danae, is pursued by Polydictys who demands she marry him. He tells Perseus to bring him the head of Medusa in the hopes that Perseus, who was his mother’s staunchest defender, would die trying. Perseus treks off on his mission even though he has no idea how to go about it.
**I’ve also stuck fairly close to this version of events, but change Polydictys’s name to Poletes to avoid confusion with his brother Dictys, the love of Danae’s life. I also emphasize Dictys and Danae’s love story and play out the entire scene of Poletes’s command as part of a betrothal feast that is full of Osterian customs.**
Athena arrives and tells Perseus to visit the Graeae, three blind women who see using a single eye and who crave human flesh. The sisters tell him to visit the Garden of the Hersperides (which you may remember from The Trials of Hercules) where Perseus receives gifts from the gods that will help him kill Medusa.
**In Bonds, I changed the scenes with Athena quite a bit to reveal Athena’s guilt over her treatment of Medusa and to speed up the timeline of getting Perseus to the Graeae and to Medusa.**
**I also had a ton of fun with the scene in which Perseus confronts the Graeae (the Grey Sisters in the book). I’ve turned them into three women who at first seem no more frightening than a trio of old aunties, but wind up being very creepy…and very hungry. Their scene was so much fun to bring to life, I couldn’t help but write a short story about the sisters’s origins and how they ended up blind (the short story, by the way is included as an exclusive freebie in the welcome sequence of my mailing list – hint hint).**
Perseus eventually finds Medusa and uses the gifts from the gods to kill her. In the myth, he doesn’t head (pun very much intended) home straight away, but stops off to woo Andromeda, pays a deadly visit to his grandfather, and then finally makes his way home to deliver the head and save his mom.
**Sorry, but in Bonds I’ve completely cut the Andromeda story line and have gotten Perseus home much faster. After all, he’s meant to be saving his mom from marrying a total jerk, why would he dilly dally?**
Anyone familiar with the original myth knows what happens when Perseus brings the head home, but I’ll let you discover that surprise, Danae’s cleverness, and how it all plays out when you read your copy of Bonds.
From A Writer’s Perspective
Writing the entire Perseus-Medusa quest and battle was incredibly challenging precisely because it is such a familiar myth. It didn’t help that, as a kid, I watched the original Clash of the Titans movie on a weekly basis. Trying to push the movie’s dialogue and actors’ mannerisms was a tough, albeit enjoyable, challenge.
While the Medusa parts and the Grey Sisters’ scene were enjoyable to play with, the Perseus story line wasn’t one of my favorites to write. However, next week we’ll look at the myth that qualifies as my second favorite of the many story lines in Bonds! Oh, and Finn will be by on Saturday to give a little greeting from his homeland. See you then.
Sample Medusa Chapter from The Bonds of Osteria
Since so much of the Medusa-Perseus story is familiar, I thought the sample chapter should show a little bit of how I take these myths and weave them into something new and full of life. In this sample, Poseidon hasn’t quite gotten what he wants from Medusa, but Athena quickly learns something is up between the sea god and her priestess.
Chapter 2 – Athena
“It’s quite simple to make it look grander. You just widen the back. Then, when you look down the center from the front there appears to be a depth that isn’t really there. Poseidon, are you listening?”
My uncle’s head jerks around to look at me. He nods as if he’s in agreeable contemplation with what I’ve just said, but his cheeks blush deeply making his cool blue eyes shine as he focuses them back on me.
“I, no, I mean, yes. Fascinating. And your architects came up with that?”
He acts interested and even seems to have not missed a word I’ve said, but my owl swivels his head to fix his amber eyes on where Poseidon had been looking. I glance in the same direction then roll my eyes. I should have known. I should have realized Poseidon’s frequent trips to visit me lately weren’t because he’d suddenly become fascinated with how Theseus was fitting into his new role as president, what my engineers were crafting, how to interpret the nuances of a certain law, or any of the other topics he has “just had” to learn more about these past weeks.
My eyes flick once more in the direction of my owl’s gaze and I catch a priestess looking our way. Her delicate features I’d always thought of as innocent now appear seductive when she gives my uncle a coy smile before returning to arranging flowers around the base of one of the columns that run down the length of my temple.
Was I wrong to take her in? How could I not when the girl’s mother had come running to my temple one day, pleading with me to save her only daughter. “He’s going to beat her to death,” she had wailed, her eyes wide with fear as she gripped my hand.
“He wouldn’t.” I had assured her as I gestured her to stand. “Surely, it was said in a moment of rage.”
“No,” the woman shook her head, making her disheveled curls jiggle. “He says she’s gone too far this time. Please come. You have to stop him.”
A knot formed in my gut. “You left him alone with her?” Even if he didn’t mean to kill the girl, what havoc might his anger wreak without the mother there to stop him? I tugged on the woman’s arm and hurried with her the two blocks to her home.
Thankfully, the girl had locked herself in her room. Her father pounded on the door so hard the hinges were rattling loose. I grabbed his hand, yanking his arm up and behind his back as I’d seen vigiles do to people they needed to subdue.
“You will calm yourself,” I hissed in his ear. He still shook with rage, but didn’t fight me. I let him go and demanded an explanation. The girl dared to unlatch her door and peer out at us.
“She’s enticed every male who passes her way. Just looks at them and lures them in like she thinks she’s Aphrodite. Aphrodite was never such a slut though,” he added vehemently.
When I looked her over I saw nothing but blonde wavy hair, a heart-shaped face, and wide blue eyes that looked as if they didn’t even know what the words her father spoke meant. She met my gaze, then glanced demurely down to her toes.
I couldn’t risk the child’s life by leaving her with a tyrant. Not when there was an easy way to save her. She was sixteen, the age when the youths of Osteria begin their apprenticeships.
“I have a space open for an acolyte. These spaces only open up every six years. As you know, this invitation would be an honor for her.”
“What’s that mean? Acolyte?” the mother asked, her accent betraying her as Astorian, but that’s no excuse for not knowing the ways of her adopted home.
“She would come to my house to train to become one of my priestesses.”
The woman nearly collapsed with relief and muttered her thanks. The father gave his daughter a scornful glare before stepping back from the door with his hands raised in surrender. “I doubt locking her up with a strict vow of chastity is going to do anything to keep her out of men’s beds, but she’s your problem now.”
During her two years of training the girl has been without blame. Although I did hear reports from my time away over the spring that she had been very explicit and suggestive with Aegeus when she helped explain the rite of the marriage bed that is conducted in my temple when an Athenian president is married. The reports even noted that rather than avert her gaze as the priestesses are supposed to do, she did nothing to hide the yearning in her eyes as she watched Aegeus take his bride in the temple.
Perhaps her disrespect is what cursed that marriage.
Or perhaps I’m being prudish. I have no reason to suspect her. It’s normal for my priestesses to be curious about bedsport and being beautiful isn’t against my rules. Still, I can’t help thinking back and recalling that she has found a chore to do nearby whenever Poseidon has come to make his studious inquiries. This flirtation must be stopped. I take Poseidon by his arm. My skin tingles as Medusa glares at me. Jealousy? If she’s letting that demon in then this definitely must be halted.
“Yes, the architects with the help of the engineers. And actually,” I say as I continue to make my way out of the temple pulling a reluctant Poseidon along. “I think your curiosity would be better satisfied speaking with one of them.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to distract them from their work. I enjoy chatting with you. Here. At your temple.”
“Unfortunately, I have work to attend to, so you’ll have to indulge in your longing for knowledge elsewhere.” Before Poseidon can protest, I call to Lia, one of my top engineers who trained under Stavros, as she passes by. She strides over, remaining at the base of the temple’s steps as is proper, and bows low. When she stands upright, she looks not at me, but over my shoulder. I don’t need my owl to whisper to me that Medusa is close behind. “Poseidon has a newfound interest in technology. Perhaps you could explain what you’re working on.”
She agrees cheerfully, but the proud smile drops from her round face when her gaze drifts behind me once more.
I urge Poseidon forward like a mother forcing a child to make a new friend on the first day of school. And, just like a child, Poseidon pouts his way down the steps to join up with Lia who begins a rapid explanation of electrical principles.
My uncle gives a final glance over his shoulder with an apologetic grin. I turn to see Medusa smiling back at him. When she catches me watching her, she quickly brushes her lustrous blonde hair with the hand that had been about to give a little goodbye wave.
“Inside now, Medusa.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“I didn’t say you did. Now go back into the temple.”
She gives a perturbed huff and spins around. Her hair flounces as she walks, not with the somber steps of a demure priestess, but with the swaying hips of woman wanting attention and knowing how to get it. Once inside, away from the eyes of any passersby, I grab her shoulder and whirl her around. The daggers of her eyes try to pierce me, but I’ve lived with Hera’s scornful stare for too many eons to be bothered by the petulant look of a young mortal.
“You do remember your vow when you came here?”
She rolls her eyes, then sighs as if I’ve asked the stupidest question in all of Osteria.
“Which one? There were so many.”
“The chastity one.”
“Oh, that. How could I forget it?”
“It’s best you don’t forget it because if you betray me I promise I can devise a punishment for you that will make you wish I’d left you to your father’s attentions.” She shows no hint of fear, but I don’t miss her flinch at the mention of her father. “Or would you prefer to leave my service?” As a woman with no training other than serving in my temple, Medusa would have to return home like a child of sixteen until she completed a new apprenticeship of two more years.
“No.” The single emphatic word snaps through the vast interior of the temple. “I’ll behave. Don’t send me home.”
There’s true fear in her voice. My words have hit their mark and dwelling on the matter will only embarrass us both.
Still, I will insist that Poseidon keeps his distance from my temple and its priestesses from now on.