Hell Hath No Fury Like A Goddess Scorned (Part 1?)

Eris stormed into the dressing room on Olympus.  She flung a golden card down onto the table at the center of the room.  “What in Hades is this?” she demanded.

Aphrodite glanced at it, while adjusting one perfect curl in the mirror.  She took a moment to admire her reflection before replying.  “It’s an invitation.”

“I know that,” Eris tried not to snarl, but couldn’t refrain from clenching her hands into fists.  She was in no mood for Aphrodite’s games.  “Why wasn’t I invited?”

“Zeus doesn’t want you there,” Hera stated firmly, as she fixed the folds of her gown.  Really, this wasn’t the time or place for a confrontation.  Eris had no tact.

“Why not?” Eris demanded, as the three Olympians continued to preen in front of the mirrors.

“Well, you do tend to cause problems,” Athena remarked casually.  Would it be inappropriate to bring weapons to a wedding?  She pondered the question for a moment, before sighing, setting down the silver bow, and then slipping the matching quiver of arrows from her back.

“I’m the Goddess of Discord,” Eris replied, irritated.  For someone who was known for her wisdom, Athena was acting like a moron.  “I’m supposed to cause problems.”

“Exactly,” Aphrodite nodded, before flipping her hair over her shoulder.  Her gleaming curls cascaded down her back.  “That’s why you weren’t invited,” she said sweetly, dimples forming on either side of her saccharine smile.

Eris felt like screaming, but she controlled her temper and replied evenly.  “No, I mean that it’s my JOB to cause discord.”

“Then why are you surprised?” Athena asked.  “You’re not exactly known for being fun at parties.”  Her tone was patronizing, but what else could you expect from the Goddess of Wisdom?

“I just follow Zeus’s orders,” Eris threw up her hands in disgust.  They were acting as if she didn’t know how to conduct herself at a social gathering.  It was downright insulting.

Hera’s porcelain brow furrowed.  “Don’t blame my husband for your misdeeds,” she said sternly.  “You’re a goddess.  You have free will.”  When Hera noticed the creases in her forehead, she smoothed out her expression.  The wrinkles disappeared.  “Come, my daughters, it’s time to leave.”  Hera turned to Eris.  “Please try to control yourself in our absence.  It would be nice to have one evening of peace and quiet.”

The three goddesses vanished into a cloud of iridescent mist.  The mist was completely unnecessary, but Hera loved the drama that it added to her arrivals and departures.

Eris stood alone in the dressing room.  Her cheeks flushed.  The situation was beyond humiliating.  The wedding of King Peleus to the sea nymph Thetis was going to be the social event of the year.  And once again, the Olympians had intentionally excluded her.

It wasn’t fair.  They blamed her for all of humanity’s suffering, but the other Olympians plagued human beings just as much as she did.  Aphrodite was going.  That ditzy Goddess of Love and her loser son Cupid  had caused plenty of suffering. Hadn’t they driven that witch Medea insane with love for Jason?  And hadn’t she killed off his entire family because of it?  Even that moron Ares had been invited and he was the God of War, for Zeus’s sake.  He had caused more chaos and destruction than she ever had.  So why was she the one being punished?

Eris simmered as she left Olympus.  Her sister Aigle was waiting for her back at the Garden of Hesperides.  “Well, what happened?  Was it a mistake?” she asked eagerly.  “Can you come with me?”

Eris couldn’t meet her eager eyes.  “No,” she muttered softly.  “It wasn’t a mistake.”

“What?”  Aigle’s eyes widened.  Eris had to be joking.  Every god and goddess would be at this wedding.  Even some of the demi-gods and notable humans  were going.  “Are you serious?”

“Of course I’m serious.  Why would I make this up?” Eris snapped.  Her shoulders slumped.  “I wasn’t invited, okay?”

Aigle felt helpless.  There was nothing she could do if the Olympians didn’t want Eris to attend the wedding.  She laid a tentative hand on Eris’s shoulder.  “Oh, Eris, I’m so sorry.”

Eris couldn’t take stand the look on Aigle’s face.  It was a mixture of shock and sympathy.  “Please stop looking at me like that.”

“Sorry, I can’t help it,” Aigle felt a pang of guilt.  She was still dying to go to the wedding, but Eris looked so sad.  “Do you want me to stay with you?”

There was some reluctance in Aigle’s tone, but Eris didn’t blame her for it.  It wasn’t often that Aigle had a chance to leave her job as one of the celestial guardians in the Garden of Hesperides.

“You’re too sweet,” Eris managed a small smile for her sister.  “Don’t be silly.  Of course you should go.  Just let me know what happens.”

“I will,” Aigle smiled.  She glanced at the tree behind her.  It was Hera’s prized possession because it contained the Olympians’ golden apples of immortality.  “Will you keep an eye on the garden while I’m gone?”

“Sure,” Eris sighed.  There wasn’t anything better to do that evening.  She may as well help out Aigle if she could.

“You’re the best,” Aigle beamed and hugged her sister.  “I owe you one.”

“I’ll remember you said that,” Eris grinned at her.  Aigle waved one last time and vanished, leaving Eris alone with the golden apples……

I Am The Daughter Of Foreigners

On the day I went to the Secretary of State’s office to renew my driver’s license, the room was packed with people.  I took a number and then chose the first vacant seat that I saw in the waiting area.  Most people in the room were visibly unhappy about the wait.  An older couple sitting across the aisle two rows in front of me was very vocal about it.  Their loud complaints about the “lazy” and “incompetent” people behind the counter were annoying.  I tried to tune them out by reading a book, but after a few minutes, I put the book down and glanced at them.  The man was leaning over and complaining bitterly to a woman who I assume was his wife.  The woman was in a wheelchair.

In that moment, they reminded me of my own parents.  Not because of the complaining, but because of their postures.  My father used to lean over and speak quietly to my mother during her time in a wheelchair.  Waiting at the doctor’s office in a wheelchair for her appointments had been grueling for her.

I felt a pang of sympathy for the older couple.  I wasn’t in any hurry.  My husband was watching our two small children at home.  If anything, the alone time was like a vacation for me.  So, I walked up to the older couple and offered them my place ahead of them in line.  They didn’t thank me.  The man just snatched the ticket out of my hand and threw his ticket at me.  As I walked back to my seat, they continued to loudly complain about the people who were working behind the counters.

I just shrugged off their discourtesy and went back to my book.  And that’s when it happened.

“How many of them do you think are foreign?” The woman asked.

The man glanced at the five women behind the counters.  “Two.”

The woman shook her head.  “No, the one in front of us is just black.”

“What about that other one?”  The man pointed to the lady with dark hair and an olive complexion on our right.

The woman nodded in agreement.  “She looks foreign.”

“Yeah,” the man snorted.  “She probably doesn’t even speak any English.”

“That’s why the line is so slow.  She can’t help anyone,” the woman shook her head with disgust.  “She’s incompetent.”

“Why do they keep hiring these lazy foreigners?”  The man scowled in her direction.  “They should get someone who can speak English,” he stated loudly.

A woman sitting directly across the aisle from me looked at me, eyes wide.  We both exchanged horrified glances.  The couple continued their racist tirade, completely oblivious to the apparent distress on the “ethnic” faces of the people in the room.  When I thought about my own “foreign” parents, something inside me snapped.

Oh, HELL NO.

I thought about my father and his solitary struggles as a young foreigner in a strange new country.  On good days, he had a can of soup to eat or a kind friend would invite him over for dinner.  On the bad days, he went hungry.  He worked on the assembly line and bussed tables to put himself through school.  My father ultimately acquired three degrees and became a university career counselor who helped students find jobs after graduation.

I thought about my mother leaving everything she had ever known and loved in India to come to this country after marrying my father.  An angry woman welcomed my beautiful mother to New York City by calling her an “ugly foreigner” and trying to spit on her.  My mother struggled to balance raising two children, managing our household, working and going to school for two degrees.  She ultimately became a clinical psychologist who helped the mentally ill.

I thought about my parents, younger sister and me living in a cramped 900 sq ft townhouse in a low-income neighborhood.  I remember wearing the ill-fitting clothes my mother made by hand instead of the designer clothes my friends bought at the store.  There were so many toys that I couldn’t have because we were saving our money for a small home in a neighborhood with a good school district.  After a decade of saving, we moved.

I thought about the summer days when I studied while my friends played outside.  My father gave me his own version of math homework that put me years ahead of my classmates.  When I complained, he reminded me that a good education was my ticket to better things.  I ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and went on to acquire a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA.  My younger sister also has two engineering degrees.  Both of us worked as engineers in the automotive industry.

I thought about all of the struggles and the sacrifices that my foreign parents made for their U.S.-born children and I got mad.  Very, very mad.

I sprang from my seat and walked towards the couple.  The man stopped complaining for a moment to look at me.  I stared him right in the eye, trembling with rage.  The people behind him stopped talking and stared at me.  I wanted to scream at him, but the only thing I could coherently get out was, “I’m the daughter of foreigners and I just tried to help you.”  I snatched the ticket out of the man’s hand and snapped, “Maybe you’ll remember that the next time you want to spout off about foreigners.”

I turned around and stomped back to my seat.  The couple remained silent.  They were still waiting quietly in their seats when I was called up to the counter.  A “non-foreign” lady behind the counter smiled and thanked me.  Needless to say, she waived my driver’s license fee that day.  She said it was on her.

My Three Revelations About Storytelling

I’m starting to realize a few things about writing and storytelling that I wanted to share in this post:

Writing vs. Storytelling

There’s a difference between being a good writer and a good storyteller.  I used to believe that the two were always interlinked, but recent book successes (cough, cough, 50 Shades of Grey, cough, cough), have proven otherwise.  I haven’t read Fifty Shades.  The subject matter doesn’t interest me, but I do admit that I was intrigued enough by the hype to read a preview of this book on Amazon.  I couldn’t get past the first few pages without growing irritated.  Why on earth is this book selling?  The 1-star reviews on Amazon were written more eloquently than the book itself.  (Plus, they were hysterical.)

But, obviously, the international sales figures for this book speak volumes, so who am I to judge?  E.L. James did something right.  If you can look past the questionable writing and subject matter, which I admit was difficult for me to do, she’s a genius when it comes to connecting with her audience.  Readers identify with her characters.  There are plenty of well-written books gathering dust on the shelves of libraries and bookstores across the nation.  I have to give credit where it’s due.  E. L. James is a phenomenal storyteller and I can learn a lot from her.

Scene Construction

My last post on this blog, I Am The Daughter Of Foreigners, received the most response.  People actually read it and sent me positive comments.  That’s huge compared with the crickets chirping after some of my other posts.  So, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what I did differently on this one so that I can replicate it in future posts.

The bottom line is that I focused on the story.  I wrote for myself.  I had a clear picture of the scene in my head, since I actually lived it.  This post took all of 15 minutes to write.  I spent another 45 minutes polishing it, which included walking away from it and returning to it a few times.  But that post almost wrote itself.

When I went back to analyze it, I noted a few points about how I constructed the scene:

1.  Title:  A few friends told me that they stopped to read it because of the title.

2.  Setup:  The first paragraph setup the story at the Secretary of State’s office and introduced the main characters.

3.  Framing:  I didn’t start the scene too early and I didn’t drag the story on for too long.  I got to the point.

4.  Conflict:  There was an obvious confrontation between me (the Protagonist) and the older couple (the Antagonist).

5.  Resolution:  The “story” had an emotionally satisfying conclusion.  “Justice” was served.

6.  Emotional Premise:  The “racism/immigration” theme of this post would make most anyone’s blood boil.

7.  Information Exposition:  I knew the point that I wanted to make with this post without even thinking about it.

I’m not sure if I can replicate this each time I post something.  Every day of my life isn’t a conflict (thank goodness!).  But I think the takeaway from this is to have a clear picture in your head of the scene and the point that you want to make before writing it.

Selling A Book Will Be Harder Than Publishing A Book

Okay.  Let me be up front about this.  I don’t have a finished manuscript.  I’m nowhere near publication.  But only two months into this blog, I’m starting to realize that it’s hard to get people to read what you write.  There’s so much noise.  How does a person cut through all of that?

As challenging as writing a book is, publication is harder.  As hard as publishing a book will be, selling it is the ultimate challenge.  If I can’t get people to read the FREE content on a 900-word blog, how will I get people PAY MONEY and read 300 pages in a book?  (NOTE:  The assumption is that the free content on a blog is technically well-written and emotionally evocative.  That’s the minimum requirement in this market, and I’m still learning the craft.)

Let’s assume that I’ve written the next Harry Potter book and that it’s been published.  (I know that this is arrogant, but hear me out.)  So what’s the next step?  How do you get readers to actually look between the covers of this supposed jewel if you’re an unknown author?  How did J.K. Rowling, who had her struggles getting HP published, get people to read her book before she became a writing legend?  At some point, no one knew who she was.  How did she break through the barriers to entry?

I’m an engineer.  I like to figure out puzzles and to me, this is the ultimate marketing puzzle.  I will definitely share any insights that I uncover, so stay tuned!  Happy Selling!