The Good, the Bad & the Bizarre

I wanted to do this post for months. Most people know by now that the plot for Painted Blind came from Greek mythology. The myth of Cupid & Psyche is not as well-known as other myths, but it is widely represented in art. Some of these works are absolutely beautiful. Others… well, not so much. Today I want to share some of my favorites, and (hint, hint) educate anyone who might want to win some prizes in our little facebook party tomorrow.

Before we get to Cupid & Psyche, let’s begin with Venus. The Birth of Venus, that is.

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli (circa 1485-86)

Psyche Middleton in the novel gets into trouble after posing for a look-alike of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. I was presenting at a high school and read aloud the scene where Psyche sees herself in that photo. I looked up and realized there wasn’t a kid in the room who knew what the painting looked like. I now have a poster print of it. (Thanks, Costco!)

Of the artwork depicting Cupid and Psyche, some show scenes from the story while others depict the characters in whatever setting the artist chose. Since Psyche was supposed to be the most beautiful of mortals, there are paintings of Psyche bathing, Psyche being waited on, Psyche doing various things which aren’t really a part of the myth. I prefer the ones that depict scenes from the myth:

Cupid Fleeing the Sleeping Psyche by Francois-Edouard Picot (1817)

Did I mention that most of the paintings of Cupid & Psyche are nudes? One would think he’d go on a errand of revenge fully clothed, but he was invisible, so maybe he didn’t need clothes.

I really like Adolphe William Bouguereau’s paintings of Cupid & Psyche because he captures movement and beauty along with their youth and desire.

The first represents Psyche’s abduction to Olympus (which isn’t really the way it happens in the myth– the West Wind takes her). The second is called the Ravishment of Psyche (1895).

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sculpture by Denys Pierre Puech is similar. Can’t you almost feel the wind around the figures? Gorgeous.

Several of the paintings show Psyche with wings, too. I found that interesting. Often they look like butterfly or fairy wings compared to Cupid’s more bird-like wings. This is one of my favorites. The artist is unknown, but it was painted between 1840-1859. It is entitled Psyche in the Underworld.

Psyche makes it out of the Underworld, but her curiosity gets the best of her and she opens that darn box….

This depiction is by John Williams Waterhouse (c 1903).

 

There is no beauty inside that box, only the sleep of the dead. Psyche falls down dead, but Cupid comes to her rescue.

 

This is my favorite of all the artwork of Cupid & Psyche…

It is entitled Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova (1797).

Now, for some of my less favorite representations of Cupid & Psyche.

This is also a Bouguereau, but he portrays both them as children, which I think is strange. Psyche is a marriageable young woman in the myth.

However, I like the Bouguereau representation better than others, which portray Psyche as a young woman and Cupid as a child.

Guillaume Seignac’s painting above (late 19th century) is beautiful, but it’s creepy to have a young woman romantically involved with a child who looks about four, a fact that gets creepier when the artist depicts them nude…

Psyche & Cupid by Joseph Berger (1820-1860?). Totally understand Venus’s objection to THAT marriage.

But the award for strangest representation of Cupid & Psyche goes to Karoly Brocky (c. 1850).

This one gets my vote for most bizarre. It incorporates all the cringe-worthy elements– young woman, male child, nude, this time in bed– but adds an aerial backflip for good measure.

I know, it’s fine art, and I shouldn’t make fun, but seriously… you snorted, didn’t you? Yeah, I thought so. Me, too.

 

 

 

Author Spotlight- C. Lee McKenzie

I love getting to know other authors and their work, so I am trying to do a once a week guest post hightlighting a fellow author. Today’s Author Spotlight is  C. Lee McKenzie, who I met over at YALITCHAT. She is guest posting today about her new release, Alligators Overhead.

Thanks for letting me talk about my book on your blog, Michelle. I appreciate this opportunity a lot. Here’s what the book is about:

Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren’t your average neighbors. Unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town’s bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he’s up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn’t the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete’s guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find the witches and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

So why alligators?

I’m asked that question a lot. My answer is, “Why not?” After all, cats have been done. Dogs have been done. Horse stories are everywhere. There are only a few stories with alligators out there. I know they’re not cuddly and cute critters, but they are fascinating when you know a bit about them.

Alligators were common in the Cenozoic era and looked a lot like they do today. In 65 million years they haven’t changed their fashion statement much at all. Now that’s being self-assured, don’t you think?

In the 1980’s American alligators were limited to the Everglades National Park in Florida. They were in danger of extinction because of human beings. Once they were protected, they made a major come back. They’re kind of like Rocky Balboa, the come back king.

Alligators are less aggressive than their cousins, the Crocodiles, and their snout is shorter and broader than the Crocs’. You can tell the difference if you get close enough. I suggest that it isn’t really important to tell the difference.

They lay 20 to 50 eggs in vegetation along marshy banks, and when the hatchlings start yelling, “Let me out!” Mom opens the nest for them to leave the nest.

If the nest is kept hot, only little boy alligators are born–if cool, only girls pop out. As always, girls are way cool.

I know more about alligators than I need to, but it’s great to learn new things and that’s another reason my book is about alligators. I got curious about these scaly reptiles, then I wanted a story to put them in. Hope you found these alligator facts interesting and that you’ll enjoy my book.

About the author:

C. Lee is writer who captures the pulse of adolescent confusion in her Young Adult fiction, Sliding on the Edge and The Princess of Las Pulgas. She admits to revealing a lot of her Old Adult confusion while doing that. Alligators Overhead is her first Middle Grade novel. She lives in California with her husband and assorted animals at the edge of a redwood forest. Lee blogs at The Write Game and she’d love a visit at her website.

 

Many thanks to C. Lee McKenzie for posting today. You can purchase her book Alligators Overhead here.

If you are an author and you’re interested in doing a guest post, use the contact tab to let me know. I am happy to schedule it.

Michelle

 

In the Back Yard

A couple years ago we took our kids on a trip through southern Utah. We went to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Escalante Staircase and the Great Barrier Reef before heading over to Moab.

While we were in Zion particularly, very few people we met were Americans. Most were from Finland, Denmark, England and Japan. At the time our family was living in Montana. We drove through Yellowstone National Park and had much the same experience there. We saw mostly foreigners. It bothered me, not because I don’t want foreigners in our parks– I am glad they are there. What bothered me was that we have so many amazing things in our own back yard, and we don’t take the time to see them.

My husband used to work in Newcastle Wyoming, less than an hour drive from Mount Rushmore. Twice I took our kids to Newcastle to see Nathan while he was working. Both times we said, “One of these days we have to take the kids to Mount Rushmore.” Well, guess what? The company he was working for fell on hard times, Nathan found a new job and we moved. I’ve still never seen Mount Rushmore. Now a trip there would mean days of driving, and I’m kicking myself that we didn’t take the time while we were there.

I’ve vowed to do better. We moved to Washington state a few years ago. I have taken my kids to see the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and Woodland Park Zoo. However, some of the most amazing sights in Washington state are practically in our back yard, and my kids had never seen them… until yesterday.

Did you know Grand Coulee Dam is almost a mile wide?

It is three times as wide as Hoover Dam. It is as tall as the Space Needle (approximately 64 stories), and contains enough concrete to build a highway from Seattle to Miami. Most people know that Grand Coulee is a hydroelectric dam, but it original dam was not designed to generate power. That high dam design was added during Roosevelt’s New Deal Era. The original purpose of Grand Coulee Dam was to control flooding, which ravaged everything down the Columbia River on a regular basis. Grand Coulee Dam saved millions of dollars in flood damages, but it wasn’t enough. Just a few years after its construction an Oregon town (I can’t recall the name right now) was almost completely submerged in flood waters. Now there is a system of dams controlling the flow of the temperamental Columbia River.

Grand Coulee was also designed as the centerpiece of the Columbia Basin Reclamation Project, which planned to irrigate 1.1 million acres of farmland. Only 60% of that was actually irrigated, but millions of dollars in crops are grown every year in Washington as a result of the Dam.

The road across the dam is now closed to the public.

Our own land is irrigated by the project. The irrigation system is so efficient that one third of the water sent out the ditches as irrigation is recaptured (the other 2/3 are used). My father in law informed me that less than 1% of the Columbia River’s flow is used for irrigation. It is pretty amazing. My own great-grandfather worked on building Grand Coulee Dam.

 

Another amazing thing in our back yard is Soap Lake, which gets its name from the foamy suds that are found along its shores. I saw a post on the Internet about Soap Lake, where someone asked if it was polluted. Let me emphatically answer, “No, it is not!” Soap Lake is the most minerally diverse body of water in the world (according to Wikipedia). Centuries of Native Americans believed in its healing powers. People still flock to its shores to enjoy the healing waters and to bath in the mud on the shore. The water has an oily feel to it, which comes from ichthyol.

 

Last on our stop yesterday was Dry Falls.

“Dry Falls is a 3.5 mile long scalloped precipice in central Washington, on the opposite side of the Upper Grand Coulee from the Columbia River, and at the head of the Lower Grand Coulee. Ten times the size of Niagara, Dry Falls is thought to be the greatest known waterfall that ever existed. According to the current geological model, catastrophic flooding channeled water at 65 miles per hour through the Upper Grand Coulee and over this 400-foot (120 m) rock face at the end of the last ice age. At this time, it is estimated that the flow of the falls was ten times the current flow of all the rivers in the world combined.”

Dry Falls, Wikipedia

I still remember seeing this when I was a kid. The view from the Visitor’s center is breath-taking. I took a picture of the painting in the Visitor’s Center. This is what the falls would have looked like at the end of the last Ice Age. Pretty darn amazing.

So, there you have it. That is my little history, science, geography lesson for today. As a native Washingtonian, I have to tell you, these sights are more impressive than the Space Needle and the Pacific Science Center. If you ever travel to the Pacific Northwest, I hope you’ll take some time off the beaten path and experience wonders most people miss in this great state.

What is in your back yard? And, have you taken the time to enjoy it?

City of Rocks, Idaho

I was out of town for a few days, then I came home and had a sick kiddo. Two days later, I was sidelined with a bout of the stomach flu. I feel like I have been out of touch with the world for weeks.

We went to a family reunion at Campus Retreat in Albion, ID. My husband’s grandma attended the Albion Normal School back in the day. When the state shut down the school, it bounced through a few owners, then stood vacant for almost forty years. The buildings on campus are amazing turn of the century brick buildings.

It’s tragic to see them in ruins. However, the current owners are rennovating the campus one hall at a time with the goal of making it a retreat, convention and wedding venue. It’s a beautiful place.

Albion, Idaho, is near City of Rocks. Now, by the name, I confess I wasn’t all that excited to visit. I mean, really. I can see rocks all around me. I even saw photos of the City of Rocks, and I wasn’t that impressed. Like most natural wonders, you have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it.

City of Rocks was a well-documented landmark by western emigrants on their way to California. There are hundreds of journal entries that talked about coming to the valley where the rocks rose up like the ruins of a city. The travelers named it the City of Rocks.This rock became a guest book of sorts. The back side was covered with hundreds of emigrant signatures. An information board showed a photo of the rock in 1930 and 1990. The signatures are fading, but many are still clearly readable. They didn’t have Sharpies. I wonder what they used to sign? Other rocks? Charcoal would have washed off.

Here we are at the Inner City. The City of Rocks are granite formations, and they sparkle in the sunlight. Very cool.

It is also a playground for rock climbers. Can you see the climber on the face?

Last, but not least, Castle Rock.

It makes me appreciate the wonderment and vision of those travelers who walked all the way across this vast country. They looked at these landmarks and they saw ruined cities and a castle instead of just rocks. It makes me wonder sometimes, what am I missing in the landscape around me?

The Mad Reviewer

This book biz is full of awesome people. One of them is Carrie at The Mad Reviewer. Carrie picked up Painted Blind from NetGalley, and posted a review. I know I’m not supposed to read reviews, but I did, and I contacted Carrie. She has been so amazingly supportive of the novel, so we decided to do an interview and a giveaway for her blog’s six-month anniversary.

Today is that anniversary, so please head over to The Mad Reviewer and check it out. You can win a copy of Painted Blind from Smashwords along with some swag.

Many thanks to Carrie! Congratulations on your sixth month anniversary! I am looking forward to reading many more of your reviews.