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Sensual Reads Guest Blog and Book Giveaway: TUATHA DE DANANN: CONTRADICTORY CHARACTERS by Madeleine Drake

The Tuatha De Danann — according to Irish legend, they’re the fifth group of people to settle Emerald Isle.  When the Gaels (the first Celts to settle in Ireland) arrived, they discovered that the island was already inhabited by the Tuatha De Danann.  Peaceful co-existence was apparently not an option, and war broke out, ending only when the Dagda, leader of the Tuatha de Danann, agreed that his people would live underground in the mounds known as sidhe.  Yes, the same sidhe which the Fae are supposed to occupy.

This legend, which was written down long after Christianity had taken hold in Ireland, portrays the Tuatha De Danann as mortals.  It’s far more likely that these legendary figures were originally gods and goddesses, as they strongly resemble deities known to have been worshipped by Celts in other parts of Europe.

What do the Tuatha De Danann have to do with the Fae?  The worship of these Celtic deities, suppressed by Christianity and combined with practices of ancestor worship and reverence for nature spirits, is the source of Irish faery lore.

Tuatha De Danann means “Tribes of Danu,” Danu being the great mother goddess after whom the river Danube was probably named.  Like the Celts who worshipped them, the Tuatha De Danann were a boisterous bunch, flawed and larger-than-life, with seemingly-contradictory traits.

The Dagda, gluttonous but wise, was originally king of the tribes and owned a cauldron that was never empty.  The Dagda later ceded leadership to Lugh, a spear-wielding sun god who was honored at the beginning of every harvest season.

Dian Cecht, god of healing — the same god who crafted a silver arm for the wounded Nuada — was also said to have murdered his own son out of jealousy that the boy was exceeding his father’s skills as a physician.

Manannan mac Lir, a shape-shifting sea god, also served as a psychopomp, conducting the Irish King Cormac mac Airt to the Otherworld in order to teach him a lesson about greed, but then rewards Cormac with a magic cup.

Ogma, god of eloquence and inspiration, seems to have been a berserker in battle, needing to be held back by the other gods until the time for attack was nigh.

And let’s not forget the Morrigan, one of my favorites, who was a goddess of both love and war, embodying both the creation of life and the destruction of it.

These are just a few of the deities in the ancient Irish pantheon.  A god of wisdom who’s also a glutton…a god of healing who willingly kills…a god of eloquence who chooses weapons over words to resolve conflict…although the Celts depicted their deities as inhumanly powerful, they also gifted those gods and goddesses with the same flaws and contradictory nature that we find in ourselves.

It’s not surprising that Celtic myth is so lively and vivid, and that so many modern writers have drawn on these legends for inspiration:  as any writer will tell you, a story about a perfect character is boring.  A character’s flaws and contradictions allow us to engage that character emotionally.  These are the kinds of characters we love…or love to hate.

Who’s your favorite fictional character and how does that character’s contradictions or flaws make them more interesting to you?

Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Faery’s Bargain, first book in the Tribes of Danu series by Madeleine Drake.

Madeleine Drake writes feisty, fast-paced paranormal romance and erotica that spans the space-time continuum.  Raised by a pride of cats, a friendly mutt, and the Sonoma County library system, she loves to read about ancient history and mythology, anthropology, gender roles, and sexual archetypes.  Her current releases include Blood Hero (Excessica, 7/9/10) and Faery’s Bargain (Cobblestone Press, 10/8/10), and her short story First Date will appear in the All Romance Ebooks Just One Bite, Vol. 3 anthology scheduled to release in November 2010.

Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas.  You can find her online at www.madeleinedrake.com.

Faery’s Bargain

A witch gets more than she bargains for
when she lends her magic to a sexy Fae warrior

Tara’s witchcraft has failed to save her naga-bitten nephew: the only cure is a rare Faery herb, impossible for a human to obtain.

Kane, a warrior of the Morrigan tribe, is bound to a baigh-duil.  He needs a witch to help him send the soul-devouring monster back to its own realm, and he’s willing to bargain.

It seems like a fair trade — the herb for help with a single spell.  But what will Tara do when she realizes Kane can only perform sex magic and death magic?

Excerpt:

First time in a thousand years the oracle’s been wrong, and it’s my question she blows.  Kane glowered at the occult shop across the street — a refurbished Victorian painted lemon-drop yellow and trimmed in white, with all the hand-carved flourishes picked out in gilt.  Its windows swarmed with faceted crystals that sparkled like drunken pixies in the San Francisco sunlight.

It was too damned cheerful for a woman reputed to have faced down a naga in its own lair.

He stomped down his frustration, focusing on the cool air against his face and the scents of the ocean and car exhaust.  The witch inside that candy house might not be the one he sought, but Kane had to admit she was skilled for a human.  He could feel the thick, electric buzz of her wards even from across the street.  She’d layered the shielding into the walls and powered it with the ley line that ran right beneath the building.  Clever, but also dangerous.  Tapping straight into the line for spell-work was like drinking from a fire hose.  It required excruciating precision to siphon off just the amount you needed without drowning and heroic strength of will to resist the temptation to drink too deep.  Kane had seen a mage lose control of a ley line in mid-spell once.  The mage had suffered an agonizing death, and the damage wreaked by the botched spell had taken weeks to clean up.

Pain seared through him.  The amulet tucked under his shirt flared hot against his skin, its fiery glow visible through the fabric.  He hissed out a cantrip, repeating the chant until the pain dulled and the amulet cooled.  I won’t be able to maintain the binding much longer.

If the witch in the lemon-drop house couldn’t help him, he was dead.

* * * * *

Time-yellowed pages slithered against each other as Tara folded the grimoire closed, letting her fingers explore the arcane symbols embossed on the cracked leather cover.  Another ancient tome, another chunk out of her rapidly dwindling savings, another dead end.  Meanwhile, Jimi continued to weaken under the care of his confused doctors.  She didn’t blame them, of course. Even if she could make them believe her, what could they do?  My nephew was bitten by a half-man, half-snake monster straight out of Hindu mythology.  What do you mean you don’t have the right anti-venin?

Even more frustrating, she’d found a cure for the naga’s poison — crith-siol, a plant rumored to be cultivated by the Tribes of the Fae — but it had proven impossible to get.  For the last three months, she’d scoured book after book, hoping to find a substitute for the faery herb.  As she searched, Jimi grew weaker.  Tara had snatched the boy out of the naga’s coils before the monster could eat him, but she hadn’t saved him.  She’d merely postponed the inevitable, and now she could do nothing but watch her nephew deteriorate, his body shutting down one system at a time.  The last doctor had given Jimi a couple of months more, at best.

I wish Gran was alive. Gran would have found a cure by now. Or she’d have found a way to get the crith-siol, no matter what it cost.

Gran wouldn’t have let Jimi get caught by the naga in the first place.

The brassy jangle of bells signaled the arrival of a customer.  The jangle was cut short by a loud thump and a metallic crash — the front door slamming shut.  An impatient customer.  Tara sighed, caught between irritation at the interruption and guilty relief for the distraction.  She stepped into the front room of her shop.

The man in the black leather duster frowned at a rack of hand-crafted candles as if he found the colorful cylinders of beeswax offensive.  He was tall, dark, and too beautiful to be called handsome.  His long black hair was pulled back into a sleek braid, the severity of the hairstyle contrasting with the sensual planes of his face — sloping cheekbones, amber-brown eyes under upswept brows, and a wide, full-lipped mouth over a strong chin.  He was the sexiest man she’d met in ages, and if the humming in her head was any indication, a powerful mage.  That delicious hum reverberated down her spine, lighting up her nerves as it went.

He looked up, and his frown evaporated in the flash-fire of another emotion — something so intense it made Tara want to squirm.

Can I help you? she meant to ask.  But when she opened her mouth, what came out was, “Mine.”

Horrified, she barely managed to stop herself from clapping her hand over her mouth.  Mine?  Where did that come from?  It had been a long time since she’d dated, but was she so lonely that the mere presence of an attractive man was enough to scramble her brains?

Apparently so.

The corner of his mouth twitched as if he were fighting the urge to laugh.

Tara flushed.  “I mean, I make them.  The candles.”

He licked his lips, a deliberate, sensual motion, and Tara found herself mirroring the action before she could stop herself.  What’s wrong with me?

“Um.”  She cleared her throat and tried again.  “Can I help you?”

The stranger smiled.  “I believe you can, Bandraoi.”

* * * * *

The oracle had been right after all.  The witch’s aura had responded to him at once, flaring in intoxicating reds and purples the moment she’d emerged from the back room.  Her eyes widened with surprise, and the power he sensed sleeping within her stirred, brushing against his aura like a curious cat.  He fisted his hands against the near-overwhelming urge to reach out and pet her.  She had a touch of the Tribes in her.  His body’s reaction to it was sharper than a knife to the heart and hotter than a Beltane bonfire.  It was like his first fight and his first orgasm squeezed into one frenzied moment.

His witch was short and curvy, and she’d wrapped her luscious figure in a clingy black dress that emphasized her hourglass shape.  When she pursed her lips, his cock expanded as his imagination burst open, spilling one wicked fantasy after another into his brain.  He pictured her moss-green eyes half-shut with delight, sweat gleaming on her skin, while her wavy gold hair clung to her bare shoulders.  He imagined all that power crackling through him as she trembled in the throes of it, her silken voice raw with ardor.

She’d sensed the rousing of her Fae nature; he could tell by the slight quiver of her shoulders, the heat that bled over her cheeks, the pink tip of her tongue wetting her bottom lip.  She was perfect — except for the wariness that glimmered across her face when he’d addressed her by her proper title. Surely she knew Bandraoi was a term of respect among the Tribes?  Or hadn’t she recognized him for what he was yet?

* * * * *

Available from Cobblestone Press:
cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/faerysbargain.htm

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posted Thursday, November 18th, 2010 | filed under Blog, Giveaways