Sneak Peek: Venus Rising

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This is incredibly rough, and will likely change before publication, but enjoy a first look at Venus Rising. (No, that is not the cover).

 

Prologue

Aphrodite

I’m not perfect. But I was designed to be. Once upon a time, Zeus sculpted me from foam and death. He made me into a puppet. A box. A symbol. A thing designed to be perfectly obedient to him.

I bent and twisted beneath his onslaught of lightning and thunder, but when the storm cleared, I remained. Fragile and broken, but still alive. His death released me from his vision of perfection, leaving me free to find my own. That’s when I discovered how far from perfect I truly was.

I’ve been called whore, shallow, arrogant, self-centered, annoying, and worse by beings who physically can’t lie. They’re not wrong. I’m riddled with flaws. I am neither strong nor brave. I cling too tightly, love too freely, and fear that without my beauty, there’s nothing left of me. Nothing real.

But life goes on, regardless of my uncertainty. As time passed, I had no choice but to learn to stand on my own two legs, shaky as they may be.

Here’s what I’ve learned. I’m nobody’s statue or posable doll. I am neither a box nor a symbol. Yes, I’ve been loved by war, struck by lightning, hugged by spring, and mauled by the sea, but I’m more than a victim. I am greater than my story.

I’m real, flaws and all, and that’s terrifying. Every day, I become someone else. Someone stronger. Wiser. Better. I’m becoming myself.

But that process isn’t always pretty.

Mythology Monday: Acheron

 

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Charon rode into the steam made by the river of fire and the river of ice meeting in the marsh. “There’s the shore. I’m not picking up any souls right now,” he said, answering my unspoken question. “Though with you in here, they may come a bit more willingly.”

~@~

Acheron was either the son of  Helios and Gaea or Helios or Demeter. Prior to being a river, he was a minor god who made the mistake of providing the Titans with drinks during the Titanomachy. Zeus turned him into the river/lake of pain and sent him to the Underworld, where he became its principal river. Ascalaphus (the god who tricked Persephone into eating pomegranates) was, in some versions of mythology, his son.

The Styx

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I peered closely at the River Styx. In the center was a small island of trees. I could just barely see a long wooden canoe-like boat gliding around the island.

~@~

The Styx, (river/goddess of hate) is both a river and a goddess in Greek mythology. Primordials were confusing like that. In Goddess form, she was a nymph who lived in a  grotto with silver columns near the entrance of Hades (the realm, not the deity). In river form, she’s winds around the Underworld seven times.

Depending on which version of the mythology you choose to follow, Styx is either the daughter of Erebus and Nyx or the daughter of Tethys and Oceanus. She married Pallas and had four to five children (Zeluz, Nike, Kratos,  Bia, and sometimes Eos). She had a rather tragic love story involving the river of fire (Phlegethon). They were in love, but eternally separated. So in the Underworld, one flows into the other so they can always be together. This results in a steam-filled, marshy atmosphere in the Underworld.

In the titanomachy, Styx rushed to Zeus’s aid. Thus she and her children were spared the forced relocation of the elder gods. She also became the binding oath the gods swore by. A swear by the Styx can not be undone.

Her water was rumored to have healing properties. Achilles was dipped into the Styx as a child, and all but the bit of ankle his mother held him by proved to be invulnerable. Her waters were also very destructive. Stygian water (water from the Styx) and sulfur could destroy plants and animals. All divine weapons and cool stuff were forged from Stygian metal.

She connects to the Persephone myth in some versions as well as one of the nymphs who were playing with Persephone in the meadow, along the river, on the day she was abducted.

 

 

 

 

 

Mythology Monday: Zeus

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I legitimately cannot believe I haven’t written a mythology Monday on Zeus yet.

Wow, where to even start. Okay, first you’ll need some background on creation and the Titanomachy. 

Zeus’s father, Cronus, was terrified that his children were going to be the death of him. So he would eat his children as soon as his wife, Rhea gave birth. Why continue to have children then? In my world, I had a hard time imagining that the gods themselves couldn’t control whether or not they became pregnant, at least when it came to hooking up with each other, so I built in a different explanation.

The gods had to pass on bits of their powers when their powers became too much for them. Zeus didn’t just have a ton of kids because he loved sleeping around (though that did factor in), he had an obscene amount of worship fueling his power. I’m sure the god king before him did as well.

But Rhea was not a fan of her husband eating her children. Rather than putting her foot down and just saying no, she put the fate of her previously eaten children in the hands of an infant. When Chaos got ready to eat Zeus, Rhea tricked him into eating a rock instead. (It is revealed in Aphrodite that Rhea was the first god to use charm).

Zeus was given to the last unicorn Amalthea the goat or possibly nymph depending on the version of the myth you ascribe to,  to raise on Mt. Dikte, but there are a lot of variations on how he was kept out of Cronus’s awareness. Some versions of the myth say he was hung, suspended from a tree, neither touching the earth nor sky. His cries were covered by the warrior Curetes, banging his shield in a dance.

Upon coming of age, Zeus created a shield from Amalthea’s hide and a magical horn of plenty from her horn. He also enlisted the aid of a Titan named Metis to force Cronus to throw up his older siblings, enlisted those siblings with his far, freed the six giant-sons of Heaven from the pit of Tartaros, and enlisted the aid of the Cyclopes (who armed him with lightning-bolts)  and the Hekatonkheires (Hundred-Handed) who aided him in his assault on the Titanes with volleys of thrown boulders (theoi.com). The Titans were locked into Tartarus and the Olympian siblings divided up the cosmos. Some Titans did side with the Olympians in the war, which is why they pop up in later myths, and the alliance with the monsters didn’t last long (see Gigantomachy).

The gods created man, and Zeus went on to have many children and take an active role in almost every other myth in the mythos for Greek Mythology. As far as children went, there were some changes I made in my story. Athena’s mother is in fact Metis (remember her from a few paragraphs ago?) whom Zeus ate when he discovered she was pregnant, because he also feared his children would destroy him. In some versions of the myth, Ares was created solely by Hera when she touched a flower provided by Flora. Neither one of those was mentioned in my books because A. Ares has to have charm, the plot demands it ((which in that case means I’m just choosing a different interpretation of the myth), and B. Athena is a minor character, and none of the POV characters who ever interact with her would know the whole story of her birth. (Hades was in the Underworld, Persephone wasn’t born, and Aphrodite only knows what the gods passed on through the bloodlines, and I can totally see Hera leaving that out.) Athena plays things pretty close to the vest and is unlikely to ever bring up anything irrelevant to the conversation.

Powers wise, Zeus has lightning bolts (in mythology, these were crafted and given to him by either the cyclopses or Heph, but in my version, he’s just got control over storms because sometimes the myths threw that in). He was Lord of the skies, and in my version, he has charm. Charm is entirely made up by me in this context, but mythologically it fixes a ton of plot holes for Zeus to have mind control powers, so it fits really well.

In my story, Zeus went on to rule much as he did in mythology until the fall of Olympus, at which point he went underground and started plotting. I’ll do a master post on Zeus’s children at some point in the coming weeks. But that’s Zeus in a nutshell.

Friendly reminder! Aphrodite is on sale for .99 cents!

 

 

 

Mythology Monday: Janus

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“Life isn’t fair! Why should death be any different?”

“Did you ever stop and wonder if maybe that attitude is why the gods are dead?” I asked. “People don’t believe in gods because they can’t wrap their minds around the idea of someone allowing all the terrible things in the world to happen.”

“Reality has teeth and claws. It’s rarely pretty and never fair. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

I clenched my fists. “Why? I get that no one has the power to interfere now, but when the gods were in power, how could they let things get this bad? You’re here every day! You hear the stories of murder, thievery, and worse. You see the children who starved to death. This isn’t a recent development. Why didn’t you stop it?”

“We gave humans free will—”

“That’s bull!” I exploded. “If you have the power to stop someone from getting killed and don’t, you’re just as guilty as whoever pulled the trigger.”

“Where do you draw that line, Persephone? There are billions of humans, and a handful of us—”

“Who allowed humans to get to the billions? That was greed, plain and simple. More humans equaled more worship. And really, between the God of Mist, and the God of Doorways, and the god of every other useless thing, you couldn’t at least try?”

“You’re angry. I understand. You didn’t see this side of the world back in your flower shop. Your mother kept you sheltered. It’s a bit of a shock at first, but—”

“But what? Over time I’ll get used to it? Used to seeing children in the court of the dead? Used to watching husbands cry over lost wives? Why should I get used to it when I can do something about it?”

“You can’t save everyone. You just don’t have that power.”

“But you did! You each had the power to grant immortality!” I threw my hands in the air. “Why were only some people given the gift? My mother has the power to make things grow anywhere. How come people are still starving? Are you all so full of yourselves that you think you’re any more deserving of these gifts than any one of those humans?”

~@~

Persephone makes a brief reference to Janus, the Roman God of Doorways. Like the God of Mist and the God of Fog, she’s wrong to write Janus off as a minor deity. Janus/Jana was actually two gods, hence the two heads, and was worshiped as everything from the sun, the moon, to the space between passages, i.e. doorways, beginnings, endings, transitions, war, peace, birth, death, traveling, the list goes on and on because if something has a distinct beginning, end, and transition between the two, Janus presides over it. Thematically, Janus is important in Persephone as a coming of age novel.

For a long, long time they were regarded as the highest of gods and got dibs on all the sacrifices, like Hestia. Janus has two faces, one to look in the future, one the past. In this regard, they are similar to the Greek Fates, but there was no Greek equivalent to Janus in its entirety, though Greek mythologists played around with the idea of Janus in their own stories later.

Janus may have fathered some children, but a lot of those stories are Greek additions to his mythology. He’s an interesting conundrum in Roman mythology as his role touches on/overlaps the roles of so many gods in the Pantheon. Popular theory is that Janus either predates the Roman Pantheon all together or was developed in an isolated bit of the culture and later worked into the mythology.

I’m not even going to try to get into the myths regarding Janus, because there’s a lot of discussion/argument about whether the god playing the role of Janus in any given myth was him, or if his name was stuck in as a replacement or a straight up mistake in translation/assumption. (Janus for instance has nothing to do with the month of January, though for a long time scholars thought that was the case).

In mythology, Janus is complex and fascinating, and I encourage you to read more about him. 

Mythology Monday: Flora and Chloe

f37-1khlorisI frowned when I found a scribbled notation on the back of the ticket: narcissus. I glanced at the customer’s name and saw it was one of our regular customers, Flora. I could imagine the conversation that had taken place during that order. Flora’s shrill voice demanding those small white daffodils she’d seen in one of the other arrangements. Mom gently asking if she meant narcissus, a smaller flower frequently confused with daffodils, then the old woman insisting she knew what she was talking about until my mother wrote down the order and penciled in the correction later. For the record, the customer is never right.

~@~

“Where’s Chloe?” I asked, dreading the prospect of a customer demanding my attention. The shop was empty now, but I knew the minute Mom left my sight someone would walk in.

The phone beeped in my mom’s hand, reminding her of the caller on hold. She gave it a harried look. “Making deliveries. I don’t expect her back this afternoon.” She tucked my hair behind my ear when I frowned. “The customers won’t bite, I promise.” The phone beeped again and my mother sighed.

~@~

In Roman mythology, Flora was an Elysian Nymph and the goddess of flowers. It makes sense in my story that her powers would be derivative from Demeter, so I made her one of Demeter’s priestesses. She’s referenced, but never seen. Chloris, changed to Chloe in my story, is her Greek counterpart. She is the wife of Zephyrus (God of the West Wind), and an exceptionally minor deity.  Zephyrus courted her Boreas style, which is to say he swept down, raped her, and “made good” on the rape by making her his wife. In her own words she “has no complaints about my marriage” (Ovid, Fasti 5. 193 ff (trans.Boyle)).

Prior to her abduction, she did not have powers over nature or flowers. Her first flowers were made from the blood of sad people in unhappy tales (Hyacinth, Narcissus), so she’s obviously not depressed with her lot in life at all.

She was instrumental in the conception of Mars by lending Hera a particular flower to help her conceive (without Jupiter, by the way).

She was also super strategic about how she obtained worship. Flower crowns, gifts of flowers, splashes of colors in the field, all her doing. Seriously, look up the cult of Flora sometime. She was a very self-assured and interesting character, despite being an incredibly minor goddess.

Both versions of Flora’s persona are referenced in Persephone, because I felt bad about giving Persephone absolute domain over their powers.

 

Mythology Monday: The God of Mist

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“Life isn’t fair! Why should death be any different?”

“Did you ever stop and wonder if maybe that attitude is why the gods are dead?” I asked. “People don’t believe in gods because they can’t wrap their minds around the idea of someone allowing all the terrible things in the world to happen.”

“Reality has teeth and claws. It’s rarely pretty and never fair. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

I clenched my fists. “Why? I get that no one has the power to interfere now, but when the gods were in power, how could they let things get this bad? You’re here every day! You hear the stories of murder, thievery, and worse. You see the children who starved to death. This isn’t a recent development. Why didn’t you stop it?”

“We gave humans free will—”

“That’s bull!” I exploded. “If you have the power to stop someone from getting killed and don’t, you’re just as guilty as whoever pulled the trigger.”

“Where do you draw that line, Persephone? There are billions of humans, and a handful of us—”

“Who allowed humans to get to the billions? That was greed, plain and simple. More humans equaled more worship. And really, between the God of Mist, and the God of Doorways, and the god of every other useless thing, you couldn’t at least try?”

“You’re angry. I understand. You didn’t see this side of the world back in your flower shop. Your mother kept you sheltered. It’s a bit of a shock at first, but—”

“But what? Over time I’ll get used to it? Used to seeing children in the court of the dead? Used to watching husbands cry over lost wives? Why should I get used to it when I can do something about it?”

“You can’t save everyone. You just don’t have that power.”

“But you did! You each had the power to grant immortality!” I threw my hands in the air. “Why were only some people given the gift? My mother has the power to make things grow anywhere. How come people are still starving? Are you all so full of yourselves that you think you’re any more deserving of these gifts than any one of those humans?”

~@~

Persephone’s remark about the God of Mist and the God of Doorways was a bit unfair. Achlys was the God of Mist, and in some versions she existed before Chaos (in others she was one of Nyx’s daughters, the Keres). Her other titles were The God of Eternal Night or the God of the Mist of Death. She was the personification of misery and sadness. Hercules carried her likeness on his shield. She looked pale, emaciated, and weeping, with chattering teeth, swollen knees, long nails on her fingers, bloody cheeks, and her shoulders thickly covered with dust.

So hardly a minor, inconsequential god, all things considered.

Mythology Monday: Calliope

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“What can we do for you?” Hades repeated impatiently.

“Well, you see,” Orpheus said,  “I haven’t died yet.”

That news caused stirring amongst the judges. They muttered, glancing at each other. Hades shot a look at Cassandra.

“Then how did you come to be here?” she asked.

“My mother is the muse Calliope—”

“I should have known you were a demigod!” I interrupted. “I didn’t know about the eyes thing when I met you, but it was so obvious. I mean, well, if anyone was a demigod it would be you.”

“Well—” Orpheus shifted uncomfortably “—I’m human for all practical purposes. I’m just gifted with music.”

I sighed. “You sure are.” Oh my God! Did I just say that out loud? How humiliating.

“Calliope herself is a fairly minor deity,” Hades explained, ignoring my faux pas. “Well, sub-deity. She’s a singer of some renown herself. You may know her as . . . ” He paused. “What does she go by now, Cassandra?”

Cassandra supplied the name, and my jaw dropped. “She’s your mother?”

Orpheus shrugged. “Yes, but we don’t advertise that fact. The lack of age difference would be difficult to explain.”

~@~

Orpheus’s mother, Calliope is the oldest of the nine muses (well, there’s some debate about that, but in most myths), and the goddess of music, song, dance, eloquence, and epic poetry. She was considered to be the wisest of all the muses and the most assertive. Depending on the myths, Orpheus’s father was either Apollo or a Thracian King named Oeagrus (that she was married to). Orpheus may have had a brother named Linus (or he could have been the child of another muse depending on the myth) who taught him music. She may have also had several children by Ares.

Once, she had a singing duel with several daughters of the King of Thessaly (Pierus), and upon soundly defeating the princesses, turned them into magpies.

Mythology Monday: Voting!

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Tomorrow is election day in the good old U.S of A, so if you’re in country and eligible, go vote! Do your civic duty and stuff.

To further inspire you, I thought I’d do a special edition Mythology Monday voting edition to show just how important it is to vote and the dire consequences that follow if you vote wrong.

This election day, I’m going to feature the most famous example of voting in mythology. The judgement of Paris.

Eris was the god of strife, chaos, and discord. She is the daughter of Nyx, and sometimes Erebus, sometimes Cronus. Eris is the major deity behind Discordianism. Eris and Enyo, a younger goddess of war, are sometimes referred to interchangeably.

Eris is most famous for setting the Trojan War into motion. She was not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, so she showed up anyway in a very Malificent move, bearing the gift of a golden apple. The gift, she explained, was intended for the most beautiful goddess in attendance. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite immediately began bickering over the apple, and in the end Paris was chosen to judge the divine beauty contest. Each goddess tried to bribe him, and Aphrodite, who promised him the most beautiful mortal woman on earth, Helen of Troy, won. Unfortunately, Helen was not yet of Troy, she was married to Menalaus, so when Paris kidnapped her he started the Trojan War.

See. Your vote can make an impact 😀

Have a happy election day tomorrow.