The Return of Strangely Beautiful!

Good People,

Permit me to (re)introduce you to a very important book. If an earlier addition of Strangely Beautiful is on your shelf, you’re in for the special treat of new content. If you’ve not had the pleasure of reading this tale, you are invited to make a purchase of it today. Once it arrives, I’m certain you will enjoy the time spent with Leanna Renee Hieber’s finely crafted and much beloved characters.

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The unique and original creation – Percy Parker – features in this work by a true pioneer in Gothic & Gaslamp fantasy. Miss Parker is, in a sense, an outcast from birth but who among us hasn’t felt the same way some point in our lives? She and Alexi Rychman take center stage, surrounded by mystery and almost Poe-like goings-on.

If you’re a fan of such film and television series as Crimson Peak, Ripper Street, and Penny Dreadful than Strangely Beautiful must adorn your attention and library.

You can read more here.


This post is, of course, utterly share-able.

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ἐπιφάνεια…

Sometimes it is difficult to hear a particular Muse clearly. More often than not, it isn’t just one speaking to me. Ideas for sculpture, writing, and other art are coming all the time – simultaneously. From time to time, I will have to pause one project in favor of another. Even in an ideal world, in which I could devote every second of the day to the arts, I’m certain this would be the case. It’s just the way it goes.

During any pause on a specific writing project, there is not a complete silencing of the voices of the characters involved. They are, in the back of my mind, still seeking deeper subtext and greater clarity about their motives and missions. There’s probably no way to stop this and I wouldn’t want to. When research and writing resumes there are new epiphanies that, I feel, improve the richness of the work in question.

Recently, my thinking returned to the story of Teiresias, which I am calling A Song Heard in the Future (based on a quote from Tennyson’s poem treating the same character). Before the pause I knew there were two major holes in the novel. Two characters – both of whom are women – were going to disappear into them.

Being a seer, Teiresias is frequently a giver of advice. As a person, though, he lives through some truly fantastic upheavals. It stands to reason that he might – from time to time – seek some advice. Part of Song deals with this but for a while I wasn’t sure how.

The advice in this case becomes the foundation of the third act. The two characters who provide it were apparently very active during my break from this tale. They were in danger of vanishing from the story after merely being messengers. It is perhaps a platitude that an author’s characters speak to their creator. In this instance, these two were defending their importance. It really is like they knew.

One of them “reminded” me that she also had to be involved in some of the first scenes of the book. I can’t argue with the logic. And how could I have missed it‽

In trying to stay as close to the source material of Greek mythology (the origin of so many tales of heroism), it seemed a little cowardly to let important characters fade from the story and follow other paths to the end of the saga.

The song may be heard in the future but I have to listen to it, and the Muses, now.

muses light


🜀🝠

Bubbling up…

Talented coauthor and dear friend – Leanna Renee Hieber – shared with me an opportunity to contribute for an upcoming anthology. She and I are among those asked to blur the line between fact and fiction in each of our separate pieces. During the writing I was able to refer to a pair of maps I’d made over ten years ago. At that time I was playing an online game that was a little light on details. Maps of Lemuria and Mu were made to assist other players in visualizing the play environment. And since they took a rather long time to create, I saved the files. I’m truly glad I did. LemuriaThe artistic approach for the fabled sunken continent of Lemuria began with a bathymetric map of the Indian Ocean and the coastlines provided by theory. In the case of Mu, there is not a precise border so the coast used a similar process to build out that of real, existing islands. mu mapIn the online game mentioned above, these maps were to record fictional claims on imaginary lands. They were used while I wrote to keep certain details straight. Sunken continents have always fascinated me – at least since 2nd grade. It seems odd that we’re taught the myth of Atlantis before the dynamics of continental drift. Details about the anthology can’t be provided here but updates will be when available and appropriate. I’m curious how each contributed piece (mine and that from Ms. Hieber included) might work together as a whole. When it is released, I believe I’ll be reading it with the same sense of wonder I hope other readers will.

“Five feet out that door is the real world…”

Teiresias-JanusSince I remembered Teiresias from grade school lessons about Greek and Roman mythology, I rather assumed he was a famous seer. In some recent conversations, it turns out he’s not that famous. I find the character fascinating because he stands in so many thresholds at once – between mortal and divine, sighted and blinded, male and female, and the present and possible futures. If Odysseus’ visit to Hades is included, the liminality of this world and the Underworld is added.

And for a persona so involved with seeing the future and curses of the gods, it seems odd that none of the stories about him (or her – as “Teireseia” in the novel I’m writing, A Song Heard in the Future) directly involve the Fates. It seems a glaring omission, to be honest.

Chorus: Who then is the helmsman of Ananke (Necessity)?

Prometheus: The three-shaped Fates and mindful Erinyes (Furies).

Chorus: Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do?

Prometheus: Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

Writing is not just telling a story. The act of crafting a novel is a process of making decisions. Two of the largest choices, particularly when it involves research, are “Do I include this and, if so, how?” along with “What does this mean in context of the book I want to present?”

In showing the journeys made by Teiresias, there’s a journey for me. I think that may be part of my renewed fascination for the seer and all of his thresholds. In a recent conversation I said, “Each person lives only one day at a time.”

Within the talk it was meant as a reference to how much one person can do in 24 hours and within reason. It isn’t fair to measure one person by one day’s work and another by that of a decade. But in this post it means that each day can be a journey – even when it is a slice of the experience of someone who can see the future.

Janus was the Roman god of Start and Change. He was also the deity of doorways. It does not seem that there was a Greek equivalent. I am beginning to wonder if it shouldn’t have been Teiresias.

Tracing a Path…

Researching Greek mythology has worked better for me having adopted the view that the entire record is of a “shared fiction universe”. The best known stories from Pandora to Aeneas – and everyone in between – exist as amalgamations of many ancient tellings. Not every detail is identical when comparisons are made. There are certain contradictions, given multiple accounts, that are impossible to reconcile.

Argonaut-map-trim
The best example may be what happens when trying to establish the route of the Argonauts and duration of their travels. No fewer than five chroniclers of Jason’s journey draw widely different lines on the map between Colchis and Iolcus. If the trip was ever made, there can only have been one return trip. At least four maps are wrong.

Pindar and Hecataeus can’t be right because the world isn’t actually shaped as they thought it was. (One cannot sail from the Caspian Sea around the Arabian Peninsula to the source of the Nile.) The route chosen by Timaeus could be right but the surviving heroes would have taken years to return, not mere months. There is quite a bit of portaging involved in the path Apollonius of Rhodes prefers – including over the Alps. Helping drag a penteconter over a mountain pass is low on my to do list.

How a tale is told and what choices the author makes depend on intent. But they also reveal assumptions by the author and the zeitgeist in which he or she writes. When the world was small and known, exploration was not a virtue and therefore wasn’t an activity heroes got up to.

Henriette Mertz postulated that the Argonauts’ adventures took place largely in the Americas and suggests a Western Civilization emphasis. She moves Colchis from the Southern Caucasus to western Bolivia, South America, making it a metaphor of Tiwanaku.

In A Song Heard in the Future, two of the major characters about whom I’m writing do become Argonauts. One is a daughter of Teiresias and the other is a man who plays a very important – if symbolic – role toward the end of the Heroic Age.

I cannot say I’m completely aware of what may be my own biases. Nor would I be able to assess to what extent I think in terms of the zeitgeist. I’m as eager to find out as I hope future readers may be. The exploration of self may unavoidably be part of writing any novel (whether I draw a map or not). I hope that can mean writing a book is an invitation.

Lethe Behind…

Before the story of A Song Heard in the Future began to gel, I thought I might want to have something undead involved. I’m making an effort to stay true to the mythology. This isn’t simple because one myth will contradict the next with regard to some critical “facts”. Assuming one is true often means another cannot be. Where two disagree, I feel free to make a choice, either supporting one over another – or in taking a completely new angle. When none of the accounts offer evidence for desired component of the story – like the undead – I don’t feel as though I have much latitude to include it. (I’m such a conformist.) 😉

The Ancient Greeks do not seem to have had vampires, per se. There is the vrykolakas but this creature seems to have been important from the Romanian night (vârcolac). Furthermore, the ‘lakas would have been more of a werewolf than anything nosferatu (nesuferitu).

The spirit of anyone properly buried was transported to the Underworld, where they promptly forgot much of their mortal lives – if not all. I can’t remember if I wanted to have Teiresias do battle with some sort of strigoi (also, btw, Romanian). What I might have had a vampire do in Song I now cannot recall. I’m not certain whether that is fitting or ironic.

Over this past weekend, however, my co-author (Leanna Renee Hieber) and I discussed the concepts of a culture and the statements collectively made by it – in its folklore – about its own philosophical assumptions. What does it mean if you (as a society) have to outsource certain folkloric descriptions over the river at the border? The musing on this theme likely won’t have emphasis in Song – but Leanna and I probably will present it as a panel at an upcoming convention.

Ancient Greek Goth Kid

Jumping In…

As this is the first official post, I thought I’d explain the title “Surfing the Zeitgeist”. It’s a bit of a mixed metaphor with a hint of staying ahead of the curve. If the zeitgeist were an actual spirit in the paranormal sense, rather than being possessed and controlled by it, what would the converse be? How would it be properly bound and what could it be made to do?


In a very strange way, I have fallen into researching and writing a novel. And it isn’t the novel I thought I’d write first; something more directly arcane was the intended launch/debut.

Before what I believe to be a compelling story emerged, I had been musing on a fictional timeline for some themes that have always been of interest. The plan was to track the concepts of justice (diké), hope (elpis), and equality (isotés) back to the Dawn of the Heroic Age, i.e., the aftermath of the Flood. In Ancient Greek belief, the story of Noah was equivalent to the Deluge of Deucalion.

I think I expected the center of the myths to fall in Athens or Corinth but Thebes became the focus, a city-state described as the “anti-Athens”. It was a quote from the fragments Sophocles that metaphorically caught my eye: “At Thebes alone do mortal women bear immortal gods.” It is a reference to the sons of Semele and Antiope – Dionysus and Heracles, respectively.

Some assumptions had to be made:

• In the Greek version, how many years ago did the Deluge happen?

• How long is a generation?

• Was the father of Dionysus Asopus or Zeus?

• How long after the Flood did the Argonauts sail and did Heracles really travel with them?

And so on…

The timeline rather quickly became both an outline of concept tracking and a tool of projection into the future. What will justice, hope, and equality mean in the distant future? With that thought, the novel began to haunt me – and then compel.

One character stood out in the timeline I was crafting. He has almost always been, in essence, the leader of the Chorus and never the lead. Teiresias, the famous blind seer, quickly became the fulcrum of the timeline – past to future – and the central character.

But his (or her) mythology is about as consistent as any other story Ancient Greek oral tradition presented. It isn’t possible to craft a unified lineage and timeline from Prometheus bringing fire to mortals through to the Fall of Troy. And with Teiresias there are conflicting accounts about whether he was born male or female, how he or she became blind, and how many children the prophet may have had (and by/with whom).

I had to give my own account regardless of whether Plato and Homer would agree.


And what have I learned at this point in this exploration?

• What will writing a novel do to me? –  As mindful of Diké, Elpis, and Isotés as I may be, I can always do better.

• Don’t get distracted. – If most of the action is set in Thebes, don’t worry about what’s happening in Endor.

• Write my own story. – If the novel’s premise involves denying some of the “established lore” – stick to what the story requires.