Thursday, 18 January 2018

Mythology and Sex

Do you remember when you were just old enough to find sex intriguing, but not old enough for
anyone to think you should be told anything about it? Well, that’s how old I was when I discovered Greek Mythology. Is there any place with more dark, illicit, totally forbidden sex hidden in every tale than mythology?

The mythological world is created through sex; people go to war and destroy whole civilizations for sex. In fact, seduction is what the bored gods are all about. No woman is safe. For that matter no man is safe from them either. And no kid just discovering how interesting their own bodies are can help but appreciate seduction by a swan, or a rain of golden coins, or the night visit from the monster one must never look at, but is one heck of a lover. I’m sure I’m not the only one who fantasized a whole lot more of the details than what my library books about the Greeks had written in them. As any reader knows, the best part of a good book is what we read between the lines in our own imagination. That’s true for writers as well, and that’s what led me to write the Medusa’s Consortiumstories.

Taking the stories from mythology to the next level is the subject of way more than a few really fabulous novels. Taking the romances into places those dog-eared, much loved, library books did not intend for a impressionable young mind to go is one of the best things about mythology. The stories are often little more than jumping-off places for very fertile imaginations … of all ages. That those stories still intrigue us enough for us to want to bring them into our modern world and imbue them with the characteristics of ourselves and of the heroes and heroines we admire attests to their archetypal power.

Speculating on what would happen if Medusa/Magda Gardener was actually alive and thriving today has been endlessly fascinating for me. What if she were more like a cross between a Mafia Queen and a female Nick Fury?  What would her gang of Avengers, her Consortium, look like and who would be in it -- gods, angels, vampires, succubae, demons? It’s my retelling, I can even add a zombie or two if I like. 

In Buried Pleasures, the first book of Medusa’s Consortium series set in Vegas, it was especially fun to make Hades, the god of the dead and the king of the underworld as comfortable in the Vegas storm tunnels with the homeless as he is in an exclusive casino. Always the most brooding of the gods and the most isolated, tricked into taking over the realm of the dead, just how would this intriguing but secretive god go about living in Sin City, and why would he choose such a place?

Death being seduced, even as he seduces is a story I’ve always wanted to tell, and who better to seduce Death than the last of the sirens, who has an agenda of her own? Taking a myth and twisting it, speculating on what might happen, who might do what in the modern world, and what that might mean to everyone else is a wonderful adventure in writing. But I’ll be honest, I’ve had to give over all the control to the head of the Consortium, Magda Gardener. She calls the shots for her Scribes as well as for everyone else who answers to her.

Here’s a little teaser for you.

When Samantha Black shares her sandwich with a dog, his owner, Jon—a homeless man living in the Las Vegas storm tunnels—gives her a poker chip worth a fortune from the exclusive casino, Buried Pleasures. All Sam has to do is cash it in. Sam is in Vegas for one reason only—to get her friend, Evie Holt, away from sinister magician, Darian Fox, who holds her prisoner in an effort to force Sam to perform at his club, Illusions. A neon circus tent of strange and mystical acts, Illusions is one of the biggest draws in Vegas, and he’s hell-bent on including Sam in his disturbing plans.
The shadowy Magda Gardener will do anything to keep Sam from cashing in that chip. She knows that Buried Pleasures is the gate to Hades and cashing in the chip is a one-way ticket across the River Styx, which runs beneath the storm tunnels of Vegas. Jon is really Jack Graves, owner of Buried Pleasures, and Graves is really the god of death, himself, and if things aren’t already confusing enough, he and Magda know what Sam doesn’t. Sam is the last siren. That her song can kill is only the beginning of her story. Jon wants her safe on his side of the River, protected from Fox’s hideous magic. But even Death fears Magda Gardener, who is none other than Medusa, and the gorgon has her own agenda. If Sam is to understand her heritage and win the battle against Darian Fox, not only will she have to trust her heart to Death, but they’ll both have to work for the gorgon, whose connection with Sam runs deeper than any of them could imagine.

Buried Pleasures Excerpt – On a Slow Boat with Death:

“What’s going on, boss?” came the dry-twig voice from deep inside the hood. “We having a

“I need you to take me across the River,” Sam began, not giving Jon a chance to speak. But before she could present her argument or Shiva’s offer, the boatman gave her a deep chivalrous bow.
“Of course, Samantha Arielle.” Then he nodded toward the boat.
“But she’s not dead,” Evie said. “You told me you couldn’t take anyone who was still living, anyone who hadn’t cashed in their chip.”
“Samantha Arielle’s circumstances have changed since last I saw her. Besides,” he added, “this isn’t her first crossing.”
“What? What the hell do you mean this isn’t my first crossing?” She glanced over at Jon, who only shrugged, his brow drawn tight in confusion.
“Sadly, I can’t answer that. The pasts of the dead are not my concern, and their secrets not mine to keep. But,” he bowed once again. “You can come and go as you please. It’ll be my honor to ferry you across.”
“What just happened?” Magda asked Jon. “Did you know this?”
He shook his head. “The secrets of the dead aren’t mine to keep either.”

Sam noticed that Jon was now dressed in his faded fatigues, and before she could wonder where Gus was, she felt the press of a cool, damp nose to the palm of her hand as the dog pushed up against her and whined softly. She stroked his ruff, reassured by his presence and more than a little happy to see him again.
Jon stepped forward. “If she goes, I go with her.”
“Of course, boss,” came the reply from beneath the hood. “I understand from Evie that we’re on the clock, so if there are no objections, shall we be on our way?”
It was as simple as that. On unsteady legs, Sam found herself boarding the boat to cross the River Styx, the great hound of hell at her left, looking no more terrifying at the moment than a large wolf, and the god of the dead himself supporting her on the right.
Chuck led them to the prow of the great boat, which seemed much larger from onboard than it did from the shore. For a moment she fought back a hysterical giggle at its parallel with Doctor Who’s TARDIS. Why shouldn’t Doctor Death’s boat be bigger on the inside? Clearly the prow, which was draped in dark silk and richly-embroidered tapestries, had been reserved for Hades himself. When he took her hand and settled her next to him on the bed of soft cushions, Chuck bowed deeply, gone the informality of their first encounter. Gus settled just beyond the drawn drapes to keep guard—guard which no doubt was not necessary aboard the ferry for the dead.
“Best you don’t look upon the river during the crossing,” said the boatman. “It has… unsettling effects on some passengers.” As he pulled the heavy curtains closed around them, for the first time, Sam had the true sense of being in the presence of Death, of the closing of true darkness all around her, pressing in from every direction. Fighting back panic, she forced words up through a tight throat. “You will let me return, won’t you? I can’t let that monster have Alice. Please, give me that much, let me win her freedom, and then if I die, I die.”
“Did you forget, Samantha? You’ve tasted death. You’re no stranger to this side of the darkness.” He raised her hand to his lips, kissed her knuckles, then pressed her palm tightly against his chest where she could feel the beating of his heart. Death had a heart. It seemed startling to think, and yet she knew this, she’d felt it beat for her, felt it pressed close to the beating of her own heart. “And what’s more, you’ve loved Death. You don’t need my permission to come and go as you please. You’re not my captive.”
He offered her a quirk of a smile, and she realized the total darkness that had settled as the boat embarked had become a strange, shadowy half light in which she had no trouble at all seeing, even making out the rich details of her surroundings. “You’re not my captive, Samantha Arielle,” he reiterated, “but I’m most definitely yours, and I have been for quite some time now. All I’ve done has been to protect you.”
He closed his storm-cloud eyes and bowed his head, and she fought back the urge to run her fingers through his mussed hair. “For my failures and fumblings, for my mistakes and short-sightedness, I humbly ask your forgiveness. Please believe I only ever had your best interests at heart. It was my mistake to underestimate you. It was my mistake to keep secrets from you. But please believe me, Samantha, it was never, ever a mistake to love you.” Still holding her hand pressed to his chest, he lifted his head, and even in the half light she could have lost herself in his eyes beneath their fringe of dark lashes. “Please, Samantha Arielle, forgive me.”
She was a siren, a woman whose command of her voice brought tyrants to their knees, wrecked ships on the rocks, and brought deepest ecstasy and darkest despair, and yet at this moment, she could not find that voice. She swallowed back emotion and nodded her forgiveness through misted eyes, looking upon the beautiful countenance of Death, Death who loved her.
“Don’t lie to me again,” she said, blinking back tears. “I trusted you, Jon. I want to trust you again. I need to trust you again.”
“Then trust me, Samantha.” He pulled her onto his lap, into his arms. “Let me earn your trust, let me prove myself to you.” His words ended in a kiss, a kiss that deepened, dominated, and possessed her until at last she pulled away breathless.
“How long do we have?” She could feel his body shifting beneath her with more than just the gentle rocking of the boat, and the press of his erection made it clear that he wanted her as badly as she wanted him.
“Long enough for me to comfort you.” A kiss. “For me to ease your distress.” Another kiss, low on her collarbone. “For me to love you a little before you do what you have to.”
She was already undoing his fly as he shoved her dress up over her hips, the dress Erica insisted she wear when she crossed the River to meet her lost dead. That’s what the woman had called them—her lost dead. Everywhere Jon touched her through the garment, it felt as though he touched only bare flesh. When she’d managed his trousers, much more awkwardly than she’d have liked, he lifted her onto him as though he couldn’t wait, as though neither of them could wait, and she bit back a gasp at his urgency, even as it matched her own.
And when they were joined, she wrapped her legs around him, and he held her there, letting the rocking of the boat do the work while he kissed and cupped and touched. She returned the favor, losing herself in the moment, and a moment was all the time they had right now. But each shifting, each touching, each exploration was a promise of more to come—long, leisurely lovemaking, endless coming together, holding tight, then shattering into a million dark, shimmering pieces. It didn’t take long. And when they shuddered against each other, the promise lingered in the breathless air between them, the promise of more, the need for more, so much more. If she survived. But then her lover was Death, and Death himself had given her back her life, so perhaps survival is a much more fluid thing when Death is your lover.
“I’m afraid,” she said, when at last she could breathe again. “I suppose I shouldn’t be, under the circumstances.”
“I’m afraid too,” he replied, stroking the back of her hair. Somehow she found his admission of fear comforting, and drew even deeper into his arms, feeling the muscle and sinew of him tighten, warm and protective, around her.
“Do you know where to find them? The sirens?”
“I’ve sent word that you’re coming. Like most who enter the realm of the Dead, they gravitate toward their own, so they aren’t hard to find. Besides, there aren’t many. As I said, I’ve sent a message. I’ve had time to do little else, but I suspect they’ll be as anxious to meet you as you are to meet them.”
“Though probably not as nervous.”

“Perhaps not,” he replied. “But then until you, they—like I—believed that none of their kind had existed in the world of the living for a very, very long time.”

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