Posts Tagged ‘The Bone Flower Throne’

Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl: Three Tellings (Mythology)

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The Bone Flower Throne takes place in the mythical-historical world of 10th century Mexico, at the beginning of the Toltec Period. In the south, the mighty Maya Empire was in sharp decline, and the major civic and religious center in the Valley of Mexico–Teotihuacan–had been abandoned for at least a hundred years, leaving a handful of small city-states around the valley to vying for supremacy. Eventually, the city of Tollan (Tula) would emerge as the powerhouse, lead by her priest-king ruler named Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl; a man shrouded in mystery and controversy.

Who was Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl?

Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl

Legendary Priest-King Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl

England had King Arthur, Mesoamerica had Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl. He was a legendary ruler who united all the city-states under his rule in Tollan and infuriated the gods when he outlawed human sacrifice. There are numerous stories about his life, where he came from, and how he died (or in some cases became the Feathered Serpent god Quetzalcoatl), each one as different as the next, but his importance as a cultural hero is irrefutable; the Mexica emperors of Tenochtitlan claimed to be his blood descendents, holding his throne in anticipation of his promised return, and some sources even claim (erroneously) that the Emperor Moctezuma thought Cortes and his men were Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl and his followers returning from exile.

Not much is known–historically-speaking–about the Toltecs and their famous king, for much of what we know was passed down orally by the Mexica, and like many before them, they likely twisted and changed the tellings to benefit their own interests. Tollan is an actual place though, with magnificient ruins that include Atlantean  warrior statues and numerous temples decorated with reliefs of eagles and coyotes. The word “Toltec” means “artisan” in Nahuatl, and all the archeological evidence found in pottery and sculpture supports that attribute. It’s unknown if Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl was ever a real, historical figure but the Mexica and many other tribes treated him as such.

My favorite source for the myths of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl is the book Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl: The Once and Future Lord of the Toltecs by H. B. Nicholson. It is the single most comprehensive collection of the stories about the legendary priest-king, drawn straight from the original Nahuatl sources. If you have an interest in Topiltzin, I highly recommend it, to get you started. Below are some of the myths that informed my own vision of the world portrayed in The Bone Flower Throne.

Juan Caños Relaciones

This source is a mixture of two known sources which were thought to derive from a third unknown source of some antiquity. It takes its name for Juan Cano, who petitioned a Franciscan monk to prepare the account, in an attempt to trace the true lineage of Doña Isabel, or Lady Tecuichpo, daughter of Emperor Moctezuma. Below are the parts that relate to Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl.

After the gods created mankind at Teotihuacan, the Chichimeca group moved to a town called Teocolhuacan and elected their first ever leader, Lord Totepeuh, who has a son he named Topiltzin. Totepeuh though is soon after assassinated by his brother-in-law, who steals Teocolhuacan’s throne for himself.

To properly honor his departed father, Topiltzin buries his father’s bones and builds a temple atop them. This move angers his uncle, but when the man comes to kill him, Topiltzin shoves him down the temple steps, killing him. With his father avenged, Topiltzin takes back the throne of Teocolhuacan and rules there for a number of years.

Inspired by the gods, eventually Topiltzin gathers his followers and takes them on a fourteen year journey that ends when they finally reach Tollan, which is only then a small Chichimec settlement. Topiltzin and his men build it into a grand city, and he rules prosperously for twelve years.

But trouble is brewing; during those twelve years, he’s forbidden anyone to perform human sacrifices in Tollan, and the gods Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca have taken note of this blasphemy. They demand he start offering human sacrifices again, or get out. Mysteriously, instead of dealing with them as he did with his uncle, he decides to abandon Tollan without any kind of fight. He goes to Tlapala and within two years, he’s dead and everyone mourns for him. Except Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca, who are still angry and so don’t allow anyone to rule Tollan for almost a hundred years. Eventually, they permit a blood relative of Topiltzin, a man named Huemac, to take the throne, but his reign ends in disaster when a monster attacks and drives most people from the city.

Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl

The Feathered Serpent god Quetzalcoatl

Histoyre du Mechique

This is a french copy of a famous lost manuscript once written by Fray Andrés de Olmos.

Topiltzin is born under the name Quetzalcoatl, to the god Camaxtli and the goddess Chimalma, but as the gods are prone to do, Chimalma dies giving birth and so Quetzalcoatl is raised by his grandparents. When he’s reunited with his father and brothers, the latter–in a fit of jealousy–plot to kill him, first by trying to set him on fire, then shooting arrows at him.

He escapes both murder attempts but refuses to burden his father with the knowledge that his own brothers are trying to kill him. However, when their father confronts the brothers about it, they kill him, and this time, Quetzalcoatl gathers his friends and together they kill his treacherous brothers. To celebrate their victory, they get intoxicated drinking liquor from cups made from his brothers’ skulls.

Once they recover from their revelry, they head for Tollan. Once there, Quetzalcoatl becomes a celibate priest and instructs them in the proper methods of ritual sacrifice, and, in turn, they worship him as a god for the next 160 years.

But then the god Tezcatlipoca arrives to liven things up. He can’t stand Quetzalcoatl (whom he’s adamant isn’t a god at all), so he steals Quetzalcoatl’s rain-making mirror and vandalizes the temple. He then torments the people by transforming into various monsters, showing off how much more powerful he is than Quetzalcoatl. But after he beats up the temple attendants, Quetzalcoatl flees Tollan.Tezcatlipoca follows him though, taunting and attacking him everywhere he tries to settle.

Eventually, Quetzalcoatl can’t take it anymore. He flees into the desert and commits suicide by shooting himself with an arrow. Beside themselves with grief, his followers cremate him, and the smoke gathers in the sky to create the planet Venus.

Tollan

Atlantean warriors in Tollan.

Anales de Cuauhtitlan

This is a complication of various stories from different sources within the Basin of Mexico and Pueblo, with the details often conflicting with each other. Below are the aspects of these tellings that influenced the story in The Bone Flower throne.

The woman Chimalman becomes pregnant with Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl after swallowing a turquoise or jade stone. His uncle Ihuitimal rules Tollan while Topiltzin is young, but once he dies, Topiltzin takes the throne. He grew up a very religious young man and carries this over into his rule, building all kinds of temples and penance houses, and offering only sacrifices of butterflies, snakes, and birds. He keeps himself out of the public eye during his reign, remaining sequestered away to live the proper life of a celibate priest.

Angry about the lack of human sacrifices going on, Tezcatlipoca, Ihuimecatl and Toltecatl plot to drive him from Tollan. Tezcatlipoca sneaks past the guards into Topiltzin’s private sanctuary and shows him his own reflection in an obsidian mirror. Topiltzin is shocked to see how old and ugly he’s become with the years. Claiming to help him feel better about himself, the gods dress him in feathers, to make him beautiful again, and they prepare a magnificent feast. After much effort, they convince him to sample the octli (pulque) and he finds it so delicious that he puts away four cups and insists all his attendants try it as well. With everyone drunk and having a good time, Topiltzin calls for his “sister”, the priestess Quetzalpetatl, and takes her away from her ritual fasting so she too can try the octli. They spend the night neglecting their religious duties, drinking and making merry (and possibly doing other things he’d sworn off as a celibate priest….).

Once dawn comes though, Topiltzin is beside himself with guilt and, having failed at his religious duties, he decides he can’t be ruler of Tollan anymore. Taking his attendants with him, he leaves, but he fails to find anywhere that gives him the joy and love he felt in Tollan. Grieving all he’s lost, he dresses himself in his finest clothes and jewelry, then he sets himself on fire. His burnt heart rises into the heavens as the Morning Star.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come for more of the myths of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl and the various gods.

Want to win a digital ARC of The Bone Flower Throne? Click here for details. Contest ends Tuesday September 3rd.

A New Look Calls for a Contest! Win a Free Digital ARC

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Win a free digital ARC!

Win a free digital ARC!

The website had undergone a top to bottom renovation and I’m really very thrilled with the fantastic work Jeremiah Tolbert of Clockpunk Studios did with it. A new book deserves a new site filled with all sorts of goodies, right? I hope you find the site more reader-friendly now, with separate book pages for all my novels/collections/anthologies, with easy to click buy links, and I’m in the process of building up some extras on each book page, to make them more interesting to visit. And I’m over the moon with how Jeremiah integrated Kurt and Zelda’s fabulous web art into the new design; I love the watermark affect of the sketch on the bottom of each page and the peppering of the colored banners throughout the pages. Have a click around to see the full extent of the customizations he did. I highly recommend Clockpunk Studios to anyone looking to have some website work done.

Let’s celebrate! Win a free digital ARC!

Such big changes call for a contest. I’m giving away Fifteen digital ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of The Bone Flower Throne. It’s available in both Mobi (Kindle) and epub (Nook) formats, and while I’d love the winners to review the book at Goodreads/Amazon/B&N/blog when they’re done, it’s not a requirement. To enter, simply leave a comment below (only on the WordPress blog; not LiveJournal); be sure to use an active email address* when filling out the comment form, for winners’ files will be sent to those addresses. I’d really love to give away the full fifteen, so please let your friends know about the contest (and if the turnout is more than anticipated, I might up the number of ARC prizes…). I’ll hold the drawing Tuesday September 3rd and email out files to the winners the following day.

*I promise not to use your email address for anything outside the purposes of this contest and will only be used/looked at in the event you win a prize. I will not be collecting email addresses to spam you with unwanted mail, nor will I sell your email address to third parties. I figure if you want me emailing you with publishing news, you will sign up for the mailing list.

And now for a little down-time

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I find myself unexpectedly without a book to work on today, so it’s going to be a day of playing some Grand Theft Auto, right? Right? Yeah, probably not. While edits for BFT haven’t reached me yet, my editor did send me a honey-do-list of things he’d like from me, namely a map of some kind (which I do have! Hooray!), a Dramatis Personae (which I might have somewhere in my files, to help me make sure I was spelling names right), and a royal family tree (which I don’t have). There’s also back cover work to be done, which I think I’m actually going to start that over from scratch because the one from my query is just blah. So there’s plenty to work on there.

On the other project, I’ve officially kicked off the agent hunt, but am taking it slowly and meticulously this time. The previous time I was flat-out set on getting an agent; this time, I’m feeling like it’s less imperative. I like the idea of having someone on my team who can not only poke an editor for an update but actually get a timely response to such things, not to mention that keen eye for contract slipperiness, but the romance genre does appear to be more open to unagented authors than SF/F, so I could go it alone if need be. So this time, I’m picking and choosing my queries carefully. There is a lot of research to be done, websites and blogs to read, Twitter feeds and interviews to peruse to help me solidify my small list of agents to approach.

In the end, I’m likely to do a little bit of all it. But mostly I’m going to be doing laundry. Lots and lots of laundry.

Where oh where have you been?

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Been quite a while since I’ve made an update, and I’ve been very busy but very productive. So a little update on matters:

The publication date for my first novel The Bone Flower Throne has been set for October 19, 2013, a really good date since that coincides with MileHiCon here in Denver, so I’m looking into possibly throwing a release party there. More details on that once I get reservations and pub dates more solidified.

Production on said novel is moving along. I expect to receive edits any day now, and Panverse has hired a wonderful artist to do the cover art: Zelda Devon, who–along with her partner Kurt Huggins–did the lovely web art for this very site. The initial concept sketches I’ve seen are very exciting. Arcs are scheduled for mid July, so if you’re interested in reading and reviewing the book on Goodreads or Amazon, drop me a message via the contact page and I’ll see what I can do. Word of mouth is very important with small press books, and the best way to spread it is with reviews.

As for promotion, I recently set up a Pinterst account and created boards for not only The Bone Flower Throne, but its sequels and another project I’ve been working on (more about that below). They are collections of art and photographs the relate to the books or remind me of things that happen in them (there are a few pieces that are original art related to the books and they are marked as such).

On the new writing front, I’ve been extremely busy. I’m in the final stages of finishing up work on my alternate history romance, which I’m calling Fugitives of Fate. I had a tremendously fun time writing this book, set very early in my One World series, and I have at least one more novel idea I’d like to pursue at some point, but for now it’s time to focus on seeing if I can sell this.

I’m about to test out the agent waters again, to help me decide if I’m still hanging out in the unsaleable pool and whether or not I should pursue this novel’s publication on my own. The good news is that I’ve found at least one major romance publisher with a new imprint that is looking for alternate history, so I’m more hopeful about the book’s chances than I was at the beginning of the year, but the whole “I’ve never read anything like this before” I’m hearing does make me worried (granted this statement is often followed by “Sounds really cool!” and “I want to read more!” but still…. I guess I’ve become a bit gun-shy.). I’ve signed up for my first ever pitches with an agent and an editor at the upcoming CRW minicon in August, so I’m getting my stuff prepared for that 20 minutes of terror.

And that’s where things stand right now. Lots going on, most of it probably not all that interesting to talk about on a daily basis. Writing is mostly just putting the words on paper and rearranging them over and over until they look the best, not the most exciting thing to read about.

I Sold My First Novel!

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I’ve been sitting on this news since before Christmas, but now that everything is finalized, I can finally announce:

I’ve sold The Bone Flower Throne to Panverse Publishing! It’s the first book in my feminist retelling of the myths and legends surrounding the Toltec priest-king Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, and it’s scheduled to be published in late summer, early fall. WorldCon might actually be necessary this year, so I can do some lead-up promotion.

I’m planning to do that Next Big Thing meme about it in the next week or so, so stay tuned to find out more about the book.