Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker

Published: March 18th, 2014


Jamie Thomas has enough trouble on his hands trying to get through junior year of high school without being pulverized by Billy Stratton, his bully and tormentor. But the mother he was always told was dead is actually alive—and she’s an Amazon! 

Sixteen years after she left him on his father’s doorstep, she’s back and needs Jamie’s help. A curse has caused the ancient tribe of warrior women to give birth to nothing but boys, dooming them to extinction—until prophecy reveals that salvation lies with one of the offspring they abandoned. 

Putting his life on the line, Jamie must find the courage to confront the wrath of an angry god to save a society that rejected him.

From Mythology to Fantasy 

Reimagining ancient mythology in a modern setting isn’t anything new. When I was writing The Unwanted, I did more than just bone up on my Greek pantheon. I also picked up a few other novels (both YA and adult) that dealt with Greek gods and goddesses. The most obvious entry in this category is Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, which I set aside only because I didn’t want it to influence my own work. While I was working on revisions, I also read the marvelous novel The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which is a retelling of the Trojan War and the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus from Patroclus’ point of view. If you haven’t read this Orange Prize-winning novel, I highly recommend it. 

I also scoured the library and (where else?) the internet for writings and research on the Amazons. Considering that my knowledge of them came from Wonder Woman (the source of my lasting fascination with them) and high school classes, I needed to see what I could find. The answer? Not much. A few passages in larger works on mythology, one thin volume on reoccurrences of Amazon-like tribes throughout different mythologies, but that was it. This was before I had access to a university library, and I’ve been able to find more since then. Even so, I realized that at some point I had to step away and view the myth in a way that would make sense for modernity as well as to my protagonist Jamie, a young gay teenager who discovers his mother’s an Amazon and he’s one of their cast-off boys. 

That’s where the fun began. 

The gods and goddesses themselves who appear in the book are perhaps the most straightforward element. They exist in a reality largely separate but parallel to our own world. Are they actual gods? Are they simply more advanced beings? I have my ideas on that, but I’m saving that for a sequel. Suffice it to say, they continue to interfere in the lives of mortals in both large and small ways. 

My big worry was that I would get things “wrong”, that my representation wouldn’t line up with the historical record, but then I realized two things. First, of course, was that the historical record was contradictory itself, and secondly that I wanted to change things. I shifted allegiances, aligned both gods and mortals in ways that I thought made sense, and basically had a lot of fun. If every age reinvents myths to make sense of their own world, I wanted to do the same thing. 

And there’s nary a golden lasso or invisible jet in sight.


The house was empty. No big surprise there: Dad never got home before me. When I checked my nose in the bathroom mirror, it was starting to swell up and look like someone had painted purple under my skin. I didn’t think it was broken, but no one had ever punched me in the face before, so what did I know?

At that moment, I knew three things. I didn’t want to explain my nose to my dad when he eventually got home. I probably needed to put ice on it. And I didn’t want to go to school tomorrow.

In the kitchen, I filled a towel with ice. As I tilted my head back and lifted the towel to my nose, a flash of white darted past the sliding glass door overlooking the backyard. Our yard was fenced, so no one should have been back there. By this point, thanks to the almost-daily antagonism from Billy, it was in my nature to see every unexpected or unexplained thing as a possible threat. It seemed foolish, but I grabbed a knife from the butcher block before I opened the door and peered out.

I was lucky I didn’t stab myself in the foot when I dropped the knife. A white horse, its head lowered to the ground as it searched for bits of grass to its liking, ambled slowly across the yard. When it heard the knife clatter, it looked up and stared right at me, blinked its glossy black eyes—

—and shook its wings.

I was glad no one was around to hear me, because I screamed like a girl. My first thought—well, my second thought, right after Oh my God there’s a horse with wings in our yard—was that Billy must have given me a concussion when he hit me and knocked me down. I looked away, shook my head, and blinked a couple times.

When I looked back, the horse was still there. It had folded up its wings and gone back to browsing the lawn.

“Richard, is that you?”

The voice, a woman’s, came from upstairs. It was followed by a clanking noise, like someone rattling pots and pans. I picked up the knife again and slid the door shut as quietly as possible.

“Richard?” she called again, then, in a more threatening tone, “Is someone down there?”

She started coming down the stairs. Pressing my back to the wall, I inched out of the kitchen and into the dining room. I watched the kitchen doorway, wondering who this woman was and how she knew my father…and what was all the clanking about? When it appeared she hadn’t followed me from the kitchen to the dining room, I turned around and prepared to make a run for the front door.

She was standing right behind me.

I screamed, again. Like a girl, again. (What? She scared the hell out of me.)

She also snatched my wrist and twisted the knife out of my grasp before I remembered I was holding it. Then she put her hands on my shoulders to keep me from running headlong into her chest, which was covered in a bronze piece of armor that made her look like Xena, Warrior Princess.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said—not in a dismissive tone, the way that sort of thing is usually said (at least to me), but more in a sense of wonder, as if I were the last person she expected to see. She put a hand under my chin, gently, which I didn’t expect since she wore a sword at her waist. “You’re so…” Her voice trailed off as she took in all of me. “Short.”

Short? I’d never seen this woman before and she was calling me short? Admittedly, she looked taller than my dad, even, maybe by a couple inches. Before I could protest, she turned my chin left, then right, inspecting my face.

“You’ve been in a fight, haven’t you?” She smiled, and it seemed like a smile of admiration, like being in a fight was a good thing.

I batted her hand aside and backed away. “Who are you?”

She frowned. “Didn’t your father tell you anything about me?”

“Tell me what?”

Before she could answer, the doorbell rang. In an instant, everything about her changed. Her expression hardened as she whipped around toward the door. She’d drawn her sword without my even noticing, and now she crept toward the foyer. Her steps were so light I didn’t even hear her armor clank.

The doorbell rang again, sounding far away to me, like a dream. I started to ask her what she was doing—hadn’t she ever heard a doorbell before? Why was this clearly crazy woman in our house? And why did she know my dad? But she silenced me with a gesture.

This time, instead of the doorbell, there was a knock.

“Jamie?” It was Sarah. “Are you home?”

“Who is she?” the Xena wannabe asked.

“Who is she? Who are you?”

She lowered her sword for a moment and looked at me as if I were asking a stupid question. “He really never told you anything about me, did he?”

“Tell me what?”

Her face softened, neither stony nor angry, but sad.

“I’m your mother.”

About the author:
Jeffrey Ricker’s first novel, Detours, was published in 2011 by Bold Strokes Books. His second novel, The Unwanted, will be published by Bold Strokes in 2014. His writing has appeared in the anthologies Paws and Reflect, Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction, Blood Sacraments, Men of the Mean Streets, Speaking Out, Raising Hell, The Dirty Diner, Night Shadows: Queer Horror, and others. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he is pursuing an MFA at the University of British Columbia.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Unwanted by Jeffrey Ricker

The Unwanted

by Jeffrey Ricker

Giveaway ends April 16, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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