Genre: Contemporary fantasy/paranormal
Publisher: Mictlan Press
Date of Publication: May 1, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9913036-2-5 (print) /
ISBN: 978-0-9913036-3-2 (ebook)
Number of pages: 318
Word Count: 99,000
Cover Artist: Artwork by Shelby Robinson
Cover layout by Jennifer Stolzer
When recently-deceased Irene Dunphy decided to “follow the light,” she thought she’d end up in Heaven or Hell and her journey would be over.
Boy, was she wrong.
She soon finds that “the other side” isn’t a final destination but a kind of purgatory where billions of spirits are stuck, with no way to move forward or back. Even worse, deranged phantoms known as “Hungry Ghosts” stalk the dead, intent on destroying them. The only way out is for Irene to forget her life on earth—including the boy who risked everything to help her cross over—which she’s not about to do.
As Irene desperately searches for an alternative, help unexpectedly comes in the unlikeliest of forms: a twelfth-century Spanish knight and a nineteenth-century American cowboy. Even more surprising, one offers a chance for redemption; the other, love. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to have either if she can’t find a way to escape the hellish limbo where they’re all trapped.
My review can be read here.
Her hand touched a rock, one of the flat beach stones she’d seen on graves. She picked it up, laying it flat in her palm. She didn’t remember picking this up. In fact, she had been careful not to take any. It had seemed disrespectful and too much like stealing to remove them, and while she’d seen a few here—both loose and piled in cairns—she hadn’t picked any of them up. There had been no point. What would she do with a rock?
No wonder her bag was so heavy.
She tossed the rock over her shoulder and heard it hit the ground with a satisfying thud some distance away. It felt good to be rid of something, to make a decision and be sure it was the right one.
She surveyed the pile again and then grabbed a small handful of paper animals. She picked one up between a finger and thumb. It was a horse. Irene had been in Chinatown during Chinese Ghost Festival, a holiday in which the living left offerings for the dead. These offerings included paper replicas of things people thought the dead would need in the afterlife—money, clothes, television sets, and even animals. Irene had admired the precise and delicate folds of the Origami figures and had picked some up to admire them more closely. Without thinking, she had dropped them into her bag and apparently been carrying them ever since.
Well, even Jonah couldn’t argue with her on this—there was no way she was going to need a paper horse on her journey through the afterlife. Plus, these didn’t hold any sentimental value. She cast the horse onto a nearby fire and watched as the paper curled and blackened in the low-burning flames.
The fire leapt and seemed to glow blue for a moment. Irene tensed—what was happening?
Thick black smoke began to rise slowly from the flames, spiraling upward in a thickening column. The smoke grew denser and then elongated sideways. Irene leapt to her feet and backed away, her heart pounding. Something was forming in the fire.
The smoke was taking shape now; there was purpose and design in its movements. She could see a long, horizontal back, four legs, a neck, and finally a head and a tail. The smoke swirled with a final flourish and then shuddered into the solidity of a smoke-colored horse. The animal blinked passively. Then it violently shook its head, blew out a breath, and delicately picked its way forward out of the fire. It immediately put its head down and began to lip the ground, looking for food.
Irene stared stupidly at it. “Are you shitting me?”
About the Author:
Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats.
I wanted to know more about Terri’s research into Nephilim and Winged Deities of the Afterlife, so she kindly wrote up a guest post 😀
So, I’m here today to talk about the various winged deities of the afterlife that I came across while researching afterlife mythology for my Afterlife series, and how I used that information in my latest book, Thereafter.
First off, let me start by saying I’m really excited to be here today – thank you so much for having me!
So…Nephilim. I knew from the beginning that angels would end up in my series somehow—after all, it’s a story about the afterlife. My series is areligious—or perhaps it’s better to say panreligious; that is, it incorporates mythology and beliefs from every religion and culture on Earth. In combining the myths, I’ve reconstituted them into something new, that isn’t easily identifiable with any one particular culture or religion, and that’s why I was a little hesitant to add angels to the mix—they are so clearly identified with Christianity.
They also just seemed too easy, too clichéd. Everyone’s doing angels and demons these days. You can’t throw a rock in the paranormal romance or urban fantasy field without hitting some variation of angels, fallen angels, or Nephilim—the offspring of angels or gods and mortals/humans. So even though I felt I should include them, I really wanted to change them up a bit and not have them be the stereotypical “heavenly” beings that they usually are depicted as.
It turned out, however, that I didn’t really have to rack my brain too hard—while researching various deities of the afterlife, I began to notice a pattern: a very large number of them are depicted as having wings (that fact, BTW, I found both fascinating and unsettling). In addition, in mythology, Nephilim are also often said to be the children of Lilith, Adam’s first wife. Lilith is often considered the first vampire, and was said to eat her children. Ah ha! I thought. Okay, fine, I’ll have things with wings in my afterlife, but they aren’t going to be angels. They are going to be something much meaner and nastier and based on the original legends/myths.
However, this left me with a slight dilemma/question: how did the original Nephilim and the older gods they are based on, morph into the heavenly beings/angels that we know today? Well, I had an answer for that, too, and this lead to one of my favorite scenes in Thereafter where Irene and her two traveling companions, Andras and Ian, learn about the origins of angels from three men from Ancient Greece; the three Greek answer together as one (a bit of a sly reference to the traditional chorus in Greek plays):
Andras grabbed her arm, squeezing hard. “Nephilim,” he said, nearly spitting the word. “Do not speak its name. They bring only death.”
“What’s Nephilim?” she asked.
“Winged deity of the afterlife—” one of the Greeks said.
“You’ll find alters to them—”
“Along the river.”
“Oh, hey, I think I saw one of those!” Irene recalled the bronze medallion affixed to the stone plinth by the river. “Pig-faced woman with wings?”
“Manea,” the three Greeks said together.
Irene looked from one man to the other in confusion. “So wait…deity? You mean like a god?”
“Ereshkigal, Nephthys, Ishtar—”
“Alpan, Culsu, Tukhulkha—”
“Manea, Karun, Vanth—”
“Yeah, okay, I get it.” The recitation was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Irene shook her head and then tried to get the conversation back on track. “I’m confused. I was talking about a guy who looks like an angel—big, feathery wings coming out of his back.”
“Yes, angels—” the naked guy said.
“Winged deities of the afterlife.”
“There ain’t no such thing as angels,” Ian said. “That’s superstitious clap trap.”
The Greeks shook their heads. “Monsters—”
“That rule over the dead.”
Irene’s brow knit with confusion. “Wait, I thought you said they were gods. Now you’re saying they’re monsters.”
“Were worshipped as gods—”
“They weren’t actual gods—”
“That’s a translation error.”
“The images were meant—”
“As a warning.”
Irene’s brow furrowed even further. The only name she’d recognized on the list they’d recited was Hermes. She racked her brain, trying to dredge up what little she knew of Greek mythology. “Hermes was the messenger one, right? But he didn’t have wings, and he wasn’t a monster. He was gorgeous. All the Greek gods were.”
“He had wings—”
“All Nephilim do—”
“We had to move them—”
“To his shoes—”
“In the pictures.”
“Wings on the back—”
“Ruined the aesthetic.”
Irene goggled at them. “Wait…so let me get this straight. You guys decided to change the pictures warning us that there were scary, winged monsters in the afterlife to make them…prettier? Then, because of that, we all forgot they were monsters and instead thought they were heavenly beings sent to help us?”
“We value beauty_”
“Above all else—”
“It’s not like this was cartography—”
“It was art, not science—”
“Aesthetics over accuracy—”
“It’s not meant to be literal.”
And there you have it—my theory for why we’ve forgotten the way Nephilim were originally depicted in mythology. Blame it on the Ancient Greeks 😀
What a fantastic theory, sure made me giggle 😀