Ireland: Land of Beers, Breakfasts, and Beastie Friends

You’ll be glad to know that Finn McSpool has made it safely home after over two weeks of traipsing around the land of his birth. I was ready to jump into all the adventures this wooly monster had in Kilkenny, Cork, the Aran Islands, and Dublin, but Finn insisted on a post to highlight his favorite parts of his Irish homecoming: the beers, the breakfasts, and some very special (and very monstrous) friends he made in between breakfast time and beer time.

The Most Important Meal of the Day: The Irish Breakfast

Also known in more honest terms as the Irish Fry, this is a meat-and-calorie laden meal that will keep beasties and humans full until late in the afternoon. On his first morning in Kilkenny, Finn was eager to fuel his day out with one of these hearty breakfasts.

finn mcspool, irish breakfast, ireland

“Wait a minute. What in the world is this? Fruit? Yogurt? Is it at least fried yogurt?”

“Sorry, Finn, but those of us not made of wool and stuffing need to eat a few healthy items.”

Soon enough though, “real” breakfast was dropped in front of him. He was too busy gnashing his way through the scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh-baked scone to notice I hadn’t ordered him the full Irish.

finn mcspool, irish breakfast, ireland

As if all this wasn’t enough, on our final day in Kilkenny, our wonderful host Josephine of Carriglea B&B filled our bags with some fresh-out-of-the-oven apple muffins for our onward journey. You know, just in case the 10,000-calorie breakfast didn’t see us through.

There were no home baked treats in Cork, but once we made our way to the Aran Islands, Finn was in hog heaven once again. Not sure how the hogs feel about this pork-filled breakfast, but…

finn mcspool, irish breakfast, ireland

And just as my arteries were starting to flow freely, on our final day in Dublin, Finn managed to cram in one more massive plate of cholesterol…

Irish Beastie Meets Irish Beer

Longtime followers of Finn will know that this Beastie loves his beer. And since alcohol is a solvent for lipids, it only makes sense that once the stomach starts to rumble, you should fill it with beer to wash away any lingering fat from breakfast. Science!

However, a beer that’s nearly twice as tall as yourself, might be overdoing it.

“You doing okay, Finn?”

 

“Perfectly shhplendid. Why do you ashk?”

“No reason.”

finn mcspool, guinness, ireland, beer

And then there was this. Luckily Finn doesn’t weigh much so he’s easy to carry home, if needed.

finn mcspool, guinness, ireland, beer

Still, Beasties must have amazing abilities to metabolize alcohol because by the time Mr Husband and I were done with our dinners, Finn was ready for more drinking. A lot more drinking!

finn mcspool, guinness, ireland, beer

Let’s just be glad Finn doesn’t have the skill (or muscles) to tap kegs!

By the time we made it to Dublin, this little monster was getting bored with his usual pint of the black stuff. Luckily, his maker, Helen of Crawcrafts Beasties, had the perfect cure for stout-overload and booked us in at Open Gate Brewery, the more experimental side of the Guinness World. The three humans each got a sampler of four craft beers, but it didn’t take long for Finn to claim them as his own.

finn mcspool, beer, ireland, guinness, open gate brewery

“So, what are you guys having?”

Most of these beers are a bit stronger than your usual Guinness, and it took even less time for the results of his hoppy gluttony to become apparent.

But that Beastie metabolism kicked in and he managed one more glass of a super tasty IPA.

finn mcspool, beer, ireland, guinness, open gate brewery

Loads of New Friends Including Some Wonderfully Wooly Ones

As you know, Finn loves making friends on his travels. Whether it’s cats in Italy, surfers in Hawaii, or giant pickles in Portland, he’s always ready to meet the locals. In Kilkenny, he had chat with this representative of the Kilkenny Cats hurling team.

ireland, finn mcspool, kilkenny cats

Also in Kilkenny, at the castle, Finn met up with this fellow who, if I remember right, represents the River Suir. Regardless of who he is, he looks like he’s already downed a pint or two himself despite it only being about 10am!

finn mcspool, kilkenny, ireland,

I’ll save all the friends Finn met on the Aran Islands for a later post, but when he got to Dublin, he was eager to get his photo taken with a couple celebrities. He got a bit too friendly with Molly Malone one morning, and I really hope there isn’t a sexual harassment suit in Finn’s future.

finn mcspool, ireland, molly malone

Although I always though he’d be fun and witty, Oscar Wilde didn’t even glance at Finn. Guess fame has gone to his head and he no longer has time for the little people monsters.

finn mcspool, ireland, oscar wilde, merrion square

Luckily, there were better friends to be made in Dublin including Finn’s maker. On our very first day in the big city, it was group photo time. That’s the world famous Explorer Beastie there on the right and, as you can see, from his work at Crawcrafts Beasties he’s a natural in front of the camera. The other three Beasties, just don’t seem to know where to look.

But wait, who are those other two Beasties? Well, strange things happen on an island that is so full of mysterious creatures and legends. Sometimes, you may find yourself Beastie-fied. That’s right, let me introduce you to Tammie and Mr Husband Beastie (aka “my birthday present from Mr Husband”).

As you can see, Helen really had her work cut out for her not only with two different outfits for these monsters (see dress and Hawaiian shirt in the first photo versus the Aran Island sweaters above), but also with loads of accessories, including a couple Hop Monster IPAs, a sandwich, cookie, satchel, backpack, sketchbook, Ireland guide book, and even a copy of every Beasties’ favorite book The Trials of Herc-Woolies!

Finn was a little jealous of the new Beasties at first, but he soon warmed up to Tammie Beastie. Wait, no, I think he just wanted to steal her cookie. Ah well, it’s a start.

Finn will be back in a couple weeks to begin his official Trip Report to show off all the sites he saw in between the breakfasting, beering, and befriending. And be sure to stop by Wednesday for a super exciting announcement from my writing world!!!

See you then!

 

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My Favorite Story Line: Orpheus & Eurydice

I’ve made it back from my adventures on the Emerald Isle, and although there’s the post-vacation blues and jet lag to sort through, I’m still super excited to crank out today’s post because it’s finally time to tell you all about my favorite of the many story lines I’ve woven together in The Bonds of Osteria.

Sure, Perseus and Medusa are classically familiar, and what girl doesn’t love a bit of Pegasus in her life? But the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice quickly turned into the story line I was most eager to work on over the many, many, MANY drafts to bring Bonds to life.

The Myth Vs. The Book: Orpheus & Eurydice

As with my past two forays into Myths Vs Book, I’m going to shout “SPOILER ALERT!!” right now, especially if you don’t know one lick of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. The original myth is in regular typeface, while I’ve enclosed my version of events in **italics** like so. Got it? Okay, on with the myth and my twist on this beautiful tale.

There’s a few slight variations of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, but let’s stick with the basics. In Greek myths, Orpheus is the son of the muse Calliope and the god Apollo who gives him a lyre. Orpheus turns out to be a child prodigy and ends up playing the most beautiful tunes in all the world.

Lyre, lyre, pants on fire!

**Those of you already familiar with the Osteria Chronicles know that Orpheus’s mom desperately wants her son to be a musician, but he’s got this pesky yearning to tinker with engineering (kids these days, am I right?). Still, Mom has gotten her way and Orpheus can play a mean bit of harp when required. Although I haven’t come out and clearly stated it, there are hints in The Bonds of Osteria that Orpheus may have divine parentage.**

Orpheus falls madly in love with the beautiful wood nymph, Eurydice, and she’s gaga for him as well. They don’t ever want to be apart and decide to marry.  At their wedding, the officiator has a bad premonition about the longevity of their marriage.

I do love me some Princess Bride :))

**Orpheus met Eurydice way back in The Voyage of Heroes (Book Two) when he encountered her working as a servant on the creepy Doliones Island. As in the legend, it’s love at first sight for both, and we see them wed in The Maze of Minos (Book Three). It’s not the wedding officiator who worries about their marriage, but Iolalus, the leader of Portaceae, who always insists he doesn’t have any ability to see into the future.**

One day, Orpheus and Eurydice are strolling along when a shepherd sees Eurydice and wants her for himself (insert shepherd/sheep joke here). The lovers flee from the shepherd who has obviously been keeping up on his cardio and puts on a good chase.

Suddenly, like the lame girl in a horror movie, Eurydice falls. Orpheus sees she’s been bitten by a viper. The shepherd, seeing what has happened gives up and doesn’t even bother to call emergency services. (In some legends, it is Hera who sends the snake after Eurydice. The goddess is so disgruntled with the state of her own marriage that she can’t bear to see anyone else happily married.)

**In Bonds, Eurydice is pursued by a man from the Doliones Island. Iolalus wants to ensure the couple is safe, so he insists Orpheus have a bodyguard with him and Eurydice at all times. Well, the tricky couple want some alone time at a picnic and sneak away from their guard. This turns out to be a very VERY bad idea.**

This Orpheus is far hunkier than my Orpheus, but you get the idea.

Being desperately in love and very resourceful, Orpheus tells Apollo to take him to Hades so he can get Eurydice back. Apollo agrees and Orpheus plays such a beautiful song on his lyre for Hades that the god says he can have Eurydice back.

The slightly-less-scary Chihuahua Cerberus.

**There’s a little twist here in Bonds that I don’t want to reveal, but suffice it to say that Orpheus does get to Hades’s realm where Hades’s three-headed dog Cerberus has been acting up (due to some cruel treatment earlier in the book). Hades offers that if Orpheus can calm the dog with music, he can have Eurydice back.**

Of course we all know deals with the gods aren’t so simple. Hades stipulates that Orpheus can’t look back to his wife until they are fully out of the underworld. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Orpheus thinks they are out and turns around. Turns out, his timing was off and Eurydice is pulled back into the depths of Hades.

**In Bonds…well, you’ll just have to read the book to see how this final scene plays out. Don’t get too downhearted about the fate of these two lovers, though. Although I stick somewhat closely to the myth in Bonds, Orpheus has a big role to play in the final two books of the series and is not gone for good!**

I coulda had a V-8!

From A Writer’s Perspective

As I said, I love writing any scene that features Orpheus which made the many chapters of him and Eurydice in this book a joy to write. I have to say that writing the scene in which (SPOILER ALERT) Eurydice dies did tug at my tough little heartstrings, and still did so even after reading the book over all its many, many, MANY drafts.

Next Week!!!

Holy Zeus!!! Next Wednesday is Release Day for Bonds. I’m planning on gobs of specials on all the books in the series, so be sure to come back next week and read all about them!! Oh, and since Finn and I are back from Ireland, you’ll want to stop by the blog Saturday to relive our adventures in his birthplace.

Pre-order your copy of The Bonds of Osteria today!

Sample Chapter from The Bonds of Osteria

Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers to worry about here. This is a chapter from early in the book when we get to see the bond between Orpheus and his wife, as well as how tough Eurydice really is.

18 – Orpheus

It’s an amazing summer day in Portaceae City. Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the agora is overflowing with the colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, and most wonderful of all, Eurydice is by my side. Unlike the other women in the market who sift through lengths of fabric and swoon over displays of jewelry, my wife chooses to look over a stall filled with pieces of wire and scraps of metal. From the dreamy concentration on her face I can tell she’s envisioning what she could construct with them.

As Eurydice debates the merits of an aluminum tube the vendor claims is as strong as steel, the Solon walks right up to me. The vendor sees him, gives a nod, and continues with what he’d been saying, not hesitating or changing a single word in the face of Portaceae’s highest authority, which I assume means his claims are true about the metal. Eurydice still turns the item over skeptically.

I bow, but Iolalus hoists me back to standing upright.

“I’ve told you, none of that. I’m no different than I ever was.”

This statement isn’t helpful. Iolalus, even though he’s friendly and never has a harsh word to say, has always made me nervous. Maybe nervous isn’t the right word, but he was a vigile before he was ever Solon and I’m always worried of accidentally breaking some law or other in his presence. Despite my knowing his laid back and amiable nature, Iolalus has a very commanding presence that will always intimidate me. 

Of course it doesn’t help that the first time I ever spoke directly to him I thought he was going to arrest me for building a solar panel for my mother’s bird bath. I suppose I should feel more at ease with him since he had only been seeking my limited mechanical knowledge, which he later told me was the key component in bringing down our former Solon—the most corrupt man who’s ever set foot on the Hera Way. Still, I can’t get used to the idea of treating him as my equal.

“How’s married life, Orpheus?” My stomach lurches like a hare from a hound. With his bronze-colored hair, our Solon must have at least a few drops of oracle blood in him. Why, he even knew Eurydice was pregnant before I wed her. But he swears doesn’t have the Sight and knows no more about the future than anyone else.

“It’s good,” I respond. A smile engulfs my face just thinking of how happy I’ve been. “Really good,” I add.

“No troubles?”

“Why?” My heart kicks like an angry goat in my chest and my throat tightens. What has he seen? 

“No reason.” He looks at me, my eyes beg him for more, to tell me what he knows. “I swear, it was just a question. A piece of chit chat.”

“If you say so. How’s the complaint to the Osteria Council going?” It feels like a bold question coming from my lips, but since Odysseus has settled in Salemnos, it’s harder for him to play the role of advisor to the Solon. Although I know I could never hope to reach Odysseus’s standing with Iolalus, he has been discussing polis matters with me, probably more to get things off his chest than to seek advice.

“They’ve ignored it. If I didn’t despise what the group stood for, I’d be insisting on taking my seat with them. But the moment I take that seat, I worry how people will perceive me.”

“You might be just the thing to restore people’s confidence in the Council.”

“I don’t know. The Council has had too many bad eggs around the table. My predecessor, Pelias, Pasiphae to name a few. Acrisius and Cassiopeia are greedy, and I worry about Agamemnon’s ambitions.” I’ve heard nothing about Agamemnon, but Iolalus receives news from higher sources than I do. And of course, there’s that red hair. “The very fact that they’ve ignored my complaint shows you what type of people Osteria has representing it. Even a negative response would show some responsibility.”

“So what will you do?”

“I’ll take my complaint and evidence directly to the High Court in Athenos. I’ve tried to convince Odysseus to go with me, but he’s worried if he takes one footstep out of Salemnos, he’ll miss Penelope. He’s written out his statement about what he saw in Minoa and promises when it comes to trial, he’ll serve as witness, but for now he’s staying put.”

“I can understand what it’s like to miss your wife. I start longing for Eurydice if she’s gone for more than an hour.”

 “I imagine so. But enough of politics. I wanted to see if you two can come to my house this evening.”

As I’m wondering whether he wants me there as an engineer, a musician, or a friend, a dark shadow passes over us. We both instinctively glance up, but there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Before I can comment, a woman curses. A woman who sounds very much like Eurydice. 

When I look to the stall, a huge man with long, black hair has my wife by the arm and is yanking her to him. Or trying to anyway. The man is huge, at least three times as broad as I am and a head taller. But Eurydice, although tiny, has a fierce and stubborn strength and she’s using every bit of it to hold her ground. She punches the man in his arm while shouting an amazing variety of curses.

Strong and broad himself, Iolalus takes two limping steps over to them. Being Solon, he’s followed by several vigiles who have been discreetly lingering back in case anyone tries to harm him. Iolalus, his face full of fury, raises his hands as if he’s going to push the man back or grab him by the shoulders.

Before he can reach the attacker, Eurydice grips the man’s forearm with one hand and drives her finger into the pressure point between the two arm bones. The man howls and twists, allowing her to bring the aluminum tube down hard on the back of his triceps, hitting another pressure point that I know—from her playfully showing me—if struck right makes the entire arm go numb. Her aim is true and his numbed hand releases its grasp on her.

“Arrest him,” Iolalus shouts, but the man uses his size to push through the crowd, knocking over tables full of wares and shoppers whose arms are full of goods. The vigiles give chase, but soon stop at the edge of the agora looking this way and that as if the man has disappeared into thin air.

“Are you all right?” Iolalus asks. Eurydice rushes into my arms. Her fighting done, she now trembles with fear and anger.

“I’m fine. Damn dirty Dol.”

My gut turns into an ever-tightening knot. My first thought on seeing the man’s distinctive features was that he was from Doliones Island, the small island in the Col River where Eurydice had been held like a slave, but I hadn’t wanted to believe it. The Dol rarely leave their district and even when they do, they only go to the smaller villages that are closest to their island to trade. They don’t come to the city unless they have to answer an official summons.

Or if they want something.

I push the thought away. They wouldn’t dare come here and steal my wife, I tell myself even though I know that is exactly what has almost just happened. 

“I should have said something,” Iolalus says, shaking his head. I tense. So he does have some Sight; he had seen something like this was going to happen. That’s why he came.

“Something about what?” I ask, feeling guilty for how much I love the feel of Eurydice tucked into my arms.

“Before your marriage, I received a letter from the Dol. They had some harsh words and threats about wanting Eurydice back. I meant to tell you, I promise, but after leaving for Minoa and all that happened there, I forgot about it. I’m sorry. It was irresponsible of me.”

“A similar letter came to us. I had hoped it was just an empty threat.”

“Why can’t he just find someone else?” Eurydice asks angrily. “It’s not as if I ever gave him the tiniest hint I wanted him. I ignored and avoided him as much as I could. What man wants a woman who treats him like that?”

“A man who probably wants you more because of it. He wants you to subdue you,” Iolalus answers quietly. I think of his hesitation before my wedding to answer my question about whether or not Eurydice and I would have a long, happy marriage. Come to think of it, he never did answer. The knot in my stomach tightens another notch. “I will have vigiles patrol near and around your home and make certain that at least one is with you when you go about town.”

“I don’t want to be dogged by a shadow everywhere I go.”

My wife’s choice of words sends a chill through me as I remember what the Dol truly are.

“Just for a while,” I say in a reassuring tone. “Just until we’re sure everything’s okay.”

“If it will make you happy,” she says and leans her head back onto my chest. “Besides, how am I going to make you change diapers if I’m dragged off to Doliones Island before the baby is born.”

I look to Iolalus for a reaction. I wish I hadn’t. He’s looking at Eurydice’s belly in the same way one looks at a letter full of bad tidings. He meets my eyes, gives a solemn nod, and turns away. With only one glance, a vigile brings him a cane. The Solon hadn’t needed it earlier, but I know when troubles weigh on his mind, his limp worsens. I pull Eurydice to me in a tight hug and vow never to let her go.

***

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Giddy Up, Up, and Away: Bellerophon & Pegasus

Today, unless my bus gets lost somewhere in the middle of Ireland, I should be heading into Dublin. But just because I’m on vacation, doesn’t mean I’m going to miss out on a chance to tell you all about one of the many story lines I’ve woven together in The Bonds of Osteria.

This time, we’re not only going to be looking at one of the myths that went into making the book, we’re also going to clear up a little misconception about that myth fostered by a certain film. Yeah, I’m looking at you Clash of the Titans! So, let’s saddle up and set some facts straight about Pegasus.

The Myth Vs. The Bonds of Osteria: Bellerophon and Pegasus

As with last week’s Myth Vs Book, even though I don’t give too much away, I’m going to shout “SPOILER ALERT!!” right now, especially since the mythical story of Bellerophon and Pegasus isn’t one of the more familiar ones. Below, you’ll find the original myth is in regular typeface, while I’ve enclosed my version of events in **italics** like so. Got it? Okay, on with the myth and my twist on this Greek duo.

First off, anyone who has seen the original Clash of the Titans movie and hasn’t read up on their Bullfinch’s Mythology will be scratching his head saying, “Bellerophon? I thought it was Perseus who rode Pegasus.” Nope. Well, sort of nope. As myths evolved, Perseus did eventually get to have a jaunt on Pegasus, but for most of the time the Greeks were telling tales, Perseus just borrowed Hermes’s sandals to flit about saving damsels in distress.

Now, onto the legend. The Pegasus in myth was born from the union between Poseidon and Medusa (which we saw last week). Some tales say Pegasus sprang from Medusa’s neck when her head got lobbed off, others say the winged horse emerged from her blood as it spilled on the ground.

Um, no, that’s not quite right.

**In Bonds, I really didn’t want to have a horse sprouting from someone’s neck, so I opted for the born-from-blood route. However, I also wanted to give Poseidon’s character a little more depth. In The Maze of Minos he’s blamed for certain events that he refuses to take responsibility for. In Bonds, he’s realizing his actions have consequences and he wants to make amends. Taking Medusa’s blood to make Pegasus is one way he atones for what he’s done.**

**Those of you who have read The Trials of Hercules (Book One), might just remember a certain silvery-white horse that Herc gave to Iole. I got all giddy (or maybe giidy-up) when I was able to bring that horse back in Bonds.**

That’s better!

On to this Bellerophon chap. Although the son of Poseidon, he really has a tough time in the myths. His story starts out when he is accused of killing his brother and sent to Proteus for punishment.

**Bonds starts off where The Maze of Minos (Book Three) left off, with Theseus in Athenos and Bellerophon there to watch over him (Theseus is having a tough time due to events that happen in Maze). Working in another myth, I have Theseus meet and fall for Phaedra. When Bellerophon questions the wisdom of this relationship, Theseus banishes him from Athenos and sends him to Proteus (who is Bellerophon’s foster father).**

Proteus clears Bellerophon of the charge of murder, but then Proteus’s wife–when Bellerophon refuses her advances–accuses Bellerophon of rape. Proteus, feeling betrayed but unwilling to kill a guest in his home, sends Bellerophon off to Iobates (who happens to be the father of Proteus’s wife) with a message that Iobates should kill the boy.

**I mostly stuck to this part of the myth in Bonds, but had the challenge of working in some family dynamics and some interior motivations. I also got to play with putting the myths in a new setting as Bellerophon rides along the Oregon Coast to get to Iobates.**

Iobates makes the mistake of letting Bellerophon into his home before he reads the message. Since he too has qualms about killing a guest, he decides to let someone else do the killing…or rather, someTHING else: the Chimera.

Chimera…a mess of a monster.

**Unlike most things in mythology that seem to take years and years, this was one area where I needed to stretch out time. This meant needing a reason for Iobates’s delay and gave me time to build up a relationship between Iobates and Bellerophon as well as letting Bellerophon fall in love with one of Iobates’s servants. Iobates at first seems like a bumbling old man, but we soon learn he has a very dark side.**

In the myths, Bellerophon has to capture Pegasus–a task Athena and Poseidon help him with. He then rides the flying horse to hunt down Chimera. With the advantage of being out of reach of the monster’s flames, he’s able to attack and kill Chimera.

**I won’t give away all the details of this part in the book, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Poseidon came to terms with his responsibilities earlier in the story.**

From A Writer’s Perspective

I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Bellerophon myths when I started Bonds, but I ended up really enjoying developing his myth and bringing it to life with a vengeance. Bellerophon’s character, with his sense of duty and honesty, truly becomes one of the “better” people in the series without making him seem phony or goody goody. Through him, we see a couple of rival gods heal old wounds and work together. And Bellerophon’s tumble into love was both fun and painful to create.

Next Week!!!

Bellerophon’s story ended up being my second favorite of the many story lines in Bonds, but next week we get to learn all about my absolute favorite story line and the myth behind it! See you then.

Pre-order your copy of The Bonds of Osteria today!

Sample Chapter from The Bonds of Osteria

In this sample, Bellerophon is kicked out of Proteus’s home and sent to Iobates. I chose this chapter because it doesn’t give too much away about what happens before Bellerophon is forced to leave for Proteus’s and doesn’t reveal too much of what happens during his stay at Iobates. 

25 – Bellerophon

It’s in the darkest hours before dawn the next day before I hear the bolt of my door slide open. Proteus steps in. His face bears a mixture of anger, disappointment, and regret.

“Father,” I say, using the formal Osterian word that means both parent and lord, “believe me, I didn’t rape her, she came here willingly—”

“Please stop. Don’t embarrass us both. She has told me everything. How you asked her to your room saying you had a wedding gift for her, saying you wanted to talk and to get to know her. She thought you were giving her the mare. She told me,” he says, a sob biting at his voice, “how her heart was warmed by the gesture because she had been fretting over whether you would approve of her or not. And then you violated her.” His voice trembles. 

I drop to my knees, humbling myself before him.

“Believe me or not, but by the justice of Osteria, please hear me. I deserve that much after never giving you any reason to doubt me.” Although pleading, I speak calmly, wanting nothing but to reassure him. “I swear to you, I swear on the bond that makes us as close as father and son, that I did not do this. I did not take her by force. I have no desire for her at all. I know what she means to you.”

When I glance up, Proteus’s cheeks are wet. He stoops over and pulls me into a tight hug. His chest heaves. When he has control of himself, he stands back and looks me in the eye.

“She has demanded that you face a rapist’s execution.”

My groin tightens. Such a punishment means having one’s genitals hacked off with a cleaver that has first been dipped in the feces of the victim. The wound is then bandaged but not cleaned. Eventually sickness sets in that no medic can cure. The person’s own blood turns to poison. In the end, the victim will have killed her attacker. I wonder what a woman has cut off if, as in my case, it’s she who is the rapist?

I stand silent. I don’t know what I’ve done to set Anticlea so against me. Can she want the mare so badly? Does she think I will turn Proteus against her? Or has she taken offense at my not wanting her? Whatever it is, I’m certainly having no luck lately with the chosen loves of the men closest to me.

Still, the hurt is too fresh for Proteus to listen to any words against Anticlea. If I can speak to him in a few days, if I can show him what his wife truly is, I know I can convince him of her true nature. But will I have that much time? Anywhere else a matter like this would go to the courts in the polis’s capital, but in Tillaceae governors act as judges within their own districts. Proteus reaches inside his tunic. I expect a knife, that he’ll avenge his wife here and now. But instead of a blade, he shows me a sealed piece of parchment.

“My execution orders?” I ask, keeping my tone even.

Proteus flinches as if I’ve struck him. “How? I—,” he stammers. “No, I do love you as a son. It’s because of the love I bear you that I’m not doing as she asks. She’ll be bitter for a while, but in the end she will see justice has been done.” He holds out the paper and I take it. “I’m sending you away. You will never set foot in this district again. If you do, the rape charge will still stand. As will the punishment.”

“Where will I go?”

He gestures for me to turn the letter over. The name Iobates is scrawled across the front in Proteus’s familiar handwriting. I don’t know the name and give Proteus a questioning glance.

“The governor of Neskownia, the southernmost district in Tillaceae. He has a new stallion that needs trained. I’ve assured him in there that you are the best trainer for the job.”

I don’t think he’s lying, but the way he rushes his speech makes me feel as if he’s omitting some of the truth. Regardless, I’m lucky to be getting out of here alive and have no ground right now to ask questions or demand the full story.

“When do I leave?”

“Now. You are not welcome in this house any longer, and you really must leave. Anticlea declared last night that she’ll need a day at the agora to select the right dress to wear for your punishment. She also wants something special for her first ride after claiming that mare of yours.”

“No,” I say defiantly. I know I should be humble in this situation, thankful I am not facing my death, but that woman will never touch such a perfect animal. How can Proteus not see she is lying? What woman claims to be raped then goes out on a shopping expedition only a few hours later? 

“If you don’t leave before she wakes, there’s no chance to stop her. Leave now and I will say I had to return it to the Herenes. Consider that my final gift to you because I will give you nothing more in this life. I regret having given you so much as it is.”

I reach out one hand for Proteus to shake. He hesitates for a heartbeat, then accepts, but before he can let go I reach around with my other arm and hug him to me. He resists at first then lets me hold him. “I love you, Father. I accept your punishment and will see it through out of respect for you, but know that I did not do this.”

Proteus heaves a sob then storms out of the room, leaving a guard behind who watches me stuff the letter and the few things I’ve unpacked into my travel bag.

When she sees me, the silver mare prances in her stall and gives out a cheery whicker in greeting. I shush her, giving her an apple. I’m supposed to leave quietly and I don’t want the stablehands to wake and detain me. I will not let Anticlea keep this fine animal for herself. With movements I’ve honed over a lifetime in Proteus’s stables, I saddle the horse and get her bridle and reins fitted in the dim cool light cast by the moon through the stall’s barred window. It’s a rare cloudless night after so much wet weather and I know I’m lucky to have even this amount of light. I take this as a sign that the gods favor my escape. 

Leading the mare through the vast stable, I notice the storeroom is low on oats and other grains that should be stacked high to see the horses through winter. Trade has come to a near stop thanks to Chimera and Medusa, and news has come that the perpetual storms have ruined crops in Demos. If these problems aren’t solved by the end of the season, it will be a hard winter not only for Proteus’s steeds but for all Osterians. 

I guide the mare outside. Her silvery white body seems incredibly bright in the moonlight, gleaming with a god-like shine. To make her less of a beacon, I shift my cape over her flanks when I mount. Again, a light tap with my heels sends her flying over the narrow roads and forest tracks that will take us to the southernmost district in Tillaceae: Neskownia.

Unlike the wealthier poli such as Illamos Valley and Portaceae, the districts in Tillaceae have little communication or interaction with one another. Although they consider themselves Tillacean, any person from Neskownia will think of himself as a Neskownian first and Tillacean second. The governors of the districts in Tillaceae rule their regions independently. There is no central government or king to report to. Taxes are collected and used within districts and legal matters are handled by district governors. 

Every Tillacean district pays homage to Hermes, our patron god, but his temple is on land in the center of the polis, land owned by no single district. It is only Hermes’s guiding hand and wise management that keeps this rugged polis prosperous with healthy dairy cattle and a mild climate; and it’s his easy manner that keeps the districts bonded into a polis rather than splitting into kingdoms.

As the mare and I set off on the Osterian Road I realize I’ve not considered where Chimera and Medusa are, but I’m too dazed to worry over it for long. If Anticlea had her way, I’d be facing a far worse death than what either of those two monsters could do to me. I wonder what kind of man this Iobates is and what this letter in my travel bag truly contains. I could ride off, gallop to Perseus to see if he’s ready for another adventure on the Argoa. But then I tell myself that’s what a guilty man would do. I will go to Iobates as I’ve been told. I will train his horse to walk on water if I have to. Anything to prove I’m not a criminal and allow me to bide time until Proteus comes to his senses.

I ride with the sound of the Western Sea crashing to my right. I’m torn over whether to give the silver as much rein as she likes or to pull her in and slow her down. On the one hand, I’m in no hurry to meet whatever fate greets me in Iobates’s home. I believed Proteus at first, that he would not want to order me to die a rapist’s execution. But after having time to think about it I wonder if he meant I wouldn’t be punished at all, or did he just mean that he himself couldn’t do it? Does this letter carry my execution orders to be carried out by a man with no attachment to me, or was Proteus telling the truth? Could he be sending me to complete a task in order to bide time with Anticlea? I can’t decide and I can’t understand how he could believe her, but in the shadows of the forest paths I keep seeing the look of hurt and disappointment and disbelief on my father’s face. Can he really believe I would do such a thing to him?

While I want to delay my fate, I also don’t want to linger on these roads. Chimera was last spotted in the Astoria polis and could have made her way south across Tillaceae’s borders by now. Medusa was most recently reported in the southern portion of Illamos Valley, but she would only need to cross west over the Low Mountains and journey north to reach Neskownia. These two monsters come and go at will as if they are capable of god travel. With the unnerving idea that they could appear before me at any moment, I opt to let the silver go as fast as she likes and hope that my fate is not to die on this road. 

The silver is so nimble and swift, it’s like I’m flying up and over the headlands and across the beaches of southern Tillaceae. Regardless of my circumstances, I have to admit the exhilaration from this feeling of flight is one every Osterian would be envious of.

The sun is just beginning to kiss the Western Sea when I reach the district limits of Neskownia. I’ve made the journey in half the time it would take on any other horse and neither of us is the worse for wear. As I enter a village, little more than a cluster of a dozen houses and a few shops running down the side of an unpaved road, the silver draws the attention of dozens of shabby people. I soon learn this is the main town in Neskownia despite not even being large enough to be considered a neighborhood in some of the poli I’ve been to. 

I crave a warm meal and large beer, but the townsfolk, curious at first, start to eye the silver more greedily and I won’t leave her. Hoping his name will alert them that I am no wayward traveler who they can rob, I ask one of them where to find Iobates.

“Just look for the rock,” a man with a squashed nose tells me. “Can’t miss it.”

A rock doesn’t seem to me to be the clearest indicator of where someone might be, but it’s the same thing I’m told by three other people who advise me to keep following the road south as they stroke the silver’s mane and attempt to slip their fingers into my travel pack.

Despite what I think are the worst directions in all of Osteria, I follow the road a little further. At a bend, I glance to my right and see a rock bigger than the water tower at the House of Hera jutting up from the beach as if the gods have simply dropped it there from the sky. Straight across the beach from this mammoth stone spreads a bright green field dotted with black and white cows. At the southernmost part of the field stands an array of buildings—one grander than the others, several paddocks, and what must be stables. There are more structures here than in the whole village I’ve just passed through. 

I follow the stone wall that separates the road from the estate until I come to a large archway with an elaborate letter “I” carved on the keystone. The gate stands open, but a heavy-browed man with a bruise across his cheek steps out of a guard house when I approach. I greet him, but only get a grunt in response, so I hand over the letter. He examines the name written on it, eyes me with the same wary caution one might give a madman, then shrugs, hands the letter back, and indicates for me to go through before stepping back into his little hut. 

My stomach knots. This is it. I could turn and run, escape a horrible punishment but be a fugitive the rest of my life; or I can follow the path to the house and keep my dignity and my honor, even if some people have chosen to believe I have none. 

I glance over my shoulder, my hands tight on the reins ready to tug the mare’s head around and ride off to freedom. With a deep breath to steel my resolve, I relax my hands. I pass under the arch and leave my fate in the hands of the gods.

***

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The Beastie of a Hundred Thousand Welcomes

Céad míle fáilte (a 100,000 welcomes) from the Emerald Isle!

That’s right, the Beastie has landed! Finn McSpool is in Ireland, the land of his birth, for a couple weeks and is having far too much fun (read: drowning in stout and other libations) to do much of a post this week.

Still, you know how he is. Despite the jet lag, he’s been eager for as many photo ops as possible and wanted to share a few pics to tide you over until he can start on a full trip report a couple Saturdays from now.

So, from Finn and myself (and Mr Husband, too), “Tabhair aire!!” and “Slán go fóill!

There we were, enjoying a nice cuppa, then Finn decided the tea cozy would look better on him than the teapot.

 

Enjoying a sunny day and cooling his paws in the grass at Charles Fort in Kinsale.

Ooh, breakfast!

Finn declared he had found his Irish roots. Then I told him those were tubers.

See you next Wednesday with another peek at the myths that went into creating my upcoming book, The Bonds of Osteria.

PS – Apologies for any non-Finn weirdness with this post. Let’s just say the WordPress app is a nightmare to edit on.

Off With Her Head! Medusa vs Perseus

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.** 

“I’m too sexy for the sea, too sexy for the sea.”

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).**

Oh, um, Spoiler Alert!

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.

Next Week

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.

Pre-order your copy of The Bonds of Osteria today!!

Sample 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.

***

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