Hello one and all, in continuing on with our that is the moment when series. Today's post is by Janet Morris who contributed the story Black Sword to the anthology. She speaks about not one moment but many that helped shape the way she writes.
In the anthology Nine Heroes, Chris Morris and I introduce our hero, Rhesos of Thrace, who was killed by Diomedes at Troy and resurrected by his mother, the Muse Kalliope. When we meet Rhesos, he’s hazy about the circumstances surrounding his death and resurrection, but he knows what he is: a hero of mythological proportions. And so he begins a journey to reclaim his memories, his past, and revenge some wrongs done him.
To write heroic fiction, fantasy, or mythic tales, you must feel the hero in your blood, hear the call in your heart. These were the moments that started me on the hero’s journey:
I was three years old, and female, playing with three or four older children, all boys, on our street. The fattest, biggest boy punched me in the stomach, and he and his friends dragged me into a garage and locked me in a closet there. I screamed until, somehow, my parent’s handyman heard and rescued me. I can still remember those big black arms, enfolding me, picking me up, and my head against his shoulder, looking back at the horrified boys. My parents questioned me, and did the rest. I never knew what happened, beyond the fact that those four boys never troubled me again.
I was four years old, playing in a mud puddle, and the dalmation who lived down at the end of our street charged me and bit me. The family story goes that I threw myself on his back and bit him in the neck.
I was six years old, in the first grade, and was made teacher’s helper because I could already read and write. I was assigned to help a slow-witted boy learn how to write his name but instead of listening, he crumpled up his paper, grabbed the crayon from my hand, and ate it. I called him “stupid” aloud, and I was then taken to the principal’s office for telling the truth.
I was nine years old, and had been saving for two years to buy a horse by writing book reports, for which I received 25 cents per report – if my mother approved each report as proving I had actually read the subject book. When I had saved $175.00, we found a horse for me. He ran away with me every day, whenever I turned his head back toward the barn. I couldn’t tell my parents, or they would have taken him away from me. Finally the old man who ran the barn, tired of seeing that horse run me into the barn at hell’s own pace, told me: “Swing your leg over, as if you want to dismount, honey. He’s a cow horse. He’ll stop.” So I learned to face a danger no words can express, and to take even more dangerous action for a desired result. I’d swing my right leg over, hanging on for dear life, and my horses would stop – every time.
I was ten years old, and my parents came to the barn and insisted that my fifty-pound, seven year old sister be allowed to ride my horse. I knew what was going to happen, as soon as she turned the corner in the paddock that led toward the barn. Sure enough, my horse Koko broke into a run, my sister bounced precariously, my mother screamed, and I stepped out in front of my horse, arms and legs spread wide. He stopped; my sister wasn’t killed, and my father said I could still keep the horse, since I had warned them not to let her ride him and risked my life to save my sister.
At ten in the paddock with both my parents watching, I heard the hero’s call to duty on that day. Later I would realize that among humankind is a caretaker class, who will do what is needed, despite the risk, and that I was among that class. Then, I knew from all my reading of mythology books that I was indomitable, and from horse books that no horse would ever hurt me and that, to a horse, a girl is just as good, as brave, as strong as a boy, and so I found my way down that path through life, from challenge to challenge. Even by that age, the heroic model from mythology was so much a part of me that never again, after that first awful day, would a gang of boys lock me in a closet so that I had to find another to rescue me. I would be that other, the hero, not the victim – as often as I could manage it.
Nine Heroes is available here in both paperback and Kindle.