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Here it is, the post you've been waiting for! I "met" Alayna Williams (who is also the pseudonym for urban fantasy novelist Laura Bickle) over at Pocket After Dark in a discussion about book blogging. She mentioned her plans to do a blog tour this coming March for the release of Rogue Oracle, her second novel in the Delphic Oracle series...

At which point I came to a full stop, went and looked up her books to this point, and send her an e-mail. Delphic Oracle, you say? Magic using tarot cards, you say? (And, as Laura Bickle, you're writing UF in Detroit?) Already convinced that she must be awesome, I shot her an e-mail, and all our interactions have confirmed it. Alayna rocks, and she's got a really fun mythic sensibility.

So instead of waiting 'til March, I've brought her over to the blog now to talk about the Oracle at Delphi and Delphi's Daughters. She's also generously offered to give away a copy of her first novel, Dark Oracle (which came out in June), to a commenter on this post! No sophisticated rules, here, gang: one comment is one entry, and if you leave me a link to where you've posted about this elsewhere, we'll give you another entry. (As usual, if you just want to comment, but not be entered, please mention that. *g*) Contest runs through Wednesday the 29th -- we'll announce the winner on Thursday the 30th.

And without further ado: Alayna!


Ancient and Modern Oracles
by Alayna Williams

The Delphic Oracle is probably the most famous oracle of the ancient world. The priestess of the Temple of Apollo, the Pythia, wielded a great deal of political influence over leaders who sought both her advice and the advice of the priestesses who served the temple. The Temple of Apollo was sited over a crevasse in the earth emitting noxious vapors, leading to modern-day speculation that the Pythia’s visions were not sendings from Apollo, but toxic hallucinations. The Delphic Oracle operated from roughly the eight century BC until 393 AD, when all pagan oracles were ordered to be dismantled by the Emperor. After that, no one knows what became of the priestesses.

I was intrigued by the idea of an order of women exerting subtle and powerful influence over the ancient world. I wondered what would happen if that order of priestesses went underground and survived to the modern day. What would their role in world events be? In Dark Oracle, the title of Pythia is handed down through generations of women, all oracles with their own unique talent for foreseeing the future. Delphi’s Daughters are a secret organization, nudging world events and gathering information through vast networks of helpers. Their behavior is sometimes sinister, sometimes pure, but always secretive. No one but the Pythia herself knows how the puzzle of world events fits together, and her priestesses are often left in the dark, guessing at her motives.

In the worlds of Dark Oracle and Rogue Oracle, the current Pythia is a pyromancer. She sees the future in dancing flames. The heroine of the story, Tara Sheridan, is a cartomancer who uses Tarot cards to create criminal profiles. Other characters have abilities with scrying, astronomy, and geomancy. Delphi’s Daughters come from all walks of life: they are physicists, soccer moms, artists, farmers, and dancers. They are women just like women you know and walk past on the street. But they are women with a secret.

Tara's talents were a challenge to create. Use of Tarot cards requires both an intellectual understanding of the ancient symbolism of the cards, as well as the ability to make intuitive leaps from the cards to one's current situation. Using the cards in her work as a profiler, Tara spends a great deal of time in her own head. She's not a brash woman who rushes into situations with guns blazing. She's a thinker, a planner, and it's simply not in her analytical nature to shoot off at the mouth -- or with her guns -- when she can get her mission accomplished using less attention-getting means. She is accustomed to having to hide her talents from the people with whom she works, which makes her very circumspect... and isolated. Especially since she's survived an attack by a serial killer that has left her scarred for life. She's withdrawn from her work as a profiler and as a member of Delphi's Daughters.

In thinking about how such an order might survive into the modern world, I imagined the limitations inherent in being an oracle in a secret organization. It would require secrecy, sacrificing a large part of one’s life, and committing to a larger ideal. I decided that, as time passed, fewer and fewer women would be interested in unquestioningly serving Delphi’s Daughters. In Dark Oracle, the order is dying out. Tara Sheridan has left the order after her mother died, refusing to return. After surviving an attack by a serial killer that left her scarred for life, she is unable to bear children. And there are no young women in Delphi’s Daughters any longer.

The Pythia must try to continue the line, whatever the cost. She is challenged to convince the rebellious Tara to return. Or she must find new blood to move into the future, a new order for a new age. And blood will be spilled in the process.

-Alayna Williams
alanajoli: (Default)
Lady Charlotte Guest has insightful things to say about Welsh legends and mythology in her original introduction to her translation of what she called the Mabinogion,* but the quote following comes from an introduction to a later edition written by R. Williams, whose qualifications I don't know. The following excerpt is written about the section of the Mabinogion that includes Pwyll, Branwen, Manawyddan, and Math, arguably the oldest section of the collected tales that Guest translated.

Williams himself quotes another writer, Matthew Arnold, who is also unfamiliar to me. But interestingly, he talks about peasants using stones from ancient sites, including Ephesus. (Though he doesn't say it as such, he could well be describing a palimpsest!) He may as well have included Glastonbury among those sites he listed -- like the ruins at Ephesus, Glastonbury's ruins have ended up as parts of local farm fences and houses. From what I have been told, every so often, someone manages to pry stones loose from their own foundations and return them to the Abbey. But that could just be another story.

* Guest pluralized Mabinogi, which was (is?) the Welsh term for the traditional lore that must be known by a Mabinog, the word for what is roughly, as far as I can tell, an apprentice bard.


The stories of the first group, in their underlying substance, are pre-Christian and pre-historic; in their present form they are quasi-mythological. There is no reason to doubt the theory that they are a survival of the ancient mythology of the Celt; but the action of time and change has softened down the mythical element, without getting rid of it altogether. The gods have ceased to be gods, but they have not become ordinary men. In fact the substance is so much older than the form that the story-teller could not analyze his material even if he would. As Matthew Arnold says--"the mediaeval story-teller is pillaging an antiquity of which he does not fully possess the secret; he is like a peasant building his hut on the site of Halicarnassus or Ephesus; he builds, but what he builds is full of materials of which he knows not the history, or knows by a glimmering tradition merely: stones not of this building, but of an older architecture, greater, cunninger, more majestical." The tales are saturated with magic and illusion.


In [the work of Lady Charlotte Guest] doubtless there are defects. Her transcript of the Red Book text was in parts inaccurate; her translation does not always give the literal meaning of the original, and, from motives easy to explain, she left a few passages here and there untranslated. But nowhere do her mistakes or her omissions detract seriously from the integrity of the story.


Jun. 26th, 2010 09:08 pm
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A little while ago, [ profile] dcopulsky, who was a student on the trips in both Ireland and Greece and Turkey, asked if I'd do an interview for his site Question Riot, where he posts new interviews on Thursdays. The interview is now up, and it gets into all of the different kinds of writing that I do, from my bread and butter freelance work to my fiction, RPG, and comics work. Dan asked questions covering the whole gamut, and I had fun answering.

Work has been pouring in lately, which is great in that it means pay checks, but does complicate those goals I submitted to Kaz's Summer Camp. I may have to revise my plans this Tuesday! I have gotten through all of the children's finalists for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, and I turned in my votes this morning. I've got one more adult novel to finish before votes are due on Wednesday, and hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow so I can get back to my review books!
alanajoli: (Default)
Back in 2006 when I made my first voyage to Ireland with Mark Vecchio and students, I had the privilege of getting to know then theater student, Rich Vaden. Since then, I've traveled with Rich to Turkey and Greece on another one of the myth tours (where he performed a Homeric Hymn for our group in the theater at Delphi), have seen him perform in college productions, and have had the opportunity to see the play that he wrote and performed in, Hide and Seek, in two different incarnations: one at the Berkshire Fringe Festival, and one produced by Scheherazade Theatre in Pioneer Valley and performed at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre in Times Square. He's remarkably talented, and a good friend. Right now, he's off in Ireland, chaperoning the same trip where we met, so I asked if he'd be willing to write a guest blog about his trip. He sent me this piece earlier in the week, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.


May 22, 2010 Strandhill, Ireland, Co. Sligo:

"Mythical Meditation"

Since I've arrived in Ireland, its been a developing process of trying to strip away the blocks my own modern mind has placed on the process of delving deeply into the myths and the mythic imagination that Ireland (its culture, landscape and legends) inspire. One of the tools I have been using is meditation. At each sacred location we visit (thus far: Tara, Newgrange, The Lake Isle of Inishfree, Maeve's Cairn/Knocknarea, & Knocknarea Glen) I take, at the very least, ten minutes to meditate using a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu techniques, with my own personal "stank." This is the way that I find most helpful in tuning into the mythic aura/tone/atmosphere/energy of the locations.

When I achieve a meditative state, I listen to the nature around me (the birds, the wind, the sheep, the earth) and try to allow it to inhabit the fiber of my being. I let it guide my consciousness and, hopefully, my subconscious. I try to feel the nature of the mana of the place, its quality and strength, as well as my own response to it (can I focus? can I feel it? can I attune myself to it?) This is all done while simultaneously trying NOT to try to do anything. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not.

Today, in the Glen of Knocknarea, close to Maeve's Cairn, I was able to attune myself to the nature literally surrounding me. I began to feel a pulse, a rhythm, almost a language that was formed between my mind/soul/body and Mother Nature. I believe this was possible because A) I have been practicing this meditation daily (sometimes twice or three times daily) since I arrived, and it takes that many times for me to achieve a meditative state in an environment of "meditation on the go;" and, B) The myth of Meave is one that is filled with elements that are particularly powerful to me: the Moon, the Goddess/Queen, the Power and Divinity of the Feminine, the Bull, and the mixture of earth and water, and thus, fertility. These elements are post powerful to me astrologically (if you know astrology, I am a Pisces, with Cancer Rising, and Taurus Moon, thus the aforementioned elements in combination are particularly regenerative to me).

During my meditation, I focused on what was around me, the confluence of these elements, the elements themselves, and the myth of Meave. As I ended my meditation, raising the Kundalini through my chakras, I could almost feel the power of Meave flow through me, from my first, all the way to my seventh chakra, and the cares of the modern world melted away. Afterwards, I felt a bit of the Goddess in me, or at least flowing through me ever so slightly. It felt like pure power mixed with compassion, sensitivity, and abstract wisdom (that is, the feeling of having passively learned/absorbed something profound, without knowing what it is). It was an experience for which I am eternally grateful and I look forward to my further exploration of Mythical Meditation.
alanajoli: (mini me)
All right, one week to get myself back on my feet, and here I am, returning to ye olde blog. (I was delayed in turning in my short story to my editor, and one of the things I forbade myself from doing was blogging before it was finished and ready to turn in.) But a couple of cool things happened today, and I wanted to make sure to blog about them, and update you guys on my goals from the trip, before Saturday turned into Sunday. (Hopefully, the novel tourism post will go up tomorrow!)

So, first cool thing: my review of Caitlin Kittridge's ([ profile] blackaire's) novel, Street Magic, went up on Flames Rising. Matt was kind enough to post it for me on a Saturday, because the book has just hit the shelves, and I didn't want to have gotten an advanced reader copy for nothing! It's a really, really excellent novel, which I expound upon in my review. Check out what I had to say, and look for the novel at your local bookstore!

Second cool thing: I finally got to meet Anton Strout ([ profile] antonstrout) (who is, for the record, the most beloved low-to-midlist urban fantasy writer in America, or so I hear) live and in person. He did a book signing up in Pittsfield, his home stomping grounds and not distant from my college stomping grounds. So finally, I have my books signed. Hooray! I decided that bringing him a PEZ dispenser would border on creepy fangirl, so I decided to eschew it and just bring books and questions and a big smile. He did a reading from the first chapter of Deader Still, which was brilliantly creepy and got wonderful reactions from the audience (including me -- I'd forgotten how vivid, and, frankly, gross, that scene was!). The best part, however, was his commentary -- as he was reading, he'd interrupt himself and tell us little bits about the characters or his word choice or things that he liked about the scene, which was a huge enhancement to the story for me. Also (and I hope I'm not blowing his cover), he is super nice in person. Based on his blog and his books, I was expecting more snark, but he was totally gracious and sweet. (And I'm not just saying this because he might find this entry later. These are honest impressions here!)

The Barnes and Noble in Pittsfield is pretty darn great. They didn't have Pandora's Closet in stock, sadly, but I did pick up Red Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells and Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh. The staff was really great, too, but my favorite part was walking in and seeing a young woman reading manga with this huge grin on her face, totally oblivious to anyone walking by. Seeing the power of reading in person like that gives me a little thrill.

So, those are my good things. Now to catch up on my goals... )
alanajoli: (Default)
Monday is a big day for two friends of the blog: Anton Strout ([ profile] antonstrout) and Mark Henry ([ profile] mdhenry) are both having book birthdays! In honor of their forthcoming sequels, I debated long and hard about whose previous book I'd take a quick excerpt from. Both of them write tremendous urban fantasy, drawing on different aspects of real world folklore, legend, scholarship, and mythology. In the end, Anton won this one, in large part because my copy of Mark's first book, Happy Hour of the Damned, is still in the possession of one of my gentle blog readers.* So rather than getting an excerpt about leprechauns, chupacabras, and wendigo all at the same Seattle bar opening,** and a short discussion on use of footnotes in fiction in my header***, today you're going to get a quick recollection of my own experience reading Dead to Me and a short excerpt from Anton.

I read Dead to Me while I was on the Turkey and Greece trip. The mix of comedy, action, and real-world references to scholarly movements in art and literature fit remarkably well with my own mindset on the trip. We were, after all, on a fairly action packed trip that was a bit more on the scholarly side and a bit less on the action than the novel, but the mix reflected well. On several of the ferry trips over the course of the tour, we played games like Password. At one point, the word given to the clue givers was "surrealism" (which, for the record, is practically an impossible Password clue; I generally don't recommend it). Thankfully, Dead to Me features a crash course on the Surrealist movement, and my partner and I handily won the round, much to the astonishment of the rest of the group. Frankly, basking in the astonishment was worth more than the points we earned! It probably earned me extra real-world points in the "our TA knows her stuff" category, and I owe it all to Anton!

My hope is that one of these days, I'll convince both of these excellent writers to do a quick original guest blog piece, but until then, here's a short excerpt from Dead to Me (below the double dash). And remember, Deader Still and Road Trip of the Living Dead go on sale on Monday. Pick them up!

* You know who you are.
** You'd have gone, too. What a crowd!
*** Because I really can't seem to talk about Mark's novels without using footnotes. It's contagious or something.


"You know I have a somewhat shady background in art history so bear with me for a moment if I get all lecturey. When you have my ability, you take an interest in the art world. But Surrealism wasn't just an art movement; it was a serious way of life for people. To that point, there was a huge blowup, in the thirties I believe, between two of the leading fathers of the movement, Salvador Dali and Andre Breton."

"I've heard of Dali," Jane said. "He did all those creepy stilt-legged animals and melting watches, right? I think I've seen them at MOMA, but I don't think I've ever heard of this Andre Breton character."

"Not surprising," I said, feeling quite juiced now that I was in my element. "Outside of the Surrealists, few people knew him, but he's a poet who was regarded as the 'pope,' as it were, of the movement. Eventually he kicked Dali out of the elite inner circle of Surrealists because he was considered too far right-wing, and if you can believe it, even too extreme for them."

"That is saying something," Connor said.

"I know," I said, nodding. "There was a huge falling-out in their circle, and it upset Dali greatly. His pissy response to it all was, 'The only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.' The whole movement started as a very literary thing, but eventually their philosophy snowballed until it became more like a religion."
alanajoli: (Default)
One of our regular library patrons always has interesting myth tidbits for me, since he knows I'm a myth geek. Today, he and I got talking about philosophy, and I started trying to track back a quote he was pretty sure belonged to Demosthenes. The gist was this: Man created the gods and myth to explain the world. So I had to do some looking, because I thought that was actually pretty early for a thought that more often gets attributed to Marx ("Man creates God, then gets on his knees and worships his invention.") or Rousseau ("God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor."*). Though Demosthenes was a contemporary of Aristotle, and was therefore post Socrates, I had assumed that the rationalist thought of that era tended to leave the gods where they were and get on with logical thought, rather than bothering about their existence.

The best quote I can find from Demosthenes online that goes along with the general idea is this: "Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true." (This rather seems the principle around which quite a lot of urban fantasy novels, alongside the works of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, are based, as it allows the supernatural to exist alongside the mundane without the mundane world giving much notice.)

So I'm putting the call out to all of the intelligent and wonderful (and possibly better read in ancient philosophy than me) people who read this blog: is there a Demosthenes quote like the one my acquaintance recalled? Is the concept of inventing mythology as explanations as old as the Greek rationalists, or is it more of a modernist notion?


*I had actually always attributed this quote to Mark Twain, though substituting "gentleman" for "likable sort." I've always liked it, because I felt it commented more on human consciousness than higher powers of any sort, but that could just be my reading of it, out of context.
alanajoli: (Default)
So, I've been cleaning out my old e-mails today and following up on news links that people have sent me over the last several months. Fellow mythographer Kim sent me an e-mail back in July that had some truly interesting links to articles I hadn't managed to find time to read. Other articles have been popping up randomly in the "web clips" bar above my e-mail. They're interesting enough I thought I ought to share!

I'm definitely interested in the connection between music and visual art, and the idea that cavemen painted where the acoustics were best is fascinating to me. As Kim pointed out when she sent me this article, acoustics in architecture continue to be a theme for sacred spaces--such as in the tholos tombs near Mycenae, or in, say, the Abbot's Kitchen in Glastonbury Abbey. In fact, given the acoustic significance of sacred space, I have to wonder about the construction of my own home library, which was inspired by the Erechtheion in Athens.

Given the connection between music and the sacred, it's not a huge leap from reading the Bible to performing it, at least, according to Jeff Barker, a theater professor at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He chose several themed stories from the old testament to create Terror Texts: The Musical, an adaptation of verses from the King James Bible to stage. (An article from the AP makes it clear that it's a direct adaptation, rather than an interpretation like Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar.) Barker chose essentially horror stories from the Old Testament, featuring cannibalism, rape, and a bear that mauls children.

In archeo-religious news, I've been following the discovery of a tomb that probably belongs to King Herod, as well as his wife. National Geographic just did a full article on the king's architectural legacy, which I haven't read in full yet, but am looking forward to finishing.

Lots of interesting stuff going on in the mytho-religious world!
alanajoli: (Johnny TwoStep)
So, I got to play one of my favorite D&D characters today--a character who made a debut in 3.5 but never got to go much of anywhere. His name is Urtog Fight-Good, and he's seen more life outside of D&D than any of my other characters, simply because his shtick is so fun. I've probably introduced more students to D&D during the Ireland trip and the Greece and Turkey trip via Urtog than any mention of rules and dice.

Urtog used to be a half orc, but those don't exist any more, so he's a full orc now. He's not too bright (intentional understatement), which was the point in developing the character--playing someone not as smart as I am. To play Urtog, I use a very large, scratchy voice, because that voice coming out of me (I stand 5' nothing, for those of you who haven't met me in person) is part of the fun factor (for me, and I hope for others).

This leaves me, however, in the unenviable position of drinking hot tea on a warm night, because I have completely abused my vocal chords. But man, was it worth it.

Now off to bed, so I can get up early and accomplish more writing on the module before my library shift and DMing Xen'drik tomorrow.

Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon Hale
Barnes and Noble
  Writing "Head above Water," and adventure for LFR, Cormyr (by pages, noting that many half-pages are also completed)
alanajoli: (british mythology)
Back when I posted the Joseph Campbell blog, [ profile] sartorias mentioned scholar Mircea Eliade, another scholar whose writings cover much of the same territory with far less fame. The two were roughly contemporary, Campbell largely based out of the United States and Eliade out of Romania until he was exiled, during World War II, and eventually became a professor of the history of religion at University of Chicago. (Campbell began teaching at Sarah Lawrence in 1934.) Their early seminal works were published the same year; The Hero with a Thousand Faces and both Eliade's Patterns in Comparative Religion and The Myth of the Eternal Return all came out in 1949.

In the mythology courses I've taken (and for which I've served as a teaching assistant), it's Eliade who becomes part of the course curriculum, in part because of his way of thinking about space and time. He argues that a religious (or, one might say, mythic) man experiences space and time differently than someone who lives in a profane (or, possibly, material) fashion. The following excerpt comes from Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane, and while he talks here about symbols, I think that the words can be applied almost equally well to stories, as both symbols and stories have a palimpsest-like* relationship: earlier thoughts and ideas are covered by later ones, and they must be peeled back in order to glimpse what came before.


Certain Fathers of the primitive church had seen the value of the correspondence between the symbols advanced by Christianity and the symbols that are the common property of mankind. Addressing those who denied the resurrection of the dead, Theophilus of Antioch appealed to the signs (tekmeria) that God had set before them in the great cosmic rhythms--seasons, days, nights. He wrote: "Is there not a resurrection for seeds and fruits?" For Clement of Rome, "day and night show us the resurrection; night sets, day rises; day departs, night comes."

For the Christian apologists, symbols were pregnant with messages; they showed the sacred through the cosmic rhythms. The revelation brought by the faith did not destroy the pre-Christian meanings of symbols; it simply added a new value to them. True enough, for the believer this new meaning eclipsed all the others; it alone valorized the symbol, transfigured it into revelation. It was the resurrection of Christ that counted, not the signs that could be read in cosmic life. Yet is remains true that the new valorization was in some sort conditioned by the very structure of the symbolism; it could even be said that the aquatic symbol awaited the fulfillment of its deepest meaning through the new values contributed by Christianity.

The Christian faith hangs upon a historical revelation; it is the incarnation of God in historical time that, in the Christian view, guarantees the validity of symbols. But the universal aquatic symbolism was neither abolished nor dismembered by the historical (=Judeo-Christian) interpretations of baptismal symbolism. In other words: History cannot basically modify the structure of an archaic symbolism. History constantly adds new meanings, but they do not destroy the structure of the symbol.

All of this is comprehensible if we bear in mind that, for religious man, the world always presents a supernatural valence, that is, it reveals a modality of the sacred. Every cosmic fragment is transparent; its own mode of existence shows a particular structure of being, and hence of the sacred. We should never forget that, for religious man, sacrality is a full manifestation of being. The revelations of cosmic sacrality are in some sort primordial revelations; they take place in the most distant religious past of humanity, and the innovations later introduced by history have not had the power to abolish them.


*Or, as we argued on the Greece and Turkey trip, palimpsestual. Or, better, palimpsestuous. Both rather make it sound like you're up to something.
alanajoli: (Default)
Highlights roughly in order:

  • Spent quality time with my parents

  • Helped set marks for a sail boat race

  • Took a cruise of the Thimble Islands

  • Helped pick monster zucchini on one of the Thimbles

  • Ate blueberry coffee cake and Dad's Blueberry Pie (TM) with real Michigan blueberries

  • Went sailing on a gusty day without capsizing

  • Went to a restaurant with the same name as my father.

  • Judged the senryu contest entries--winners are now available online! (Some of my favorites did not make the cut.)

  • Celebrated a wedding anniversary

  • Visited with old friends

  • Had dinner and watched movies with new(ish) friends

  • Stayed out 'til almost 1 a.m. with said friends, which is remarkable for its infrequency

  • Went to see the superhero exhibit at the Met in New York

  • Debated the virtues of Stark Tech vs. Wayne Tech.

  • Had hot chocolate with [ profile] dragonladyflame

  • Wrote several "e-mails" and "interludes" from the perspective of my vampire alter-ego for the Dogs in the Vineyard game I mentioned awhile ago

  • Started learning about grant writing

  • Ordered and received [ profile] skzbrust's new Vlad Taltos novel (which my husband promptly devoured), [ profile] nalini_singh's most recent Psy-Changeling novel (because waiting for it to become available through the library was driving me nuts), and [ profile] blue_succubus's Storm Born, the first in her new series.

  • Typed portions of a new short story I wrote mostly on scrap paper.

  • Neglected to turn anything in to Arielle for my first "hold me accountable for fiction" deadline.

  • Got paid for freelance work.

  • Went to the dentist.

  • Spent all day at the beach with a large group of fifth to eighth graders and had an absolute ball.

  • Went to B&N to replace Storm Born, as my copy arrived with water damage from the copious amount of rain we've been having.

  • Went back to the beach to have a grill out with my Dogs in the Vineyard group.

  • Discovered that spending time from 10 a.m. through, effectively, 7 p.m. at the beach leads to sunburn on the face.

  • Had my poor vampire almost die. Again. She made it. Also again.

  • Found the aloe in the med kit still packed from Greece and Turkey.

I think there's actually more (not that this isn't enough), but I'm a bit exhausted right now (probably due to the sun as much as the time), so I'm going to turn in. Tomorrow is another day with family (I hope!), Friday is a D&D game after work, and Saturday and Sunday I'll be at Mythcon in New Britain, CT (just up the road). If you're also going to be there, send a holler!

I'll try to be back on a somewhat regular blogging schedule next week.
alanajoli: (Into the Reach)
A fun thing happened while I was in Greece--I received an invitation to submit a biography to the French roleplaying site, GROG: Guide du Roliste Galactique. Of course, I was a bit busy to fill out their questionnaire at the time. Yesterday, I finally got back to the site editor and contributed my biography, which he has already translated and placed here. My photo will be up shortly as well. How fun is that?

(I've been instructed to encourage other game writers, artists, designers, etc. to contribute as well. If you're interested, shoot me a note at alanajoli at virgilandbeatrice dot com and I'll forward on the information!)

In other news, the senryu contest on finished up yesterday, so I'm expecting to start reading a lot of great Senryu in the next few days! I'm also working on another short story, which I should have started much earlier, in hopes of finishing it to my satisfaction in time to submit to the Lace and Blade volume 2 open call for Norilana books. I've been reading through the first volume and am very much enjoying the stories--so here's hoping mine will reach the bar that's been set. Given that I've now done a few stories on the Isle of Man, I thought I'd turn to Glastonbury, England, my favorite place in the whole world (despite hefty competition from Ephesus, Naxos, Port St. Erin, South Haven, MI, and the Thimbles). To start heading in the right direction, I've been reading The Avalonians by Patrick Benham, which tells the story of a group of young men and women involved in some of the physchical activities (including the finding of something like a holy grail) at the turn of the 20th Century. My short piece, which I'm calling "The Chalice Girl" for now, is only going to touch on that very tangentially, as it's also going to be part of a piece building into the universe of the Blackstone WIP. ("Don't Let Go" also takes place in that universe. Probably.)

That said, I'd better get back to it!
alanajoli: (Taru)
One of the things I've noticed since I got back from Greece and Turkey is that I'm feeling a detachment from my former favorite Greek deity. The first time I went, I fell in love with Ephesus (I still am a bit), and so it was natural to take Artemis at Ephesus as a patron, in some ways. I've adopted variations on her name, and on the name Kybele (the Anatolian goddess with whom Artemis merged in Ephesus), in screen names since 2001, trying to recapture the feeling of being in a city that was, once, clearly hers. Ephesus is also, notably, a city that belongs to St. John the Apostle, and though Paul preached there, it was John who lived in Ephesus, with the exception of the years he was in exile, and was eventually buried there. Many of my warm feelings about John the Apostle began at that time as well, though I had always felt some kinship with the disciple Jesus loved.

But this time, I feel as though something has shifted, and I think this is in part due to Mycenae, and in part due to Naxos. Read more... )


In other news, Flames Rising has been nominated as best fan product for this year's Ennies! Since I write for them, I'm incredibly tickled, and am wishing Matt and the staff the best of luck!
alanajoli: (fan - greece and turkey trip)
So, some astronomers got together and pegged a date, based on Homer's description of what sounds awfully like an eclipse, for Odysseus's return to Ithaka. Since I've read the story on three news sources now, I think I'll just let you all google it. This is marvelous fun, if only because it means that people outside of lit-crit are taking literate mythology* seriously. (They even use cues or Hermes/Mercury in the story, basing some of their logic on the planet's position and correlating the two. How very Hamlet's Mill of them!)

They've pegged him at 1178 BC. I was displeased with this number initially, because Troy 6 is dated at 1700-1250 B.C., and those 72 years would be far too long for Odysseus to fight, get lost, and come home to Penelope outside of an old age home. ("Alas! I should have stayed Calypso!") But having just pulled my trusty Troy book by guide Mustafa Askin off the shelves, I realized that Mustafa's theory (as well as some other scholars) is that Troy 7a is actually Homer's Troy, not Troy 6. That city dates 1250 to 1180. That falls pretty neatly into line with the eclipse of Odysseus.

As a note, while researching this, I came up with five offspring of Odysseus that were conceived during his travels: three with Circe (who turned his men into pigs) and two with Calypso. Those Greek heroes did like to get around--but, acknowledging that I'm applying modern standards on mythic Greece--I feel like Penelope kinda got the raw end of that deal.

* I specify here because the printed version of The Odyssey we all have access to is most certainly literature--but it without a doubt stems from earlier oral mythic traditions. So it's somewhere in that nebulous continuum
alanajoli: (Default)
One of the bookstores I visited while on the Isle of Naxos had delightful book called Naxos: Old Travel Descriptions edited by C. Ucke. It is an excellent collection of excerpts describing Naxos from texts published between 1687 and 1885, showing (or shewing, as it is most often spelled) a history of observations of the island. A few quick notes for those who (like I was) are unfamiliar with the geography of Greek myth:

Naxos is an island, in the Cyclades, off the coast of Greece to the south east--roughly between continental Greece and Crete. It is said to be the birthplace of the god Dionysus (the only demi-god who became a full Olympian). Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, is said to have stopped on Naxos while she searched for an island that would allow her to bear her children to term (having been cursed by Hera to be unable to give birth on land). Leto eventually stopped on Delos, at the time a floating island, which now can be seen from Naxos's shore. Ariadne, the mortal who was able to guide Theseus through the labyrinth on Crete where he could defeat the minotaur, was alternately abandoned by Theseus or lost at sea and presumed dead: the place where she came to rest in either case was the island of Naxos. It was also on Naxos that Dionysus met Ariadne and became so taken with her that they were married. You can look up the details of any of these stories at the very excellent web resource,

The following excerpt is taken from The Cyclades: Or Life Among the Insular Greeks by J. Theodore Bent, as translated in the anthology. It is also, I think, a fine example of the mixture (or palimpsest) of Christianity and Christian legends over an older mythology.


As we sat on this island rock we could not help wondering if this really was the scene of the old worship of Dionysos [sic] at Naxos; even now there are many traces left in Naxos which point to this worship. St. Dionysius, the Christian successor of the ancient wine god, is greatly worshipped here, and about him a curious legend (Von Hahn's Greek Legends) is still told, clearly pointing to ancient cult; it runs as folows. St. Dionysius was on a journey from the monastery on Mount Olympos to Naxos; as he sat down to rest he saw a pretty plant, which he desired to take, and to protect it from being withered by the sun he put it into the bone of a bird. He went on and was surprised to find that it had sprouted before his next halt, so he put it, bone and all, into the bone of a lion; again the same phenomenon occurred, so he put his treasure into the leg bone of an ass. On reaching Naxos he found the plant so rooted in the bones that he planted them all; and from this up came a vine, with the fruit of which St. Dionysius made the first wine. When he had drunk a little of it he sang like a lion, and when he had drunk too much he became as foolish as an ass. The gods of old have been turned into modern saints, sometimes even regardless of sex, as we shall see at Keos, where the male, St. Artemidos, represents the female, Artemis. Demeter, in the present order of things, is also represented by a man, St. Demetrius, who in certain places is the special protector of flocks, herds, and husbandmen,nd in this capacity is called "of the dry land," as opposed to St. Nicholas, the saint of t he sea.

Place names in Naxos still recall the old Bacchic [Alana's note: Dionysian] worship. One of the loftiest mountains of the island is called Mount Koronon, reminding us of the nymph Koronis and the infancy of Dionysos. Just over the town is a fountain called by the natives the tomb or baths of Ariadne: here in 1821 an old man told me that the Turkish dragoman had made extensive excavations and took with him quantities of inscriptions to Constantinople, leaving only one behind him, which forms now the step of a house, and which tells us that it was once a tablet in the Pytaneum of Naxos.

-sunset over the island described above, though the temple is now thought to have been dedicated, unfinished, to Apollo rather than Dionysus
alanajoli: (wishing - procrastinating)
...but instead I read a chunk of Maiden of the Wolf (Hallowmere #4, by [ profile] dragon_egg, which I had to return before I went to Greece and just picked back up) and watched Enchanted. The first is just as engaging as it was before I left, and the second was darling--certainly bordering on saccharine, but appropriately so. And James Marsden is adorable as a doofus. (One real complaint, though: why didn't they have Idina Menzel sing? I mean, seriously?)

I suspect given time to digest, I might actually have something to say about the nature of fairy stories and the way we like our fairy tales to work these days (eg. Giselle becomes so much more likable as a character after she's "broken"--once she starts to question happily ever afters). But that may take actual pondering, and tomorrow is guest blog day. Given that I've just gotten back and I'm fresh out of new guests for now, I'll probably share bits of one of the very cool tour books I got of Naxos, which is the home of Ariadne and Dionysis.
alanajoli: (fan)
At every bookstore I visited (yes, I do flock to bookstores like bees to pollen), I looked on the shelves to see if I could find any of my blog buddies on the shelves. Unfortunately, the Greek alphabet requires names to be translated and transliterated, and while the results were amusing, it did mean I didn't find the people I was looking for. For grins and giggles, I took some photographs of books that I was familiar with in English or titles with authors I've seen here on livejournal.
Read more... )

So, while I didn't see terribly many of my blog buddies (making me extra glad I'd brought their books with me), I did have fun looking at the books and surreptitiously taking photographs.

Some people in the last comments expressed hope that I'd post more pictures here. I can certainly do that if people are interested (though the novel tours were meant to capture the basics of the sites we visited). If I do post more pictures, what would you like to see?
alanajoli: (fan)
Thanks for all the well wishes for safe journeys! We did have a wonderful time abroad, and of the novels I brought with me, I finished almost all of them. If you knew the reading load for the course itself, you would realize that this is either an astonishing feat of speed reading or a realization that I wasn't, in fact, getting graded. (I did read quite a bit of the course material--but when on an airplane, boat, the beach, it's hard to read about sacred geography and Greek religion while also enjoying the journey or the sunshine. Balance is key.)

And so, without further ado, I present world traveling novels.

Read more... )

And with that, our tour is complete. Some pictures remain, of course--there are bookstores in Greece, and in the airport in London, and I followed [ profile] blue_succubus's example and took some photos. But given the number of photos already here, that will have to wait for another day.
alanajoli: (Default)
Essays are done. Everything is packed except a few last minute details (like the laptop I'm typing on right now...) There are always a few errands left to run on the way out the door, but as soon as I pack this up, I'll be gone from the blogosphere for the next while. Wish me pleasant travels! And here's wishing you all well while I'm gone and can't comment on your posts. :)
alanajoli: (lol deadlines)
...and here I am blogging. Figures, no?

The count so far is four obituaries left and three short essays, but at this point I've gone through all the research and made notes. In theory, this should make the work go faster. In practice, well, I'm blogging. Which is not getting work done.

I did get a good bit of reading done yesterday, getting me closer to finishing at least one of the three reviews left.

The scanning project... well, I may decide to bring it with me. There are quiet evenings on the trip. Last year, I edited the first quarter of Regaining Home on a computer that has since died--so all of my edits have vanished, though I still have the original work from Shawn. Now, a year later, I suspect I'll make different changes anyway.

My edits on "Don't Let Go" are about half-complete as well. Dylan ([ profile] eyezofwolf) was great at getting the edits back to me nearly immediately. His changes will make the story better, which is the thing I love most about the editing process. It's like putting rocks through a tumbler--they're prettier when they come out. (There are a few rare exceptions, and I suppose that might be true of the editorial process as well.)

Despite all that stuff still on my to-do list, it was great going back to campus yesterday and seeing people I've traveled with or shared meals with (and one classmate of mine who is finally a graduate) receive their degrees. It was an absolutely beautiful day for it (unlike my own graduation, which was rainy and cold), and I actually got sunburn on my face from being out in the sun for several hours. (The sunburn isn't fun, of course, but spending that much time in sunshine is certainly lifting to the spirits!) Which reminds me that I still need to pack the sunscreen for my trip.


alanajoli: (Default)
Alana Joli Abbott

March 2019

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