August Update

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve done an update so I’ll try not to make it too long.

The reason I’ve been so quiet on the blog and social media is that I’m under the pump to get a book finished and edited by November. It’s a part of the Secret Project series that I can’t talk about just yet (announcement will be soon I swear), so I’m up to my eye balls in research and drafts and generally trying to pull it together. For those who are like WTF I thought you working on a Aramis and Soren/ Firebird Fairytales World spin off book… Yes, I am. I’m about 40k words into it but its had to take a back seat while I finalise the other book. I’ve been able to write two books at once before, but the new series is different. It requires more space in my brain and more research to get right so I’ve put other books and uni  on hiatus for a few months. It’ll be worth it I swear!

If you follow my Facebook you would have seen that I’m currently at the Cover Design phase of KINGDOM, the third Blood Lake Chronicles book, and if all goes to plan it should be out in October/November. I’ll make a more official announcement once I have a pre-order page up and passed the final edit/stressing stage. I’m really happy and excited how its come together!

What else?

I’ve managed to be dragged out of my writer cave and have been to two great exhibits in passed month; Wonderland at the ACMI and Vikings: Beyond the Legend. Both were fantastic and seeing how I’m obsessed with Alice (omg the costumes from Burton’s movies were there and I almost died) and Vikings I was in heaven.

 

Also, check my freaking awesome Loki statue I got from the Vikings Exhibit as well as Rune Swag!

I highly recommend both exhibits if you happen to be in the Melbourne area.

Apart from working on the book, I’ve been taking the time (ie forcing myself) to self care and refill the creative well. A looming deadline can really throw out my creative process, work my anxiety into a frenzy and generally stir me up to a point where I can’t focus on actual writing. This particular series is research heavy so I’ve spent some delightful hours on JSTOR, reading articles, following leads and making connections I never would have thought of without taking the time to immerse and enjoy myself.

In the reading department I finally finished my Sarah J Maas pile! I was actually really surprised how much I enjoyed Tower of Dawn. The world building was great and I really enjoyed the fantasy twist on the Huns that Maas created. Also yes, I AM in love Dothraki- Bae of the Skys a.k.a. Sartaq The Winged Prince.  Hell, I even stopped hating Chaol in this one which surprised me. Catwoman has just come out and I’m already about half way through and enjoying Maas’s take on Gotham.

The other series I’m obsessed with at the moment is Thea Harrison’s Moonshadow series. If you like my Blood Lake Chronicles, and you are after more Celtic paranormal with an Arthurian twist I really recommend you check them out. To be honest you could go for any series of Thea Harrison and it would be worth it. I’m working my way through her whole catelogue at the moment and have loved everything (though Moonshadow and Dragon Bound have been my favourite).

OH. And I feel like I should mention here that I demolished ‘Spinning Silver’ by Naomi Novik. I have FEELINGS about this book. Like any book of hers, she just slays me. Her new takes on Russian mythology with this book and ‘Uprooted’ continues to leave me in awe and with serious impostor syndrome. I am shamelessly in love with the Staryk King, but seriously, a Winter Elf King who can do magic…its like it was made just for me to obsess over. I could write essays about this book but I wont. Please read it, and ‘Uprooted’ if you haven’t already.

Okay guys that’s about all I’ve got for you. I’m all head in the books at the moment and very unexciting. Fingers crossed I can break some awesome writing news to you all soon and then you get full enthusisatic Amy about the new series I’m so obsessed over that I’m literally incapable of thinking about anything else at the moment.

Ames x

April Update #Iamdying

Greetings from crazy writer land,

I am on the last 10-15k words of KINGDOM and I am super fried but trying to end strong. It has come together in a weird and wonderful way that I didn’t plan for but somehow works better. This always seems to happen, my writing structural plan more or less hits its original high points but how I get to them always happens in a random organic fashion. I’ve learnt not to stress too much when things go a bit haywire but I tell you, sometimes its hard to relinquish control. It’s fairly different from the other two of The Blood Lake Chronicles as most of the action takes place in Faerie, where we learn HEAPS about the Seren Du family origins and all sorts of shenanigans happens. I’m going to be a little bit (a lot) nuts by the time that it is done but I’m feeling good about it so thats a good sign. I do have plenty of the usual impostor syndrome voices going on but trying to do my best not to feed that troll.

 

The writer brain and anxiety has been a lot less this time around because I am simply managing my shit better. ‘My shit’ being my mental health in this case. I’m pretty new to yoga (only been practicing for about 10 months) but its seriously helping me keep calm and also provides a good way for my to untangle plots while I move. Sitting still is really hard for me so the concept of a moving meditation has done me wonders. I highly recommend Allie- The Journey Junkie on Youtube if you are a newbie and want to learn some yoga. Shes a great teacher and the online community is a good support. I also have had my first go of a sensory deprivation tank this  month and I can’t recommend it enough. I love a long bath and this was the bath experience heightened to perfection. I’m big on meditation and this gave me the deep calm of a really good meditation session. It helped clear a lot of the screaming in my head and general feelings of being over whelmed that comes with tying up a book.

Speaking of books (and this is SO overdue) but I have decided that I am going to do a relaunch of my Western Wars series. So, some of you might remember last year I ran a promo through Kindle Scout for a YA fantasy called ‘Eastern Gods’…it didnt get picked up and I did release it as per the Kindle Scout rules, but then I took it down again after a month. WHY you might be asking? Well, a few reasons, some professional, some personal, but mainly I wanted to get it re-edited with US grammar (I’m Aussie so our grammar is different) and also I wanted to release it with the second book. The second book needed to be edited heavily and when I came to do it last August I was just too burnt out and wanted to throw the whole lot into a fire. Last year, I was mentally and emotionally burnt a lot and its taken me nearly 8 months to bounce back. Anyway, book  2 has sat there until the last month when I got some sound advice from a friend who really believes in the series (hey Kathryn) and convinced me to suck it up, do the work and get it released. As a result of this lecture, I have been doing edits on the second book when I’ve needed a break from KINGDOM. It’s come together in a way that I’m finally happy with which is great, and while it does need to go off to the line editor, both books are scheduled to be released digitally this year. For a paperback edition I’d like to combine the books as it is one continuous story, but I’ll keep you all posted on that. They are written in a different sort of style to my other books (they are epic fantasy after all) but I hope you will enjoy them if they sound like your thing.

The good news is it means you’ll definitely get three books out of me this year; Eastern Gods, The Golden Queen, and KINGDOM.  I don’t know if the Mychal spin off book will be ready to go as it still needs a bit of re-writing and perfecting but I want to try and do this work as a palate cleanser between KINGDOM and the starting of book 2 of NEW SECRET PROJECT.

I’m sure there is other stuff I’m forgetting to add in this update, but I’m too off in writer land to remember everything at the moment. I’m sporadically on social media but mostly hiatusing until the book is finished.

See you on the other side,

Amy x

 

Bad writing day and advice- via Chuck Wendig

There are days when being a writer makes you feel like you are a Creator God, Designer of Worlds, Breaker and Maker of Destinies. But some characters, like man, are prone to do, they turn around and say, “Fuck you Creator God, I’m gonna do what I want!” and they destroy that perfectly structured PLAN that you lovingly designed for them. I guess what I am trying to say is.. “Fuck you, Merlin! Do as you’re told!….please?”

Note: My Merlin is nothing like the above Merlin character. My Merlin is a temperamental lovable psycho like Alucard from Hellsing crossed with a magical reprobate. It’s just therapeutic for me to watch ANY Merlin get slapped today.

Whenever I am having a bad writing day, I go back and read THIS by Chuck Wendig… but this paragraph in particular is resonating hard with me today:

“Consider: the act of telling a story is you CONJURING AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR MIND and then using words as knives to CARVE THAT UNIVERSE INTO REALITY SO THAT OTHERS CAN VISIT YOUR IMAGINATION. “Today I am going to make a world out of my brain that you can go to in your spare time,” you say aloud, hopefully realizing that this is far more significant and far more bizarre than tying your shoes or blowing your nose. Creating whole worlds is pyroclastic. It is volcanic. It’s heat and fire, it’s molten rock, it’s lightning inside black smoke amid the nose and clamor of thundering earth and boiling air. It is an astonishing, generative act.

And it’s sometimes hard.

Sometimes what we do is stage magic. Sometimes the magic is sacrificial.

Stage magic requires hours of practice where you get it wrong.

Sacrificial magic requires blood on the altar.

In both cases, the magic — be it trick or spell — is hard as hell.

As it should be. As it must be.” 

I love writing, and if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be fun OR worth it.

Okay, bitching over. I’m off to be a vengeful God. xo

 

March Update

I’m running a bit late this month with the update but I am here! Finally!

Last month was HUGE both professionally and personally. I spent time as no #1 in respective Amazon categories for both Wylt and Cry of the Firebird which has brought many more readers into the Firebird Fairy tales world – Welcome! As always, I’m crazy grateful for everyone who buys, reads and reviews my books. I wouldn’t be doing this without you!

Okay, to the stuff:

  • Work on KINGDOM is progressing at a fast pace. Now that I’m on a uni break and have locked away other projects and distractions (social media has been cut WAY back), I’m really hitting the word count hard. I’m about to hit the half way mark which is exciting and nerve wracking as I tie up a bunch of story arcs. It’s been fun refreshing myself in Celtic myths and experimenting with different gods and characters. I’ve always found writing the Blood Lake Chronicles to be so therapeutic to my writer brain and this one is shaping up to be no different.
  • While I cant say anything too much, my SUPER SECRET UNNAMED PROJECT that I spent most of last year working on is almost ready to announce. SO much exciting stuff happening that I cant wait to tell you all about. I can say that it is based in a different ‘world’ to the Firebird / Blood Lake books which is exciting and nerve wracking but omg guys, I am so in love with it and I hope you will be too. At this stage its got three books planned (yeah I seem to move in threes, I know) and once KINGDOM is wrapped up I can really throw myself into it. Eek.

What I’ve been reading:

  • L.H. Cosway!! Guys. Why didn’t you tell me the HEART series existed?? I mean illusionists and fire eaters? Hot romance? Engaging plots? GUYS WITH TATS. I read the first one Six of Hearts in a single sitting and consumed book two Hearts of Fire straight afterward. They were AMAZING and highly recommend if you are after a romance.

Check them out HERE.

I had to ‘rest’ the series because I seriously wasn’t getting anything done. Definitely an author I’ll binge read as soon as KINGDOM is sorted.

 

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – Okay. I will be the first to admit I’m not on a YA fantasy bender at the moment (I tend to go through stages) but I’ve waited ages to get my hands on this one. Holly writes incredible dark fairy worlds and this reverse changelings of humans raised in Faerie is no exception. There were things I really loved about it (the Court, general world building) and things that I felt a bit meh over, namely the many bullying scenes and highschool vibe in some sections. I fully understand its target market is YA but as someone who hated school and was bullied a lot it got old for me quick. The main story arc and character development is really great and you can tell that the series is gearing up for something BIG which will ultimately keep me reading. Definitely in the ‘introduction to a bigger story arc’ book category for me because I was only really getting into it before it was over.

Next on the reading list is Elizabeth Hunter’s new one INK, which might have to wait til next weekend because she is a writer I DON’T STOP READING once I start. A book store and tattoos in one book? Yeah I’m so not going to put it down. Also, this is clearly a sign I need another tattoo…Right? In all seriousness, give her a shot if you are after solid storylines with awesome world building. Her Irin Chronicles? Seriously don’t even get me started on how much I love them.

Check her out HERE

Okay so that’s all for me for the moment, go watch Black Panther if you haven’t already, it was fantastic. Also, expect me talking about Tomb Raider next update because I CAN’T WAIT for the new film to be released….Amy x

February Update

Hi Everyone,

Where did January go??? Got a not so crazy feeling that this year is going to be full on!

Things are going down in the weird writing world of Amy. So far this year I have:

*Completed another re-write of Jael/Mychal book. I have a draft that I’ve proof read and while it still needs more work I feel like its FINALLY heading in the right direction. Exorcists are bitches to write. It’s really one of the stories I’ve had serious doubts over but it has refused to let me go and that is generally a sign I should keep working on it. Once I finish the next round of changes it will go to the wise beta readers for plot/sensitivity/wtfAmy comments.  I have a pretty exciting ending that leaves it way open for more stories.

*I’ve submitted a final assignment for uni which means that I’m now on a break for a whole semester (at least) and can have some breathing room to get more writing done.

*Today I’ve cracked out 1500 new words of Chapter Seven of KINGDOM,  Book Three of the Blood Lake Chronicles. If you follow my social media you would have seen me lamenting yesterday about how my characters have already messed my structure up. This is pretty typical of this group to be honest. They like to surprise me and make work around them. In saying that its been FUN so far. It always takes me the first 20k words of a book to really find my groove but it is coming together. Hopefully I will get it finished during my uni break time. That’s the plan anyway. There is lots of magic and ravens and wolves and cities inside trees and magical swords…all the good stuff.

 

*I have a New Release Mailing List! Hurray! Draft2Digital has been amazing so far and they also have a nifty feature of creating a sign up list for readers. If you want an email notification of when I release a new book please sign up here. At the most I release two books a year, so don’t worry, you aren’t going to spammed.

I’ve recently become obsessed with ( and HIGHLY recommend) the following:

*Ancient Magus Bride – This anime has knocked my socks off. Celtic myth, cool mages, DRAGONS, NORDIC MAGIC…I am so in love.  Its like a Studio Ghibli created a whole series. Funimation has the English dub, Crunchyroll has subtitles so pick your poison and give it a shot.

*Uprooted – Naomi Novik. I know I’m the last person reading this. Its been on my TBR since it was released but I finally got a hold of the Audible version in January. It was on a Friday. Saturday I bought the book. Sunday I finished it. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Russian Fairytale vibe, beautiful perfect story. If you havent read it, give it a shot. It came along right when my creative well was bone dry and filled me up with magic and wonder and Dragons and forest magic.

 

That’s pretty much all from me. A reminder that WYLT is Free for Valentines Day so if you want a bit of hot gothic fae romance in your life pick yourself up a copy here.

New Year Update

Hey Everyone,

I had grand plans to write a full Christmas/New Year blog but have only just managed to get to it – MY BAD. In saying that, I hope you all had a relaxing as possible Holiday season and read/drank/ate lots of good things.

I spent majority of my holidays reviewing the blur of a year that was 2017 on both personal and professional levels. I studied what worked for me and really, really didn’t. This year I am hoping for stability and more organisation than last…I say this and try not to laugh because shit will always happen. Last year I had a lot of it, but you know what? Shit fertilizes and it’s important to remember that.

In December it was my 3 year publishing anniversary. Publishing six books, and writing 4 books, in 3 years is kind of mental when you think about it. I am insanely proud of myself over it and I’ve learnt some TOUGH lessons. Indie publishing is a roller coaster and I don’t think it’ll ever stop changing, you kind of just got run with it and do your best. I’ve tried to map out a loose plan for 2018 because I never know how things will pan out between writing/publishing/uni/day job and one of my goals this year is to take more time to self-care and hell, the whole point of me publishing indie is so I can write and publish at my own pace. Right? Right.

So..loose goals/ Scheduling in 2018:

  • I’ve submitted a new secret project to a bunch of traditional publishers. GASP! I know. I can’t believe it either. It’s really different to the worlds I’ve been building on my indie platform so I will probably publish it under a pen name, either trad or indie depending how the luck runs. I am insanely proud of this book. It’s the biggest book I’ve written since Rise of the Firebird, and it was ALOT of research as I tied it together. Because of its size and complexity it is the only book I finished last year but I am so proud of it.
  • KINGDOM, Book 3 of The Blood Lake Chronicles, is currently being written. I had some time over the holidays to really sink my fangs into it. These characters are so much fun to write and its coming along nicely. Depending on drafting and editing etc I am hoping to get this out in 2018 so you guys arent waiting too long.
  • Speaking of Spin Offs…remember how at the end of Rise of the Firebird I mentioned I would be having drinks with Eldon Blaise and Mychal soon? WELL. For those who are in the know, The Blood Lake Chronicles is an  Eldon/Merlin spin off that explores his family and mythology. Mychal’s story is still continuing..but its been a BITCH to write. I actually wrote the first draft from Mychal after the Rise of the Firebird but it wasnt right. To count it has been re-written four times…from scratch. Last year I realised a vital person and female voice was missing and needed…so I wrote a story about a female exorcist. This story is currently being edited and I realised at 1am this morning that the reason why the exorcist story and Mychal story have been not working separately is because they are part 1 and part 2 of the SAME book. Yeah. It was a punch in the guts that the answer to a question that has been plaguing me for four years was staring me in the face the whole time. If I can get this book to work, you will also see it released this year. For those who are familiar with Mychal as a character you know that his story and mythology revolve around angels and demons and other aspects of Judeo-Christian stories and theology. Because of this I know its not going to be a book for everyone and as always that is totally cool. I mash up stories from all kinds of fairytales and mythologies (my thing) so if you aren’t keen on angels and exorcists but are  for other stories in my Firebird world I have GREAT news  cos….
  • BOOM. I’m structurally planning a new spin off novel about our favourite Alfr bros, Aramis and Soren. This book I am going to start flirting with the Norse Gods pantheon (that I adore) so I’m super pumped. You probably won’t see it until 2019 but you will be hearing me gushing about it when I start writing it.
  • I’m currently going through the process of getting my paper backs up and running through Create Space as well as my usual Ingram Spark so I’ll keep everyone posted on that too.

Annnd that list gives me chest pains.

See what I mean? I gotta keep these plans loose because I also want to do shit like release a short stories anthology, and maybe my secret project under a pen name and  do more uni. Oh, and like, work my day job. There is ALWAYS something. I literally have thirteen books structurally planned to write so who knows when I’ll get a chance to reach all of them. Fingers crossed my degree will be tied up in the next year or so, that way I can re-purpose that time just for writing.

I’ll get there, I promise, and as always I will keep you all posted.

Amy x

An Update and Sexy Second Editions

It’s been a while guys…I know. I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it so long between drinks but when you’re working, doing uni, writing books and publishing, shit is bound to get a bit hectic.

Right. I’ve been underground finishing off a great Ancient History unit on the Later Roman Empire, getting inspired and fuelled for a future book I’m researching, and trying to keep my head above water. If you follow my social media you’ll know Cry of the Firebird was a no 1 best seller in September in the Amazon store – holy shit guys what a moment. Which brings me to my next topic.

In September, the reason why I managed to sell as many books as I did was my exclusivity period with Amazon finished and I launched Cry of the Firebird across all e-book platforms. I’ve been getting messages from a whole swathe new readers about the other books and I can safely say, at the beginning of December Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will be universally released. At the moment they are still under exclusivity so sorry, we have to wait.  I’m not sure if I am going to do a pre-order for them as there is some behind the scenes tweaking that needs to be sorted before that can happen. Also, I have just (literally in the last 30 minutes) finished sexy second editions of all of the Firebirds and damn, that’s a shit tonne of words to edit and format. I’m waiting on proofs of the new paperbacks to arrive but the digitals are up and looking gorgeous. I wanted to do second editions for a whole bunch of reasons. Mainly, because no matter how many editors you use, and eyes go over your work to check and re-check, pesky mistakes still seem to get through. Also, I am an Aussie and I wanted US spelling and Grammar editions as most of my readers are currently in the US. It was a huge undertaking (I’m so dead all I want is vodka and Lord of the Rings movies) but I am really happy with the results and I hope you are too. I’m super blessed as an indie publisher that I can make these changes and be so much happier with the end product.

In Blood Lake Chronicles news, WYLT has also been released universally and I’ve had HEAPS of messages about WHERE THE FUCK IS BLAISE. I can tell you finally that it’s currently with my kick-ass cover designer, Fiona, who is making something truly fucking amazing. This series, this character, is super important to me so I want the cover and story right. It’s a tricky time of year for freelance editors and designers which is why I haven’t announced a pre-order for it. As soon as I have all the pieces in my hot hands you guys will be the first to know. I am aiming for mid-December but I won’t make promises without all those pieces. It is coming soon. Writing on book three, KINGDOM, has started slowly due to the mad fucking rush to get second editions of the Firebird Fairytales completed but it HAS started and damn is it gonna be a ride. Now that most of my publisher’s workload is sorted I can put my Writer Hat back on and get stuck into it. It’s a lot more Celtic Myth and I’m loving how the beginning is shaping up.

What else?

I have been reading some holy shit amazing books lately. I won’t leave reviews for them because there isn’t enough time but the ones that have really blown my shit out of the water (and made me get FULL Imposter Syndrome) are as follows:

All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Vampires, Witches, Daemons, Alchemy, Oxford…This series hit EVERYONE of my weaknesses and damn, like if you need your faith restored in incredible vampire books, seriously look no further. It’s not a snack though, these books are MEALS. The writing is rich and incredible and you can tell Harkness seriously knows her shit. They are currently making the TV series with a whole cast of power house actors (Matthew Goode holy shit!) and I seriously can’t wait.

 

The Sarah Weston Novels by Magnus Flyte.Prague, Beethoven, Alchemy, Prodigies and Princes. After suffering from a massive book hangover from the All Souls Trilogy, this duology City of Dark Magic and City of Lost Dreams, was the perfect soloution. It’s still keeping with alchemy and magic themes but tying in history and music aswell. It’s not as heavy as the Harkness books but they were still a great series. The magic in it is awesome.

 

 

 

   The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Mysticism, Art, lost loves, reincarnations, historical romance, medieval scriptoriums… this book has it all. You know how you have those books that you think ‘that looks great I really want to read that’ but it takes you forever to get to them? This was such a book. It’s been on my radar for years but like most books that fall into this category, it found me when I needed it most. I was suffering from a massive creative burn out and it was EXACTLY what I needed. It is an incredible book that ripped my heart clean out while re-building it at the same time. It’s structured like a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, that I am ridiculously obsessed with, and it just…no words. Still. It’s a hard one to explain but worth the time.

 

Okay so that’s all from me, for now. I will keep everyone posted on the BLAISE front and make lots of noise when all of the Firebirds are available universally. If you are doing NaNoWriMo, you are my hero and keep your chin up.

Amy x                                                  

 

Journeys to the Underworld- Greek Myth, Film and American anxiety

A fascinating read, courtesy of the Conversation

File 20170920 16414 pqyki1
Gil Birmingham (Cory) and Jeremy Renner (Martin) in Wind River: grieving fathers who come together in the realm of the dead.
Production Co: Acacia Filmed Entertainment, Film 44, Ingenious Media

Paul Salmond, La Trobe University

The success of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, depicting warring Olympians and Amazons, continues to stoke moviegoer interest in Greek mythology. Wonder Woman is the first foray of D.C. movies into classical mythology, a path well trodden by the Marvel cinematic universe. But is Greek myth simply a favoured and enduring wellspring for heroic sagas full of supermen and monsters or are there deeper forces at play?

To the Greeks, the underworld journey was an ideal vehicle for the hero to display his exceptional qualities, often involving the rescue of a soul trapped there. A central convention of Greek mythological narratives is katabasis, the hero’s journey to the underworld or land of the dead. At Circe’s urging, Odysseus consults the seer Tiresias in the land of the dead, where many departed souls (including Achilles) appear to him. Similar journeys are made by Heracles who rescues Theseus during his twelfth labor; Hermes, who rescues Persephone from Hades; and Aeneas who is reunited briefly with his dead father.

Alessandro Allori (1580) Odysseus questions the seer Tiresias.
Wikimedia Commons

Descents into and ascents from the underworld are themes incorporated repeatedly into modern cinema. Film developed from theatre, which in its earliest form was a way of animating mythical sagas. The katabasis has endured in cinema because it can be applied to most characters, times and settings. Often eschewing a literal journey to the underworld, a cinematic katabasis may follow a quest into a type of hell, whether a physical or psychological space.


Further reading: Guide to the classics: Homer’s Odyssey


Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein Orpheus and Eurydice, 1806.
Wikimedia Commons

One particularly celebrated underworld myth recounts Orpheus’s retrieval of his wife Eurydice. Against the warnings of Hades and Persephone, Orpheus looked back at her – only for his wife to disappear, this time permanently. Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), drew directly on this myth by sending its hero, like Orpheus, into the realm of the dead to retrieve an imperilled soul trapped there.

Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne created a bleak vision of 1938 Los Angeles, parched by drought and corrupted by a shadowy cabal of oligarchs. Private investigator Jake Gittes, investigating the death of city water commissioner Hollis Mulwray, uncovers a web of corruption and murder. His attempts to rescue Mulwray’s wife, Evelyn, from the violence enveloping her results in her brutal death. In its shocking conclusion, Polanski rooted Chinatown more firmly in its mythological ancestry, pivoting the plot towards an incest revelation. Like Oedipus, redress comes through putting out eyes. Having failed to save his former love years before, Jake grieves over her death a second time with Evelyn.

Chinatown is broadly accepted as a response to Watergate. Like many films of its time, it responded to Nixon’s subversion of US political institutions by depicting a world where shadowy underworld denizens win and the hero fails to rescue his Eurydice from Hades.

In this response, Chinatown demonstrates how the influence of Greek mythological conventions on American filmmakers appears strongest during times of heightened political stress. When many perceived America as attacked from within by communism during the 1950s, for instance, Hollywood responded by reimagining Homer’s perfect warrior Achilles through the towering figure of John Wayne (through no coincidence, the most virulently anti-communist actor of all). In John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), Wayne’s embittered Confederate veteran Ethan Edwards mutilates the body of Comanche war chief Scar to avenge Ethan’s defiled nieces. Like Achilles mutilating Hector in Homer’s Iliad, Ethan hates his enemies beyond death.


Further reading: Guide to the classics: Homer’s Iliad


In the 1970s, a younger cadre of filmmakers and audiences saw the enemy sitting in seats of power. Underworld quests found more subversive avenues for expression, like Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), which conveyed the horrors of the Vietnam war through a nightmarish journey up the river Styx.

Underworld narratives also formed part of Hollywood’s response to widespread moral panic around ritual abuse and child murder that spread throughout America in the 1980s and 1990s. The horrific sprees of society’s new apex predators like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, linked to hysterical rumours of organised child sacrifice, inspired a film cycle fuelled by pervasive anxiety that children could be snatched up and borne away to horrible fates in hidden lairs. When Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs swept the 1992 Oscars it was our neighbours or the corner grocer – not the government – preying on our fears.

Demme’s film deftly refashioned the myth of Theseus and the minotaur into a race-against-time manhunt. Cadet FBI agent Clarice Starling pursues a serial murderer who has abducted a Senator’s daughter. To track the beast, Clarice must descend into the den of captured cannibal monster Hannibal Lecter for clues to slay the monster at large, Buffalo Bill. For this underworld quest, Lecter is the pedagogue, not the monster. His role isn’t to eat Clarice (he passes up that opportunity when she ventures within striking distance) but to prepare her for her journey. Lecter provides the ball of string enabling Clarice to venture into the minotaur’s labyrinth and return.

Jody Foster as Clarice Stirling in The Silence of the Lambs.

Why does American cinema reflect Ancient Greek narrative conventions most strongly at times of profound social anxiety? The answer may lie in part in political similarities between Americans and ancient Athenians and the perceived vulnerability of their constitutional foundations.

Traditionalists interpret Greek art as an expression of soaring confidence in the triumph of humans over the old gods. But the Athenians were obsessed by the ephemerality of their achievement and how it rested on foundations that could collapse at any time. The late critic Robert Hughes once asserted that “ancient Greek sculpture is used to advance a specious political argument” of man being the measure of all things. Yet Greek art, he argued, was just as focussed on warding off monsters (representing political threats).

Ancient mythological themes are employed most unmistakably in American movies during times of “witch hunts” to expose hidden enemies: communist saboteurs in the 1950s, corrupt political burghers of the 1970s and the “satanic panic” of the 1980s. In response to 9/11, Hollywood was oddly reticent, as if the seismic scale of the event meant translating 9/11 to the screen was unimaginable. But television responded forcefully, particularly through the great HBO crime dramas – The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood – all of which at various times employed underworld sagas in confronting the scarring and resounding effects of violence.

Ancient myth and cinema in a time of Trump

What can we expect to see next as the rise of “Trumpism” promotes internal American division possibly unmatched since the civil war? Certainly, taking at face value Trump’s identified public enemy the “liberal media” (which includes filmmakers), US political institutions are under attack in a manner not seen since 1974. Like Nixon, Trump accuses his critics of witch hunts aimed at sabotaging the will of the people and uprooting American values.

We are yet to see reactions to the President reflected in cinema. Trump was elected ten months ago and has held office for only eight, so films responding to his Presidency are still in production. But the social trauma that saw the ascendancy of Trump’s base – the impoverishment of the “rust belt”, paranoia over Mexican gang culture, the erosion of the natural environment in the face of rapine corporations – are already part of the cinematic landscape.

And we are already seeing key political battlegrounds – the migration of drug crime across the southern border and the violation of the natural world at other frontiers – framed as underworld quests in film.

Director/screenwriter Taylor Sheridan recently explored issues of American decline in his unofficial “frontier trilogy”, using Greek mythological conventions to do so. The middle film, Hell or High Water (2016) is a relatively straightforward backwoods heist saga pitting bank-robbing brothers against a Texas ranger nearing retirement. The script reflects the financial angst of Trump voters, largely sympathising with their perceived disenfranchisement. But the first film, Sicario (2015) and the most recent, Wind River (2017) are dramatic bookends, using mythology to explore the social anxieties that saw Trump elected.

Directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve, Sicario depicts an idealistic FBI agent, Kate Macer, recruited by a government taskforce to combat drug cartels at the Mexican border. Overseen by a shadowy operative, Alejandro, Kate descends into a moral and literal abyss to track her quarry, eventually rejecting her handlers’ demands that she become a monster to fight monsters. In Wind River, the discovery of a young Arapaho woman’s body on a snowbound Wyoming reservation teams hunter Cory Lambert with another rookie FBI agent, Jane Banner, to track down her killer.

Wind River and Sicario are violent, electrifying films, which embrace Greek mythic conventions by sending their heroes to the realm of the dead both in pursuit of monsters and in embrace of loved ones.

In Sicario, Kate and Alejandro pursue the drug lord, Alarcon, across a Mexican landscape made hellish through darkness and night vision technology. Whereas Kate emerges from the underworld with her moral compass intact, Alejandro maddened by the murders of his wife and daughter now resides there permanently. As he tells Kate, “You will not survive here. You are not a wolf and this is a land of wolves now.”

In Wind River the murdered girl, Natalie, was a friend of Cory’s daughter – who had died in similar circumstances three years earlier. Like Orpheus, Cory experiences the loss of his beloved twice, heightening his corrosive need to have her back. But the land of the dead is not always hostile. In the film’s final scene, Cory and Natalie’s father Martin sit together in silence, mentally visiting their lost daughters in the spirit realm.

Both films are sprinkled with references to mythological deathscapes: frozen Wyoming mountains and darkened Mexican foothills become landscapes of dread. Cory, like the hero Heracles, is a hunter of lions; and wolves, traditional guardians of dead souls, embody links between living and dead.

Greek mythological conventions will likely again be used to critique what many see as a uniquely lawless US administration. It will pay to watch the output of Joss Whedon, for one, whose The Avengers (2012) depicted an Homeric world where spectacular battle scenes framed an exploration of the transformative effect of violence, the weight of heroic expectations and the toll both take on men and women who deal in warfare.

Few directors working today are as familiar with Greek heroic archetypes as Whedon. In his signature television production, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon reimagined the doomed Achilles as a teenage girl who at one point returned from a literal journey to the realm of the dead. Given Trump’s treatment of and standing with women, it will be interesting to see the nature of the heroine’s quest, and the monsters she encounters along the way, in Whedon’s upcoming project Batgirl.

The ConversationWe may not yet know what kinds of underworlds will need to be negotiated in years ahead. But American filmmakers are uniquely experienced in passing through landscapes of dread, emerging stronger and more enlightened.

Paul Salmond, Honorary Associate, Classics and Ancient History, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Guide to the classics: Homer’s Iliad

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The Greeks defend their ships from the Trojans in Alfred Churchill’s Story of the Iliad, 1911.
Wikimedia

Chris Mackie, La Trobe University

Homer’s Iliad is usually thought of as the first work of European literature, and many would say, the greatest. It tells part of the saga of the city of Troy and the war that took place there. In fact the Iliad takes its name from “Ilios”, an ancient Greek word for “Troy”, situated in what is Turkey today. This story had a central place in Greek mythology.

The poem deals with a very short period in the tenth year of the Trojan war. This sometimes surprises modern readers who expect the whole story of Troy (as, for instance, in Wolfgang Petersen’s 2004 film Troy). But Homer and other early epic poets confined their narratives to particular periods in the war, such as its origins, key martial encounters, the fall of the city, or the returns of the soldiers to Greece. There is no doubt that Homer and other early poets could rely on a very extensive knowledge of the Trojan war among their audiences.

Brad Pitt as Achilles in the film Troy.
Warner Brothers

The central figure in the Iliad is Achilles, the son of Peleus (a mortal aristocrat) and Thetis (a sea-goddess). He comes from the north of Greece, and is therefore something of an outsider, because most of the main Greek princes in the poem come from the south. Achilles is young and brash, a brilliant fighter, but not a great diplomat. When he gets into a dispute with Agamemnon, the leading Greek prince in the war, and loses his captive princess Briseis to him, he refuses to fight and remains in his camp.

He stays there for most of the poem, until his friend Patroclus is killed. He then explodes back on to the battlefield, kills the Trojan hero Hector, who had killed Patroclus, and mutilates his body.

The Iliad ends with the ransom of Hector’s body by his old father Priam, who embarks on a mission to Achilles’ camp in the gloom of night to get his son’s body back. It is worth noting that the actual fall of Troy, via the renowned stratagem of Greeks hidden within a Wooden Horse, is not described in the Iliad, although it was certainly dealt with in other poems.

All of this takes place under the watchful gaze of the Olympian gods, who are both actors and audience in the Iliad. The Olympians are divided over the fate of Troy, just as the mortals are – in the Iliad the Trojan war is a cosmic conflict, not just one played out at the human level between Greeks and non-Greeks. Ominously for Troy, the gods on the Greek side, notably Hera (queen of the gods), Athena (goddess of wisdom and war), and Poseidon (god of the land and sea), represent a much more powerful force than the divine supporters of Troy, of whom Apollo (the archer god and god of afar) is the main figure.

Achilles mourns the death of Patroclus.
John Flaxman, The Iliad, 1793

The many faces of Homer

The Iliad is only one poetic work focused on the war for Troy; many others have not survived. But such is its quality and depth that it had a special place in antiquity, and probably survived for that reason.

Achilles dragging the body of Hector behind his chariot. Vase circa 490 BC.

We know virtually nothing about Homer and whether he also created the other poem in his name, the Odyssey, which recounts the return journey of Odysseus from the Trojan war, to the island of Ithaca. The Iliad was probably put together around 700 BC, or a bit later, presumably by a brilliant poet immersed in traditional skills of oral composition (ie “Homer”). This tradition of oral composition probably reaches back hundreds of years before the Iliad.

Early epic poetry can be a way of maintaining the cultural memory of major conflicts. History and archaeology also teach us that there may have been a historical “Trojan war” at the end of the second millennium BC (at Hissarlik in western Turkey), although it was very unlike the one that Homer describes.

The Iliad was composed as one continuous poem. In its current arrangement (most likely after the establishment of the Alexandrian library in the early 3rd century BC), it is divided into 24 books corresponding to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.

It has a metrical form known as “dactylic hexameter” – a metre also associated with many other epic poems in antiquity (such as the Odyssey, and the Aeneid, the Roman epic by Virgil). In the Odyssey, a bard called Demodocus sings on request in an aristocratic context about the Wooden Horse at Troy, giving a sense of the kind of existence “Homer” might have led.

The language of the Iliad is a conflation of different regional dialects, which means that it doesn’t belong to a particular ancient city as most other ancient Greek texts do. It therefore had a strong resonance throughout the Greek world, and is often thought of as a “pan-Hellenic” poem, a possession of all the Greeks. Likewise the Greek attack on Troy was a collective quest drawing on forces from across the Greek world. Pan-Hellenism, therefore, is central to the Iliad.

Death and War

A central idea in the Iliad is the inevitability of death (as also with the earlier Epic of Gilgamesh). The poignancy of life and death is enhanced by the fact that the victims of war are usually young. Achilles is youthful and headstrong, and has a goddess for a mother, but even he has to die. We learn that he had been given a choice – a long life without heroic glory, or a short and glorious life in war. His choice of the latter marks him out as heroic, and gives him a kind of immortality. But the other warriors too, including the Trojan hero Hector, are prepared to die young.

The gods, by contrast, don’t have to worry about dying. But they can be affected by death. Zeus’s son Sarpedon dies within the Iliad, and Thetis has to deal with the imminent death of her son Achilles. After his death, she will lead an existence of perpetual mourning for him. Immortality in Greek mythology can be a mixed blessing.

The Iliad also has much to say about war. The atrocities in the war at Troy are committed by Greeks on Trojans. Achilles commits human sacrifice within the Iliad itself and mutilates the body of Hector, and there are other atrocities told in other poems.

The Trojan saga in the early Greek sources tells of the genocide of the Trojans, and the Greek poets explored some of the darkest impulses of human conduct in war. In the final book of the Iliad, Achilles and Priam, in the most poignant of settings, reflect upon the fate of human beings and the things they do to one another.

The archaeological site of Troy in western Turkey.
Jorge Láscar, CC BY

Postscripts and plagiarists

It was often said that the Iliad was a kind of “bible of the Greeks” in so far as its reception within the Greek world, and beyond, was nothing short of extraordinary. A knowledge of Homer became a standard part of Greek education, be it formal or informal.

Ancient writers after Homer, even the rather austere Greek historian Thucydides in the 5th century BC, assume the historicity of much of the subject-matter of the Iliad. Likewise, Alexander the Great (356-323BC) seems to have been driven by a quest to be the “new Achilles”. Plutarch tells a delightful story that Alexander slept with a dagger under his pillow at night, together with a copy of Homer’s Iliad. This particular copy had been annotated by Alexander’s former tutor, the philosopher Aristotle. One can only imagine its value today had it survived.

In the Roman world, the poet Virgil set out (30-19BC) to write an epic poem about the origins of Rome from the ashes of Troy. His poem, called the Aeneid (after Aeneas, a traditional Trojan founder of Rome), is written in Latin, but is heavily reliant on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

The ConversationMy own view is that Virgil knew Homer off by heart, and he was probably criticised in his own life for the extent of his reliance on Homer. But tradition records his response that “it is easier to steal Heracles’ club than steal one line from Homer”. This response, be it factual or not, records the spell that Homer’s Iliad cast over antiquity, and most of the period since.

Chris Mackie, Professor of Greek Studies, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Eastern Gods Release and Why I haven’t been around

Hey Everyone,

I know, I know, it’s been ages. My life is chaos at the moment and unfortunately the first thing that gets neglected is the blog.

First things first…Eastern Gods is out! Hurray!

 If you are interested you can pick it up world wide on Kindle. For those who are chasing paperbacks…they will be out in a few months. It’s also DRM free so you can convert it for all your devices if Kindle is not your jam.

I am currently working on the copy edits of the second book which you will hopefully see in the next month or so. It was originally meant to be one book but due to its final size (clocking in at a massive 170k words) I decided the best thing to do was split it into two.

OKAY. SO. I’ve been on a bit of a social media/ blog hiatus because I am on a dead line to finish the draft of my latest book by the end of August. I’ve been on a break from uni since February to really be able to give myself the time and care to it. It’s going to be massive. The research has been insane and even in its unpolished first draft format I am ridiculously in love with it. Think Da Vinci Code with Magic and Murder. It’s got some serious series potential but I will have to see how it goes with the end product. They are the kind of characters that deserve a special kind of devotion and care from me so they will always be more demanding to write. I haven’t pitched to a traditional publishing house in a really long time but I’m kind of considering it with this one. If the draft is completed in the next few weeks (I have about 25k left) and it has enough time to go through my editor, I might even consider #PitchWars in August.

I promise I’ll tell you all about it when I am done, I probably won’t be able to shut up about it.

I’ve been reading Deborah Harkness All Souls and holy shit you guys, expect a long fan girl blog about it when I am done. If you haven’t read it, please do, it’s next level.

If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman – Do it. It’s deserving of the hype. Like a lot of women I know I sat there a little weepy the whole time.

Okay, play nice while I am away everyone. Love one another, be kind to yourself, the world is scary enough. Check out Eastern Gods if you are after some epic fantasy.

Amy xo