On the surface, Gage is a talented tattoo artist who can, at a price, add legal potions to his ink to give a magical boost to his work. But Gage’s secret past includes a stint at the warlock school, and once a person enters those halls, he isn’t supposed to leave. If Gage whispers a hint of magic that is not being used in self-defense, his executioner will arrive on the spot. Staying undercover and keeping his magic in check is becoming harder and harder as a dissatisfied client is out for revenge, his one-time teacher wants him dead, his hot elven coworker is in trouble, and he has managed to disrupt a grim reaper.
Jocelynn Drake delivers a bright, fast-paced urban fantasy with a melange of creatures in a world with an ongoing evil-witch-and-warlock-overlord problem. I enjoyed the inclusion of tattoo magic, an element I’ve used in one of my own novels, and the surprise appearance of a grim reaper. Angel’s Ink is the first novel in The Asylum Tales.
Dreamscapes Fantasy Worlds by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
Browsing Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s website recently, I was delighted to see that she has a fourth Dreamscapes book in the works. The cover advertises that the book will provide instructions for painting fantasy scenes and landscapes in watercolor. Her site claims that the cover art, seen above, will be available in the Winter of 2014. I do hope that means the book will be released at that time, as well. I checked her publisher’s website and Amazon, but saw no pre-release information to add. I have really learned a lot from and enjoyed my time spent working with her previous three books and have hoped that she would publish more. I can’t wait!
Eel painted with instructions from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s book Dreamscapes Magical Menagerie.
Several South Pacific myths relate the arrival of the coconut tree with the planting of an eel’s head.
The gentlest goes like this:
In Tonga, Hina’s pet eel is cut up and eaten. Distraught, Hina buries the remaining pieces of her eel, including its head. From the eel’s head grows a coconut palm.
Other versions include unrequited eel love:
Tahitian Hina is seduced by (or married to) an eel. She asks the god Maui to help her, and he catches the eel, cuts it up, and gives Hina the head. Hina sets the head down and it sprouts into a coconut tree.
Perhaps you are wondering why the eel head turns into a coconut. This Samoan tale should prove enlightening.
Samoan Sina adopts a small eel. She cares for him as he grows, moving him into larger bodies of water till he is so large within her bathing pool that he frightens her. Sina runs away, but when she stops to drink at another pool she finds the eel there waiting for her. Terrified, she runs further, but the eel is always in the closest water. Sina cries out and several chiefs rush to her aid and cut up the eel. The dying eel begs Sina to bury its head, which she does. From the head sprouts a coconut tree, and on each coconut is three holes, like the two eyes and mouth of an eel. If Sina cuts through a hole to drink from the coconut, she will be kissing the eel.
A similar tale declares Samoan Sina the most beautiful woman of the islands. The King of Fiji hears of her beauty and turns himself into an eel to see her for himself. He swims to Samoa, where Sina sees him and takes him home as a pet. As the eel grows larger, Sina moves him out into a bathing pool. Whenever Sina uses the pool, the eel wraps its sinuous body around her. The eel grows larger until Sina is afraid and runs away. While still in eel form, Tui Fiti, the King of Fiji, pursues her. He explains the situation, as well as the fact that the magic will soon end and he will die. Tui Fiti asks Sina to bury his head once he dies. She does so. A coconut tree grows from the buried head, and every time Sina drinks from the coconut, she kisses Tui Fiti.
On Valentine’s Day I shared a charming picture book, Coyote in Love by Mindy Dwyer, with some young girls. The trickster Coyote finds himself in love with a beautiful blue star. He races up to the top of a mountain in the hopes that he could touch the star he loved. Unfortunately for Coyote, the blue star did not share his affection, and after his polite requests were rebuffed, Coyote threw himself on the star. Of course, she did not wish to be grabbed. In turn, the star snatched the trickster and pulled him up into space with her. Coyote did not like it up there–he was afraid. With one last taunt aimed at Coyote’s foolishness, the blue star dropped him. Coyote fell and fell and fell till he crashed into a mountaintop, leaving an enormous hole. Coyote was so sad. His love had spurned him. For his blue star he cried and cried and cried blue tears. Coyote’s mournful cries filled the night just as his blue tears filled the hole in the mountain.
Now you know the origin of Oregon’s Crater Lake, and if you listen at night, you might just hear the sound of poor Coyote, who is still in love.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey is a literary fairy tale that focuses on grief and life. After the trauma of having a stillborn child, an older couple, Mabel and Jack, moves to the wilderness of 1920s Alaska, ostensibly to start over, but perhaps to separate and die. In a light moment, they build a snow child in the freshly fallen snow. Thence the story changes. They each catch fleeting glimpses of a girl in the woods. Their eccentric neighbors suggest that this child is a result of cabin fever–a recurring theme of the ill effects of shutting oneself in–and that Mabel would do well to get out into the open more. Meanwhile, Mabel is remembering the fairy tale she had heard in her youth, “The Snow Child,” in which an old couple anxious for a baby makes a child from snow and that child comes to life.
Ivey’s novel complicates, with events unfolding in such a way that neither the reader nor Jack and Mabel can tell if the snow child is a figment of cabin fever and grief, a fairy creature, or a wild girl living alone with a reasonable and perhaps tragic history. Unfortunately for Mabel’s peace of mind, all of the variations of “The Snow Child” which Mabel knows end sadly. The various endings of the fairy tale are dangled before the reader, so that the story could follow any route, including the path Mabel’s sister suggests in the possibility that people can deviate from expected endings and create our own joy–a notion Mabel holds tremulously onto. Ivey blends the rough realities of aging and hardships with the unexpected beauty of nature and the unknown. Life’s truths slip into the story, so that Mabel and Jack learn not to hold on so tightly, and that some things drift into your world so slowly that you might not at first realize that you even have them.
The Snow Child is a moving novel that reveals how very real a fairy tale can be.
“Owl in Snow” painted with partial instructions from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s book Dreamscapes: Magical Menagerie.
The symbolism of the owl changes dramatically from region to region and age to age. In ancient Greek mythology, the owl represented several gods. Most famously, the little owl embodied Athena’s wisdom. This representation was so strong that owls still symbolize wisdom and education. However, for ancient Greeks the screech owl, connected with negative portents and death, was associated with multiple chthonic gods, as well as the Furies and Demeter. Moving forward in time to medieval European belief, the owl stood for dirtiness and sloth. In medieval bestiaries you would be hard pressed to find a more disliked bird. Out in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaiian myth deified the owl. The Nootka Indians of the Pacific Northwest believed that upon death all medicine men enter the Owl Spirit, and if you echoed the owl’s questioning “Who?” the answer would become a death-bringing “You.”
I painted Pegasus with watercolor on art board using instructions from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s book Dreamscapes Magical Menagerie.
Pegasus, the flying horse, first appeared in Hesiod’s Theogony, when he was born from the blood of the decapitated gorgon Medusa and promptly flew to the heavens. Hesiod added that Pegasus was “named from the pegai, the springs of the Ocean, where she was born” (282). Despite Hesiod’s use of the feminine pronoun, most ancient art depicts Pegasus as a white stallion, often with golden wings. Hesiod continued, writing that Pegasus “lives in the household / of Zeus, and carries the thunder and lighting for Zeus of the counsels” (285-6).
While mirroring the birth by blood, Apollodorus attributed Pegasus to Medusa and Poseidon. He specified that conception had occurred previous to the decapitation. Both Hesiod and Apollodorus agreed that Khyrsaor, the father of Geryon, was born simultaneously. Lucan added more monster births to Medusa’s dripping head as Perseus crossed Libya, including that of the basilisk and the amphisbaena (Nigg 66).
Pegasus had two other moments of mythic fame prior to ascending to constellation form. In one, Bellerophon rode Pegasus in order to destroy the fire-breathing Chimaera, which was ravaging Corinth. Myths vary on how much aid and from which god Bellerophon received it, but the most prolific version attributes him praying to Athena and receiving a golden harness with which to catch Pegasus. After harnessing the flying horse and slaying the Chimaera with arrows from above, Bellerophon thought to keep Pegasus for himself. Zeus punished him for his insolence by sending a fly to bite Pegasus, causing the flying horse to unseat the hero en route to Mount Olympus. Bellerophon died, while Pegasus joined Zeus.
Pegasus, named for the springs of the Ocean, also received credit for ending a drought on Mount Helicon. After the death of Perseus, whom Pegasus had flown with, Pegasus continued to Mount Helicon. Mourning Perseus, Pegasus stamped the ground, and where his hooves struck, springs burst forth. The Muses, in particular, were grateful to Pegasus, and the spring Hippocrene is said to be one of Pegasus’s making.
Pegasus image diminished to fit within the frame
Apollodorus. The Library of Greek Mythology. Trans. Robin Hard. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
Hesiod. The Works and Days, Theogony, The Shield of Herakles. Trans. Richmond Lattimore. Michigan: U. of Michigan Press, 2010.
Nigg, Joseph. The Book of Fabulous Beasts: A Treasury of Writings from Ancient Times to Present. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.
Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters & Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. New York: Norton, 2000.
While major work is being done on our place, we’ve been relocated to another building which looks a whole lot like our place in some ways, but is different in others. For one, it’s quiet over here. There are no clunking pipes and creaking walls and shrieking toddlers just past one wall. However, the wind does scream eerily through banisters like the faerie host out on the Wild Ride, and being on the top floor we can actually hear the rain on the roof. Also, there’s a secret passage that makes the living room area significantly smaller. I hauled an armchair over in front of the door so I could read by the fire, but one day I climbed over the chair and slipped through the extra door to an unfinished stairwell, the fine grit of drywall dust crunching beneath my shoes on the bare particle board. There were lightbulbs, but no switch, so after I turned the corner at the base of the first flight it was almost entirely dark. I descended round and round to the bottom, where I found a heavy door. I’m sure it leads out into the bright world, but I followed the dark route back up to the top.
The apartment also has cracks. Lots of cracks. With the wind on the east side screaming like beansidhes, we decided to try the bedroom on the west side, which we hadn’t been using at all. Not until that night did I notice the full crack from floor to ceiling running up the corner of that room closest to where I slept, which promptly made me think of Doctor Who, but our cracks aren’t like Amy Pond’s crack. For one, the majority of our cracks are vertical. Also, they tend not to glow or emit voices.
The Starflight Handbook: A Pioneer’s Guide to Interstellar Travel by Eugene Mallove and Gregory Matloff
I’m not a rocket scientist, so it really was okay for me to read The Starflight Handbook by Eugene Mallove and Gregory Matloff, despite the fact that it was published in 1989. I wanted to learn about various forms of spaceship propulsion, and online reviews suggested that The Starflight Handbook was superior in explanation compared to more recent publications. I can research developments in the more interesting modes of propulsion after having a foundation laid. I found the explanations within The Starflight Handbook to be clear and direct. The central chapters on propulsion through the one on visual effects in relativistic flight were the most pertinent for me.
The table of contents includes:
Introduction to Starflight
Objectives of Interstellar Missions
Rocket Propulsion for Interstellar Flight
Nuclear Pulse Propulsion
Beamed Energy Propulsion
Solar Sail Starships: Clipper Ships of the Galaxy
Interstellar Ion Scoops
Other Novel Advanced Propulsion Concepts
The Interstellar Medium
Starship Navigation and Visual Effects in Relativistic Flight
Starflight Between Fact and Fancy
Suspended Animation, Hibernation, and Hypothermia
Detecting Extrasolar Planets
“When life spreads out and diversifies in the universe […] [w]e will have to choose, either to remain one species united by a common bodily shape as well as by a common history, or to let ourselves diversify as the other species of plants and animals will diversify.” –Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions