An oldie, but I think it’s a goodie

For the next few months, I’m going to be busy pounding out my third mystery.  I won’t have time to write anything new for my webpage, so I’m going to offer up chapters from one of my early books that I self-published, an urban fantasy.  EMPTY ALTARS features my favorite Greek/Roman goddess, Diana, and an older Norse god, Tyr.  I hope you like it.  Here’s chapter one:

Writing when you have no patience

Okay, I really meant to put one part of Freya’s story on my webpage each week for the month of March. But it feels like it’s taking forever to me, and I can’t stand it. So, I’m putting up Part 3 today, Part 4 on Wednesday, and Part 5 on Thursday. Now you’ll believe me when I tell you that I don’t have lots of patience. You can find all five parts on my webpage, one each day. Hope you like them!

Rambling Men

My grandfathers died when I was too young to really remember them.  Instead, I have general impressions and a few vivid moments that stick in my mind.  Mostly, I know what people say about them, the stories that survived their lives.  As far as I can tell, both made for subpar husbands, not so wonderful parents, but awesome grandpas.

My dad’s father was a caboose man on trains.  He swung the lanterns and road the rails.  I was told he “had” to marry my grandmother.  I can believe that, since theirs didn’t seem like an especially good union.  If they had anything in common, I never saw it.  Rumor was that Grandma was a waitress at a restaurant my grandfather frequented often.  The rest was too scandalous for my young ears, but they stuck it out and raised three children.  My father swore he wouldn’t have a marriage like theirs, that his years wouldn’t be spent in endless arguing.  But by the time I hit the stage, they were too old and too tired to fight daily.  I remember Grandma as reclining on a couch, eating bananas and reading True Detective magazines.  Her favorite words were, “I did my duty.”  My grandfather, on the other hand, still had a zest for life.  He took us out to eat whenever he won at poker.  He won a big pot once and paid for Dad to drive to the east coast so we could play on the shore.  And he loved to tell stories.  Stories about a drunk who passed out on the railroad tracks and the train cut off his head, and everyone had to take their lanterns and search the fields, looking for it.  Stories about chugging through storms and staying in little towns.  I loved sitting on his lap, listening to him weave his tales.

My mom’s father was a truck driver.  Pure Danish–a dark Dane, he always added.  His parents settled in Wisconsin and farmed.   How he met my grandma, I don’t know, but Grandma glowed when she talked about “Pete” coming for her with his horse and buggy and taking her to barn dances.  Grandpa was a lot of fun.  He took us for ice cream cones and bought my sister and me shiny tricycles.  But he was not to be depended on.  During the Depression, he worked for one trucking firm after another to keep a job, but he didn’t send any of his money back to Grandma.  Instead, he stayed with Grandma’s sister and her husband on their farm, eating meals, while Grandma struggled alone in Chicago, trying to keep a roof over their four childrens’ heads.  She lost the house, was forced to move to a tiny, two room shack, and sent the kids for buckets of lard and flour to fill their bellies.  After the Depression, Grandpa returned, and Grandma took him back.  “Why?” I asked once, and Grandma said, “It was different then.  Not many jobs for women.  I had four children to raise.”  And she still loved him.

What is there about scoundrels?  They make for great stories, because Grandpa Pete told us about driving his truck through the mountains when the roads were narrow and twisty, when he had to put his leg out the driver’s door to scrape his rubber-soled shoe on the road so the ice didn’t send him over the steep dropoffs.   He told us about shanties perched on the side of ravines with pigs living under the front porches and chickens running across the front yards.  And he told us that rain was fairies dancing on the roof, and that thunder was Thor knocking down all ten pins in the sky’s bowling alley.

My grandpas had their flaws, but the way I remember them is through their stories.  Maybe that’s why I love myths so much to this day.  And maybe that’s why Tyr and Thor made their way into my novel, EMPTY ALTARS.  Maybe that’s why I loved reading books to my kids and sharing the tales between the pages.  A legacy from my childhood that I can pass along.

What about power?

I’m not a huge fan of power.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know it’s necessary if you want to have any measure of freedom or control over your life.  And I like freedom as much as the next person, maybe more.  Which means I don’t want someone to have power over me.  But more than that?  Not so much.  I have no desire to have power over them.  I taught grade school for six years.  I know how hard it is to make small children bend to your will–not that they ever do.  Parents know.  Kids are who they are.  You just cross your fingers and do the best you can to raise them.  So for me, power means work.  It means making the right choices, and I have enough trouble doing that for myself.  For others?  Forget about it.  I’d rather teach than rule.

And why am I going on about this?  Because I used the Norse god, Tyr, as the romantic interest in my novel, EMPTY ALTARS.  Tyr intrigued me.  He wasn’t enamored of power either.

Tyr isn’t as well known as Thor and Odin, but he preceeded them.  According to some versions of Norse myths, Tyr is an old god, powerful and wise.  Not the norm.  In most myths, the old gods are turbulent, barbaric.  They’re raw power, who swallow sons and daughters to cling to what they have.  Not Tyr.  He walked away from his role as supreme ruler and gave his power to Odin–without a fight, without a struggle.  Why?  The sky-god didn’t care if he was the top guy or not.  He retained his position as god of war and justice, but he was happy to let Odin deal with the politics of keeping his fellow gods under control.

As god of war, Tyr was more concerned about honor and strategy than bloodshed.  Maybe because he ruled justice, too.  Tyr’s the god who placed his right hand inside of Fenrir, the wolf’s mouth, so that his fellow gods could tether him.  The wolf thought he had a sweet deal.  The gods were using a ribbon to bind him.  Fenrir expected to break free and prove his strength.  Tyr knew differently.  Tyr knew the thin ribbon was created by dwarf magic.  Made from “the footstep of a cat, the roots of a mountain, a woman’s beard, the breath of fishes, the sinews of a bear, and a bird’s spittle,” (encyclopedia Mythica), the ribbon would not break, and Tyr knew Fenrir would gnaw off his hand for revenge.   But he still met Fenrir’s challenge when no other god was brave enough.

Not one other god would challenge Tyr, even though he stepped down.  Not even Thor, who was known for his mercurial temperament.  So… if Tyr was as strong as any god in Norse myths, and wiser than most, what happened?  According to legend, mortals had grown tired of him.  They began to worship Odin and leave offerings on his altars, ignoring Tyr.  If gods are fickle, mortals are too.  Eventually, mortals would favor Thor with his mighty hammer over Odin.  And after time, new gods would take Odin and Thor’s places.   So, what do gods do when forced into early retirement?  In EMPTY ALTARS, I decided to have them still dedicate themselves to mortals, even though mortals no longer dedicate themselves to old gods.  But it made me think.  How important is power?  And who craves it the most?

Power is often associated with ego, but the saying, “Power corrupts,” didn’t apply to Tyr.  He didn’t have much of an ego, but he did have a huge sense of duty.   He thought about others more than he thought about himself.  Not always the case.  I guess power is like anything else.  What do they say?  “A gun doesn’t kill.  The person who pulls the trigger does.”  That could apply to power too.