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Happy Holidays! Join me in welcoming my friend and fellow author Ash to my blog today with his newest novella, Heartifact. It sounds like a fascinating story!

heartifact-cover-401x609By the way, net proceeds benefit the The Trevor Project in the US, le Refuge in France, and Arcigay in Italy

Heartifact is available from Men Over the RainbowAmazonAmazon UKAll Romance eBooks, Barnes & NobleSmashwords

 

THE MYTH OF ATLANTIS

A very special thank you to Lloyd for hosting me today. It’s great to be here!

The myth of Atlantis (Greek, Atlas) stems from two Dialogues written by Plato in 360 BC, Timaeus and Critias. The dialogues speak of an island utopian society destroyed by a cataclysm of some sort. It is correct that these Dialogues represent the written record of the myth of Atlantis, but it is incorrect that they are the source of the myth.

Egyptians told the story of Atlantis to Solon, one of the seven sages of ancient Greece, during one of his pilgrimages to Egypt. The Egyptians showed him several records of antiquity speaking to the incomparable power and prestige of the utopian empire which dominated the world 9,000 years before; and further pointed out that the Greeks had been wiped off the face of the earth alongside the people of Atlantis, with whom they were at war. Few survived, and the Egyptians purported that this is why Greeks had no memory of Atlantis. Solon passed the story on to Socrates. Socrates was Plato’s mentor, and one night at a dinner party when Plato was a youngster, he snuck in to listen to the tale told by Socrates. He recounts Socrates’ retelling of the myth in these Dialogues. It is important to note that the hieroglyphs of Egypt represent some of the most accurate historical records in existence today (and the story of Atlas does not mention the Atlantic Ocean).

In 1453, the Turks invaded the Holy Land cutting off Spain’s land-faring trade routes with the Far East. Along came Christopher Columbus who had a secret desire to find Atlantis. Under the auspices of finding seafaring trade routes for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he sought to find Atlantis and, instead, bumped into the Americas. But his belief that Atlantis was in the Atlantic Ocean lingers in the myth today.

In 1665, Don Carlos de Sigüenza, set out to demonstrate that his Mexican ancestors had formed a civilization to rival Rome by proving that the pyramids of Teotijuacan were like those of ancient Egypt. To make a long story short, he ultimately believed he’d found Atlantis because the wipeout of the Teotijuacan civilization corresponds to the biblical prophecy that people disbursed around the globe after the flood, the flood purporting to correspond to the destruction of Atlantis. (No mention of Noah’s animals.) But his belief that Atlantis was destroyed by a flood lingers in the myth today.

In the 17th century, a dude named Sir Francis Bacon writes a fable entitled The New Atlantis. This is the first reworking of Plato’s Dialogues and sparks renewed interest in the search for Atlantis. In this fable, he ascribes advanced technology to the people of Atlantis. From this point forward, people believed Atlantians were extremely advanced, so much so as to exceed the advancements of today.

Along comes John Dee, a magician and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth who, through crystal gazing and a series of horrifying occult experiments, claims he can communicate with the spirits of Atlantis. From this point forward, people believed the Atlantians were to have had all sorts of special abilities such as mindreading, prescience, etc.

In 1870, a French guy by the name of Jules Verne writes a fabulous tale, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and credits the story to the myth of Atlantis. At that time in history, most people didn’t know how to swim, hadn’t been in the ocean, but somehow knew sea monsters existed that may eat ships and most certainly ate people. Verne paints a picture of a utopian society beneath the sea (no sea monsters included). From this point forward, people believed Atlantians lived beneath the sea.

Around the same time, German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, discovers the ruins of Troy by reading a literal translation of Homer. Homer’s works are fiction, but Schliemann’s discovery confirms the fact that all fiction is based in some truth. From that point forward, people deemed Plato’s Dialogues to be a reliable source to locate Atlantis.

In 1880, loser politician, Ignatius Donnelly, finds himself with time on his hands and, galvanized by Schliemann’s find, becomes obsessed with finding Atlantis. He performs all manner of armchair exploration and learns a mountain range stretches from Iceland to South America deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean, the highest peaks of which are the Azores and Canary Islands. Thereafter, people believed one could walk from Egypt to South America at one time and this explained how like pyramids, cultures, hieroglyphs, etc. ended up on opposite sides of the globe. He writes a pseudoscientific book, Atlantis, the Antediluvian World, and has now added fodder to the idea that Atlantis was once above the sea, but sank into the depths during a flood.

Around the same time (1873), Helena Blavatzky, a penniless Russian grandmother, self-proclaimed occult guru, and confirmed nutcase, alleges that only Arian Hindu’s retain Atlantean racial superiority and are the oldest people in the world. It is her attribution of a fair complexion and blue eyes to the people of Atlantis that survives in the myth today. The Third Reich later seizes upon this idea. You know that story, so I’ll move on.

In 1899, archeologist Arthur Evans unearths the remains of a hidden civilization on the island of Crete. These mysterious sea-trading people worshipped the bull, built labyrinthine buildings, and painted incredible frescos. Having nothing to do with Atlantis, this civilization was named Minoa (after Greek mythological figure King Minos, who happened to be the father of the minotaur). What is unique about this civilization is that it demonstrated highly advanced water technology thus lending to Sir Francis Bacon’s theory of Atlantians having advanced technology. Minoans are the single greatest mystery in all of classical history. We don’t know where they came from or what happened to them.

Thirty-five years later while excavating on the island of Santorini, Greek archeologist, Spyradon Marinatos, uncovers a mysterious civilization buried beneath thirty feet of volcanic rock lending to the idea that the destruction of Atlantis occurred as a result of a massive volcano eruption and not a flood. He excavates the village in 1967 and headlines around the world read “Atlantis Found!” This civilization was not that of Atlantis and was named Akrotiri. Yet, anyone who lives on Santorini will tell you that the beloved island is Atlantis.

Along comes another clairvoyant who claims Atlantis will rise from the Caribbean island of Bimini in 1968 or so. Expeditions occur only to learn that many Spanish Galleons wrecked on the coral reefs and dumped giant Corinthian stones used for ballast, thus creating what is now known as the undersea Bimini Road, and not a long lost road of Atlantis. This story adds more fodder to Atlantis having sunk into the Atlantic sea.

What is important to note from the above is that each event involving Atlantis has added something to Plato’s original description of nothing more than an island utopia destroyed by a cataclysm.

All fiction is, in part, based in truth, and everyone reads the accomplishments and reasons for destruction of Atlantis differently. As people, we tend to project the things we most admire (highest aspirations), and at the same time, the things we’re most afraid of (dangerous fantasies of perfection). All said, we can’t resist the notion that somewhere in the gloomy deep, Atlantis exists.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Lloyd! Go read Heartifact! It’s a great book. Besides, you can enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card and two signed books from me!

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ENTER THE RAFFLE!
About Heartifact

Harper Kidd is a highly respected marine archaeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division. Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.

Harper’s spirits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.

When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and saving the pelora he’s fallen in love with.

 

Heartifact is available from Men Over the RainbowAmazonAmazon UKAll Romance eBooks, Barnes & NobleSmashwords

Read an excerpt on Love Bytes Reviewsen français

 

About Aisling Mancy

Ash is an author who lives, most of the time, on the West Coast of the United States. Ash writes mystery thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and fiction for gay young adults as C. Kennedy.

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Ash doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Ash contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Ash can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much-maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary. Ash does respond to emails because, after all, it is all about you, the reader.

Find Ash on blog, Twitter @AislingMancy, Facebook, Google+Goodreads, Booklikes, Dreamspinner Press Author Page, and Amazon!

 

I’ve been writing winter solstice poems for close to fifty years. Not every year, but this profound solar event seems to present itself to me over and over as a moment to take seriously, in reverence. It’s become my year-end, and the morning after my new year’s day.

I haven’t written a solstice poem for a few years, and with all the discordant forces at work in our world it seemed a good time to ask if there was one this year, to close out a year that has been filled with creativity, growth, pain, loss and disillusionment. This poem pretty much wrote itself in a few hours.

Winter Solstice 2016

Time to strip naked again,
be empty and innocent.
Pile actions, belief, hope, vision
onto the Solstice fire.

Trusting the furnace is hard.

Burning the wreckage
of insufficient dreams is easy,
pieces of broken furniture
not worth mending, discovered
in the wistful dim attic of my soul.
I’ve done it before.

But the other dreams?
If it’s insufficient, it will burn.
Trial by fire.

I risk losing the good dreams,
the ones I might fix up one day and re-upholster,
the dreams beloved people now dead sat in at night,
settled in their warm comfort and imperfections,
dreams I’d rather keep — losing them
hurts long before I let go.

The last gift
of an insufficient dream
is essence, light
set free as it burns.

Throw everything in.
Then climb in and trust,
like the three men in Daniel.

Search in the morning, as the sun rises,
with a heart knowing ash
as well as fire,
find what remains
untouched among the bitter ashes:
a small obsidian goddess;
seeds cracking open with new life;
a pen that still works.

Find what remains
in the light of day.

Lloyd A. Meeker

Okay—you have a brand-new book by a new-to-you author, and you’ve been itching to dive into it. Finally you have enough peace and quiet to start. The strong writing draws you into the story world right away. As we expected to, we learn that Brad, the hero, is a good guy. We like him. We’ve learned his dog shelter is in deep financial trouble, and we’ve seen his devoted kindness to the rescue dogs. He hasn’t taken a salary for three months in order to pay his assistant. He’s got unpaid bills, and the mortgage payment is due in two weeks.

Besides that, though, Really Bad Things have happened to Brad. He’s sleeping on the shelter’s reception area couch, because a week ago he came home unexpectedly to find his partner in bed with their hunky neighbor, whereupon the partner announced that he’s moving in with hunky neighbor. Brad can’t afford their apartment on his own, nor can he afford first month’s rent and the deposit on a new one.

But thirty-five pages in, even though we’re rooting for him, a problem quietly pushes itself into the story. Yes, Brad is suffering. He’s in a tough spot. But he’s utterly passive. What is he DOING to fight his way out of this situation? Maybe there’s a throwaway line in his internal dialogue, that he would talk to the bank manager again about restructuring his loans, but we know the banker will again say no because his situation hasn’t changed. Although the stakes are high (he might lose his shelter and end up on the street himself) and his angst is intense, he is psychologically and physically passive. For a protagonist, this is a big problem, and as I see it, is often overlooked in our stories. Suffering is not enough. A protagonist must act. That’s his job, if it’s his story.

There’s a pervasive concept that in order for a reader to empathize with a hero, the hero has to suffer. “Don’t hold back! Pile it on! Torture your protagonist!” the how-to handbook exclaims.

Yes, a protagonist has to have problems. But I’m going to suggest that the problems a hero faces must serve a bigger purpose than just making him miserable. That’s a minor part of the equation. The larger part of the equation is this: Those problems are his opportunity to show what he’s made of, and how resourceful, how determined he is in pursuing his goals.

It seems to me that all too often the second part of this equation is neglected in favor of noble helplessness. As a result, we end up with a lot of limp, suffering heroes populating our stories. That’s the equivalent of the “damsel in distress” trope of het romance, a trope now generally rejected as misogynist. It’s just as hateful to men. Is our hero Brad so overwhelmed with his despair about the shelter that he’s paralyzed and has to be rescued? Damsel in distress.

So here’s my argument. By page thirty-five I should know what Brad is doing to solve his immediate problem. I don’t have to know all his back story, or that he wants abuse of dogs to end forever. But I do need something grounded, to know what our resourceful Brad is going to do TODAY, in the circumstance just as it is, about his situation. What does he want, and what is he going to do to achieve it? What’s his plan? What’s his first step? When he takes that step, he’s a protagonist again, and driving his story.

What the hero wants in the first few pages is rarely what he’ll want all the way through the story. And what he wants may well vary with the story’s genre. But the more a hero simply reacts to events initiated by others, rather than initiating them himself, the less of a protagonist he is. A passive hero simply is merely the subject of the story, playing a minimal role in shaping the plot. A passive hero has no chance to reveal his character, simply because he doesn’t act. Feelings alone don’t reveal character. I love internal struggle, but it must lead to action or internal struggle simply becomes an emotional hamster wheel. Actions reveal both feelings and character. 

How often have we authors been exhorted to show, not tell? It applies here. Describing the internal state of the hero is not enough to reveal character. The hero must act, and his actions will reveal his character. Actions speak louder than words.

Some might argue this idea just applies to “action” stories, but I don’t think that’s true. Not every action has to show the hero reclaiming Dragon’s Eye, the mighty sword of kings, from the corrupt priesthood of Xanthrax to take his rightful seat on the throne of his murdered father. It could just as easily show the hero setting all the clocks in his apartment to the same time, a declaration of his commitment to reality. Action can be of any scope, appropriate to the story’s context. 

Last year I wrote a short solstice story from the point of view of a little boy who wanted to find a new husband for his dad. An eight-year-old boy is not able to act in the same way an adult can. So with the help of his aunt he builds a solstice altar to attract a partner for his dad. He works at it every day. Regardless of who the hero is, his actions reveal his reality, which is also his character.

Over and over in a full-length novel, the hero’s goals lead to his actions, which create repercussions he then must face. He grows by facing them, by clarifying his goals, and by acting to achieve new ones. No matter how much he suffers, if he simply navigates his way through the actions of others, he’s not really the protagonist. He is an observer. A protagonist takes initiative and thereby changes the unfolding story.

I mentioned psychological passivity earlier, and rather than make this article way too long, I offer two examples.

The first example is peripheral: the set-up phrase, “He was tired of meaningless hookups.” This is usually authorial convenience, a shorthand set-up to show that the protagonist is maturing, and now is ready for a “Real Relationship.” But on examination this moral judgment is an insult to the protagonist’s character. It casts him as needy and psychologically weak: If his hookups are meaningless, what is so wrong with the protagonist that he has repeatedly failed to BRING any meaning to his hookups? Is he that lazy? That selfish in sex? Does he expect his hookup partner to deliver all the meaning he craves?

How pathetic is that? Most of us have learned the hard way that depending on others as a source of meaning is a false premise. The open door to greater meaning is the meaning we ourselves bring to what we do. To know love, first we ourselves must love.

The second psychological example is more central—the protagonist is allowed to hang out in desire or intention instead of taking action. Brad wants desperately to save his dog shelter. He sincerely intends to find a solution. But what does he actually do? Talk to his banker again without creating a new business plan to show her? Hardly enough to qualify as a protagonist. Does Brad take a second, or even a third job? Does he sell the cherished antique tea cart that belonged to his grandmother, the only person in his estranged family that ever really understood him? Does he become a sex worker on the side? Does he rob the bank? How badly does Brad want to save his shelter? What he does to solve his problem reveals his character. If he does nothing but fret, he is a limp hero, and I lose respect for him.

Too often the Brads in our stories are conveniently rescued by another character—perhaps by the handsome, high-powered attorney (with money) who comes to the shelter to find a puppy for his niece. The meet-cute is charming, the romance is lovely, Brad even refuses the attorney’s financial help at first because he’s too proud to say yes. (Which is a pretty negative message about Brad’s character, that he’d let his pride condemn his beloved shelter dogs to death.) But ultimately, Brad is rescued, and becomes the gay male equivalent to the now (happily) out-of-fashion damsel in distress.

This isn’t an issue of plot or genre. It’s an issue of agency. The job of a protagonist is to act. His actions must drive the story, or the story ceases to be his.

(This article first appeared November 2017 in my column “Through My Lens” for Genre Talk at http://www.thenovelapproachreviews.com.)