Happiness is an Awesome Reading Vacation

Readers read. That’s what we do–in the in-between moments of our lives that include things like earning wages, partners, children (two-legged and four-legged), homes, vehicles, and so on. I don’t know about you, but I never have enough time to read what I want to read. So I’ve been daydreaming and I’ve decided that happiness is an awesome reading vacation. 

Photo of a woman reading, on a dock with still water reflecting the sky and the  trees surrounding the lake, an awesome reading vacation for some.

What is an Awesome Reading Vacation?

A reading vacation is a time (days, weeks) when you devour as many stories as you can. Make sure these are books and stories you want to read. Don’t bring the books you should or kind of want to read.

You don’t have to go anywhere. A staycation can be wonderful. It might be fun to stay at a reader friend’s home. Go as rustic (tent) or as pampered (5-star hotel) as you wish and can afford.

Take it one step further. Go to a reader’s paradise. A location that would thrill your reader’s heart. Would you walk the paths trod by a beloved author? Maybe you want to trace the steps of a favorite character? You can choose to read in beautiful libraries or impressive bookstores. There’s no wrong answer.

Three on My Wish List

Hannibal, Missouri

Photograph of Mark Twains boyhood home and museum with sign identifying that the white fence behind it was Tom Sawyer's fence one place for an awesome reading vacation

 Hannibal is Mark Twain’s childhood home. The location inspired settings in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I’ll visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum and the Huckleberry Finn House among other landmarks when I need to stretch my legs between books. Bet you can’t guess which author I’ll be reading on this vacation.

Agatha Christie Tour

Bust of Agatha Christie on the Agatha Christie Mile in Torquay, England.

I love me some Agatha Christie. I couldn’t decide on one location, so I’ll visit them all. Let’s see… I’ll start with her birthplace, Torquay, England, and walk the Agatha Christie Mile. I’ll include Egypt and Turkey, too. Of course, I’ll re-read her books that are set in each location. What an awesome reading vacation that would be! 

The Ancients Tour

Greece. I am obsessed with mythology and Greece throughout the ages. To complete my literary obsession with the land, UNESCO awarded Athens the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2018.

When I’m in Athens, I’ll visit Zonar’s Cafe and read some Jorge Luis Borges, Lawrence Durrell, Evelyn Waugh and Henry Miller. (Don’t tell, but I’ll probably do some touristy things, too.)

Photograph of the Parthenon with tourist showing the immense scale. An awesome reading vacation might include reading on the steps of the Parthenon.

I’ll read Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis on Crete.

Homer’s Iliad calls for a side trip to Troy (which is in Turkey).

Then it’ll be the Odyssey on Ithaca. 

Happiness

You know what? These locations have been on my list forever, but putting my “plans” in writing made me inordinately happy. Happy even though I can’t go there yet. Maybe a reading vacation isn’t your thing. You might enjoy an out of this world vacation. But for me, happiness is an awesome reading vacation. What would make an awesome reading vacation for you?

Sneak Peek at Paladina

It’s Friday. Time for another sneak peek at Paladina a WIP (work-in-progress). Paladina is a back-burner story that I work on a little here and there while I finish the Fellowship Dystopia series. Read the first scene of the story. It’s a story I really like and can’t wait to dive into more deeply. Perhaps you’ll feel that way too.

Sneak Peek at Paladina, a work-in-progress by Lynette M. Burrows
Image by R. Burrows ©2004

The Story Sentence

A protection specialist, sworn to defend a tiny Greek village, discovers they are pawns of treasure-hunting alien knights whose game pits her against her long-lost brother to save all of humanity. 

A Story Within the Story

The story, Paladina, takes place in contemporary Greece. But Greece is a land of myth and mystery. This except is the tale told to our protagonist. Will she believe it?


Paladina

by Lynette M Burrows

©2020

In the ancient world, in the city of Githeon, there lived a man named Theolytas. All Greece knew him as a soldier with strength bested only by Achilles and with cunning to equal the great Odysseus. And so when Agamemnon needed warriors to defend Menelaus’s honor, he came to Theolytas of Githeon.

But Theolytas did not raise his shield without Apollo’s approval. And so he consulted the soothsayer, Vasileios. Vasileios foretold Agamemnon would raise a glorious army, the largest in history. And prophesied that Theolytas would find glory in battle and treasure during the sacking of Ilios.

So Theolytas made love to his wife and kissed his children goodbye. He strapped on his armor, loaded provisions and his men-at-arms onto ships, and sailed to the port of Aulis where he joined Agamemnon’s fleet of a thousand ships. Never had Theolytas, nor anyone, seen such a fleet before. And they sailed for battle.

Sneak peek at Paladina includes this illustration of a Greek sailing vessel on ancient Greek pottery.

      But at Aulis, no breath of wind filled their sails for weeks. And when the winds blew again, they fell victim to Apollo’s plague-carrying arrows. Ill winds blew them off-course to Mysia. After many months they sailed into Ilios.     

The Battle for Ilios

      Theolytas distinguished himself as a courageous and formidable warrior against the sons of Priam.  But the sons of Priam retreated to within the impregnable walls of Ilios. And Agamemnon lay siege to the city. And the siege lasted nine long years. 

Theolytas’s men grew weary of the wait, and his treasury and armory thinned. Finally, Odysseus and Theolytas devised a plan.   

And the Princes of Ilios welcomed the great wooden horse into the city. And so lay open the city to Agamemnon, Theolytas, and the soldiers. 

The Treasure

In the last hours of that battle, Theolytas followed a glint of gold and found Paris, lying dead on Mount Ida.  He clutched a plain metal box to his chest. Theolytas wrested the box from the dead man’s hand and opened it. The sight of the golden apple, the sculpted quince, that lay within took his breath away. An inscription on the apple blazed with the words ‘To the Fairest.’ He beheld the apple long after the sounds of battle had ceased. And deep inside Theoloytas a desire, nay a need, grew. He had given ten years of his life and all the wealth of Gytheon for the war. He deserved this one small trinket. It would be his forever.

The Curse

On the journey home through the cities of Greece, Theolytas could not resist the urge to open the box. The apple’s glow drew men to his quarters. But each man who saw the apple fell ill, or crossed blades with Theolytas, or had a misstep. And each met untimely deaths.  

And word of the apple’s beauty passed amongst his men. To protect the apple, he drew his sword against his soldiers, the ship’s slaves, and even the men of villages they passed through.  

Now, Theolytas was a soldier and a little blood on his sword in the time of war did not disturb him, but the blood on his blade as he journeyed home weighed upon him.  Still, he could not let go of the apple.  

He returned to Gytheon and hid the box with the apple in his home. He vowed to leave the box unopened.  But his heart ached, so in the night Theolytas crept to its hiding spot, and opened the box. His wife came to see what disturbed her husband’s sleep and glimpsed the apple. By sunrise, the madness consumed her. 

Theolytas prostrated himself with grief. So great was his grief that he took no notice when his men elected another commander. Nor did he hear his children when they wailed in hunger. Finally, Athena took pity on him and sent him a dream. 

To Break the Curse

Theolytas sought the soothsayer to interpret his dream.  Vasileios told Theolytas that Hera cursed the apple of Eris. The curse of discord fell upon all but the one who held the apple. To break the curse, he must take the apple to the five-fingered mountain and find the giant white toad turned to stone. Behind the toad stood the opening of a cave. He must enter the cave with nothing but a lamp, a flask of water, an offering of the finest wine and roasted lamb, and the apple. Theolytas must partake of only the water and follow the cave to its end where he would find a rift in the wall. He must place the apple in its box deep in that crevice, make the offerings and pray to Zeus for five days. Only then would Zeus lift the curse from Theolytas and his seed. 

But when Theolytas retrieved the apple from its hiding place, he opened the box and its beauty overcame him. He could not bear to never see it again. 

One night as he gazed at the apple, his eldest son entered. The madness struck down his son, and Theolytas rent his clothes in remorse. In mortal fear for his daughter and his youngest son, he prepared for the journey.

      He bound his eyes with a cloth and retrieved the box, wrapped it in an oilskin, and tucked it in the bottom of his pack.  And so he departed for the five-fingered mountains.  

The White Toad

      After a year of wandering, Theolytas begged Apollo for guidance and he found the white rock shaped like a giant toad and behind it, the cave.  For three days he walked deep into the side of the mountain. His heart yearned to see the apple one more time, but he dared not fail.  And stumbling, he found the end of the cave. And with the apple still in its box and wrapped in the oilskin cloth, he thrust it deep into the crevice there. He gave the offerings and prayed.  

      After five days of prayer, weak with hunger he fell unable to rise. He cried out to Zeus that he had done all he, a mere mortal, could do. And Zeus saw what Theolytas had done and withdrew the curse from him. And Theolytas heard a river gurgle and fish leaped into his hands. He regained his strength, left the cave and returned to his home.

Free of the curse, Theolytas and his kin prospered. His daughter married a governor who led Gytheon in peace for 30 years. His son became a potter, famous for his kylix painted with the presentation of the apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. He painted one, just one, with the story of his father and the apple. He gave that one to his father. When Theolytas would yearn to see the apple, he would gaze at the kylix and the story painted there and the feeling would pass. And so, Theolytas lived a long and peaceful life. And the apple and its curse remained deep beneath the five-fingered mountains within the cave of the toad-shaped rock.


Inspiration

Obviously, the inspiration is Greek mythology. I’ve been enamored of all things Greek since childhood. In this story I get to mix Greek gods and aliens and heroic female protagonists. What could be more fun?

And the Story will Continue

Readers of My Soul to Keep may have noticed that I love telling a story within a story. If you’re unaware of the Greek mythology behind the golden apple, or need a refresher, you might want to check out MythMan. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Paladina a WIP. Did you remember the myth of the golden apple? Are there other myths you enjoy?

A Sneak Peek at Paladina, a Novel-in-Progress

I’m sharing another work-in-progress. (You do know that writers have squirrel brains, don’t you? Oh, look! Shiny new story idea!) You’ve reacted so favorably to my past sneak peeks posts, I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek at Paladina.

I chose the working title Paladina as a play on the theme song of an old television show, “Have Gun-Will Travel,” starring Richard Boone.

 

The title of my story will likely change as the story morphs through subsequent drafts but for now, this one works. It’s a novel-in-progress and plays with Greek mythology, alien cultures, and psychopaths. I’m estimating the length will be about 100,000 words. And yes, I’ve worked on it off an on for a long time. I’m working on pinning that writer’s squirrel down to finish some of these projects.

The Story Sentence

With each story I write, I draft a sentence that captures my plot. If you want more information about what I mean, check out my article, The Best Writer’s Tool.

This is my sentence for my most recent draft of Palidina:

A protection specialist, sworn to defend a tiny Greek village, discovers they are pawns of treasure-hunting alien knights whose game pits her against her long-lost brother to save all of humanity.

Does that pique your interest? I hope so. *grin*

And now, for the peek into the story.

Sneak Peek at Paladina, a work-in-progress by Lynette M. Burrows
Image by R. Burrows ©2004

~~~

Paladina

By

Lynette M. Burrows

George Lerios ignored the chill October wind, the aches and pains of his arthritis, and the anxious double-time throb of his pulse, unable to tear his eyes away from the scene beneath the giant plane tree. Who does this xénos think he is to come and threaten our village? George stood with the men of his village, on the downhill side, along one of the cobblestone streets that formed the platia. He wore faded American jeans like many of the others. Some wore woolen slacks with long-sleeved shirts peeking out of gray or black wool jackets. He and the other men stood with their backs to the stone buildings, smoking or fingering their komboloi beads, uncharacteristically silent. Watching.

The women sat on stools or chairs or on the cobbles of the uphill side of the street, their thick lamb’s wool sweaters and hand-knitted shawls fended off the chill wind. Their dresses, many of them widow’s black, primly covered their knees. Gone was the usual gossip and banter; they, too, watched.

The xénos, who called himself Mr. White, arrived exactly as he had before, in a dark green Range Rover filled with armed men, each of whom wore a crisp, olive-colored shirt and sharply creased pants. The only thing that distinguished Mr. White from the others was the deference with which they treated him, and his burgundy beret. He reset the back of the beret tightly on his head, then squared his stance before the table. Towering over elderly Father Theodoros and the three village leaders who sat at the backgammon table, he said, “Well, Father…gentlemen. Where is it?”

Holding his tall-crowned, black beaver hat and his long, white beard against the wind, Father Theodoros looked up at Mr. White. “As I told you before, Mr. White, we are naught but farmers and shopkeepers. Old men and women. Look around you. We have no apple of gold. We have nothing of value. Nothing to give you.”

“I don’t have time for games, Father. I told you before. We know you have it. We know that Cyril Hatzikyriakos stole the apple while working for Herr Schliemann. He sold it to a merchant. It passed through the hands of a healer, a soldier, and a dozen more until Panos gave it to Isidori.”

Saint Isidori,” Father Theodoros corrected him.

George crossed himself at the name of the blessed lady.

“We know it came to this village. The apple is here. And I will have it.”

Yiani, the eldest, spoke without raising his head. “Perhaps he does not understand Greek. If he did, he would know that if such an apple existed it could not have survived the past three thousand years, for every aunt, uncle, brother, sister, and cousin of any man who owned it would have taken a piece of it. There would be nothing left. There is nothing. There never was.” The breeze stirred the edges of Yiani’s black jacket, revealing a little of his best white shirt.

Yiani could not see the tiny narrowing of Mr. White’s eyes, but George did. His chest tightened.

Mr. White scanned the men and women lining the streets. “What is it with you people? No one else will pay what I’ve offered you. Don’t you understand? You could fix up this pest-hole.” Silence. He turned back to face Father Theodoros. “My offer expires today. Turn the apple over to me and your village will live.”

“Only the one, true, God can say when a man will live or die,” Father Theodoros said.

Mr. White looked at the priest. “No. Believe me, Father. I have that power. I can say that this man,” he placed his hand gently on Yiani’s shoulder, “will die soon if you don’t give me the apple.”

George balled his fists. If I were even just twenty years younger, I would… He looked down at his fist and saw the arthritis-gnarled joints and parchment-thin skin. His anger did not slacken, but he wished that the young men of Obelia had not deserted their mountain village for the more modern life of the bigger cities. Younger men would fight the xéni and win.

Father Theodoros looked at Yiani, whose return look was steady. Holding his hat still, Father Theodoros raised his gaze to Mr. White. “We can not help you.” His tone as gentle as his eyes.

“We would not if we could.” Yiani rolled the dice.

George didn’t think it was Yiani’s turn.

Mr. White looked down at Yiani. “Your town will fall, not unlike Troy.”

Yiani tossed his head back with a click of his tongue.

“You leave me no choice,” said Mr. White. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket, tapped out an unfiltered cigarette and transferred it to his lips. He lit it, then took a long drag on it. Smoke streamed out of his nostrils and swirled in the wind.

The side of Yiani’s head exploded in a pink mist. His body sagged back into his chair.

Father Theodoros and the other two elders leaped to their feet, knocking the chairs and table over in their haste. Backgammon tiles and dice skittled across the grass and onto the cobbles.

George’s heart beat against his ribs but he did not allow himself to look away. Neither did any of the other villagers. They’d all seen worse during the Coup.

Mr. White turned toward George and the other men of the village with a cold, hard stare. “I understand Greek,” he said. “Now, you understand me. I will return in one week. You will give me the apple and be paid half-price for it, or I will be forced to find it and you will pay the price.” He continued his slow turn, meeting any and all who would look into his eyes. “I don’t like killing old men and women, but I will have the apple. Anyone want to avoid all the grief and tell me where it is?”

George held his head high. Not one villager said a word.

~~~

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Paladina, a novel-in-progress. Do you like having sneak peeks? Would you prefer sneak peeks from published fiction or do you like getting an early peek at works-in-progress? Your answers may influence what appears in my Wednesday posts in the future. Thanks for reading!

Greek for a Day

What do you do when you want to travel abroad but can’t afford the time or expense? If you want to go to Greece or learn about Greece for a work-in-progress (I wouldn’t know who was doing that). You go to a Greek Food Festival and become a Greek for a day.

What do you do when you want to travel abroad but can't afford the time or expense? If you want to go to Greece or learn about Greece for a work-in-progress (I wouldn't know who was doing that). You go to a Greek Food Festival and become a Greek for a day. lynettemburrows.com

 

Waiting in line while mouthwatering aromas waft through the air. . . . then the tasting begins!

Lynette M. Burrows, author
Flaming Saganaki Chees via Arnold Inuyaki on Flickr Commons

Flaming Cheese Saganaki (pronounced sah-ghah-NAH-kee). The term saganaki refers to the two-handled vessel in which appetizers are served. The cheese is pan-fried and at the last minute (often at the table) a Greek brandy or Ourzo is poured over the cheese and set aflame with a shout of “Opa!.” You can find the recipe here.

Want to know more about Greek food? You can find all you want to know about Greek food at Matt Barrett’s travel guides.

The boutique complete with souvenirs from Greece. Notice the ladies behind the counter in their festive attire.

Greek-Fest-shop2_web

Greek-Festival-shop_web

No Greek food festival is complete without dancing.

Greek festival dancing_web

Did You Know?

Greeks are notorious for late arrivals to events. In fact, when they observe someone arriving at an event on time they say “he is English.”

When something is incomprehensible to an American we say, “It’s Greek to me.” But to the Greeks, “It’s Chinese to me.”

When a Greek exaggerates or hides the truth, he’s “pouring on the sauce.”

Shaping thumb and forefinger to a ring as in the American gesture meaning okay is an obscene gesture to Greeks.

Many Greeks have a cactus plant near the entrance to their home. The spines or prickles of the cactus are thought to ward off the evil eye from the property.

You can find more information about Greek traditions and superstitions from an expat who lives in Athens.

And the best information comes from conversations you have with the folks who remember these traditions and superstitions and a few stories about a Yaya (grandmother).

While travel to the country is the best option when learning about another culture. And the internet can be a treasure trove of information.  There’s nothing quite like being almost there, at a local festival, tasting the food, listening to the music, and enjoying the stories.

Have you been Greek for a day? 

If not Greece, what country have you visited without leaving your national borders?