Reasons to Love an Unexpected Romance

Two weeks ago, I cleaned off some of my bookshelves because we were shifting furniture around. One of the shelves, a round table made from wire spools by my grandfather, was in sore need of dusting.

Austin, Austin spin-offs, Alcott, Brontes, and lots of other fun things.
Austin, Austin spin-offs, Alcott, Brontes, and lots of other fun things. Notice the foam sword in the foreground. That is in case of attack by pirates.

The table holds a collection of classics from my youth and adulthood that I have kept because each formed the woman you now see before you. I could no sooner part with them than one of my limbs. I did find one book I had forgotten I owned. It is a slim regency romance by Elizabeth Mansfield called Her Man of Affairs.

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What are you writing there? Let me peer over your shoulder provocatively just to make sure you know I am here.

I will give you a few minutes to absorb the beauty that is that cover. See how she gently touches his hand and leans over his shoulder? Classic! It was enough to make me squee with anticipation.

Someone of my acquaintance found this on their bookshelf and bequeathed it to me knowing what a soft spot I have for regency romance. My intention was to read it poste haste, but life got in the way and it was tucked amidst my classics. When I rediscovered it, I knew I had waited long enough.

It was predictable (every genre has some predictableness, so don’t be too judgey) but it was absolutely delightful. It reminded me of all the reasons I love romances. Here are a few I would like to share:

Reason #1 – In most romances the women are powerful. Not power in the traditional sense, though that can happen, but they have intellectual prowess, they have emotional power over themselves, they are damsels that rescue themselves, or they understand their sexuality (or they come to in the course of the book). I love a strong heroine who admits when she is wrong or when she admits she needs the hero’s help to accomplish a task. This is not to say the hero does not have power. He often does, but he does not beat the heroine down, literally or figuratively, to maintain his power. If he does start out that way, woe to him as he learns the error of his ways and then must commence with the grovelling. The best romances involve some team work between the H/H (hero and heroine). Which brings me to …

Reason #2 – Cooperation. Life is all about compromise and working together. Romances show this in romantic relationships. Too often, in real life, we think that being in a relationship is what the other person has to offer us, not what we can do for the other people in our lives. Relationships are about service to others, not what we are getting from them. In romances, this give and take is something the H/H have to negotiate as their relationship develops. Other genres show this kind of compromise and cooperation too, but nothing is more intimate than the relationship you have with a life partner. The depth of selfless giving is greater because this is a person you can not escape, even on your worst days or theirs.

Reason #3 – Everything is better with a little sexual tension, kissing, romance, and *ahem* other things. As a female reader, I have found a lot of traditional scifi and fantasy (read stuff written by men and mostly for men) as boring and dry. You know why? Because it rarely includes romance and there is romance in real life. People are attracted to each other, especially when crammed into tight quarters or in high risk situations. A book with a group of people going on a quest where none of them ever feels any emotions for the other people in the group is weirdly asexual to me.*

Reason #4 – Everything is a little more fun with kissing.

Reason #5 – I admit it. I like happy endings. I like reading about people finding peace and a partner. Who doesn’t want that?

So tell me: Do you like a little romance in your stories? Why or why not?

 

*It should be noted, that some people, my engineering husband for one, think that emoshuns ruin good stories. Your opinion is your own.

Mythology Mondays: Hades

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

When people refer to Hades, they often, mistakenly, refer to a place (“It’s hot as Hades in here.”) instead of the character, Hades, ruler of the Underworld and the giver of wealth from the earth. This is common because first century Jews and early Christians, translating Hebrew into Greek, translated the word “Sheol” into “Hades.”

If you are in my generation, you might think of this version of Hades:

"Note to me: Maim you after my meeting."
“Note to me: Maim you after my meeting.”

Most Greek, and later Roman, depictions of Hades showed him as a serious, dark-bearded man, seated on a throne and bearing a scepter topped by a bird. To the Romans, he was Pluto. In both cultures, he was the ruler and advocate of the dead and the giver of riches from the earth. In some art, he was depicted with an overflowing cornucopia.

Hades, on left, shown with his wife, Persephone, on the right.
Hades, on left, shown with his wife, Persephone, on the right.

Hades was one of the six children of Kronos and Rhea. Kronos, fearing the prophecy which stated that one of his offspring would defeat him and usurp his power did the only logical thing. He ate his children as soon as they were born. Rhea contrived to save Zeus from her husband (one has to wonder why, after he ate the first kid, she continued to bear him five more). Zeus later defeated Kronos and cut open his father to set his siblings free. The children of Kronos and Rhea included: three daughters – Hestia, Demeter, and Hera (who would later become Zeus’ wife) and three sons – Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.

The three brothers drew lots to divide the earth. Zeus received the land, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the darkness or shades of the earth. He was sometimes referred to as the King of Shades or the infernal Zeus. Hades set up shop in the underworld and guarded the gates to his kingdom with ferocity. He was cursed by mortal men who would slap the ground and curse his name for his power over death. When men offered sacrifices to Hades, they slaughtered black sheep and turned their faces away from the offering.

After spending some time alone in the dreariness of his domain, Hades decided he needed some companionship of the feminine variety. He asked his brother, Zeus, for one of his daughters and Zeus offered Persephone, daughter of Demeter. In case you have not been following: Persephone was Hades’ niece begot through a liaison between his two siblings. Zeus, knowing Demeter would never approve of the match, gave Hades the right to kidnap Persephone and take her forcibly as his wife.

Hades stole Persephone as she innocently played in a field of flowers and took her down into the Underworld in a chariot pulled by black, immortal horses. Demeter, distraught, brought an endless winter to the earth as she searched and mourned for her daughter. Eventually, Hades allows Persephone to leave and visit her mother, but tricks her into eating a pomegranate seed first which compelled her to return to him after a set time had passed. Thus, the Greeks thought the winter was brought by Demeter while her daughter was away and the spring came each season when Persephone was allowed to come to the surface and visit her mother.

Hades, the God of the Dead, was unable to bear children himself. His wife, bore two children fathered by Zeus (her father, uncle, brother-in-law).

In Turning Creek, there is no Hades character. There are, as far as we know as this point, no Remnants of the original six gods and goddesses. Hades is occasionally referred to in conversations between the Remnants of Turning Creek.

Mythology Mondays: Medusa

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

Like the Sphinx from last week, most people have heard of Medusa even if they do not know her full story. Her snake hair and creepiness have woven their way into our cultural memory. The beautiful woman with serpents for hair that can turn a man to stone is the popular version of this myth. There are even books and cartoons for kids with Medusa as a character who is not at all scary.

There is a whole goddess series of books for girls and Medusa is featured in one.
There is a whole goddess series of books for girls and Medusa is featured in one.

In some of the first Medusa myths, Medusa was part of a triad of female monsters called the Gorgons. The Gorgons were sisters with scales for skin, hair for snakes, and small wings sprouting from their temples. The three sisters, Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale, lived near the ocean in some stories and in others they guarded the door to the Underworld. Medusa was the only one of the three that was mortal.

In the most popular stories, Medusa was once a beautiful human woman who made the unfortunate decision to submit to Poseidon in a temple of Athena. This is always a Bad Life Choice as Athena was famously jealous of anyone getting horizontal in her temple without her express permission. To punish Medusa, Athena turned her into a hideous Gorgon. From this union with Poseidon, came Pegasus, the winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant or a winged boar or a giant winged boar.

In an effort to free his mother, Perseus goes on a quest in which he kills a bunch of things with the help of the gods. One of the monsters he kills is Medusa. With a reflective shield from Athena, a bag of holding* from Hesperides, winged shoes from Hermes, an adamantine sword from Zeus, and a helm of darkness from Hades, Perseus sets off. He sneaks up on the sleeping Medusa and lops off her head. He stuffs it in the bag of holding and, using the helm of darkness, runs like the wind, with the winged shoes, and escapes the other two Gorgon who are infuriated over the death of their sister.

By Ad Meskens; sculpture Antonio Canova (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Perseus holding the head of Medusa.Photo by Ad Meskens; sculpture Antonio Canova
In some versions, Pegasus and Chrysaor spring from Medusa’s severed neck because the Greek’s loved stories of children springing from random body parts. Athena ended up with the severed head (I bet that looked awesome on the mantel) and she once gave a lock of the serpent hair to Hercules. The hair, even though the bearer was dead, retained the ability to turn men to stone. For some time, Athena affixed the head to her shield whenever she went into battle. Legend has it that the head was buried under a mound in Agora.

*Technically, it was a special monster head holding bag.

In Turning Creek, Lily Hughes, the wife of the tailor, is the Remnant of Medusa. She has the ability to mesmerize people, not turn them to stone, and her hair is a perfectly normal shade of brown. She is a very proper lady, unlike our harpies, and almost never uses her ability.

Recalculating

One of the things I have enjoyed about indie publishing is the inherent flexibility. I can say no to my editors, though I almost never do. Why would I? They are almost always right. My timelines and deadlines are imposed and kept by me. I can reschedule and rework them when life happens to me, my family, or someone on my publishing team. Everything is negotiable when you indie publish.

Including your series and how it is laid out.

One of the paths in Holyrood Park in Scotland.
One of the paths in Holyrood Park in Scotland.

Letters in the Snow, Iris’ story, was originally slated to be a novella because when I started writing about Turning Creek, I thought it was just about harpies. I was wrong. It turns out Iris has more to say and I have more to tell about what is going on in our little mountain town. At the suggestion/prodding/encouragement of my editor (remember, I said she was almost always right) I am recalculating. A new route has been acquired.

Iris and Henry are getting a full length novel!

I may not be great at writing novellas. I do not tend towards the laconic and there are things and events happening in this book that will change everything for Iris, for the harpies, and for Turning Creek. Now that Letters in the Snow is slated to be a full length novel, I can explore the full ramifications of everything in my head and I could not be more excited.

Things to be revealed include Iris’s past, her family, and what happens when you get a bunch of Remnants and mortals in one place. It is going to be a good ride.

This does mean my timeline for the release of Letters may change. I would love to say for sure I will have another book for you in 2015, but it may not happen. I have other things going on in my life besides writing (ridiculous, right?) We can always recalculate our route and choose a different path.

I am also considering doing some YA offshoots with some of the other Remnants. I promise to finish up the harpies first.

Until then, enjoy Lightning and Storm and share them with your friends. The ebook of Lightning in the Dark will stay .99 for a little longer.

Now, I better get writing.

 

Mythology Mondays: Sphinx

Mythology Mondays: Achilles

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

Achilles is one of those Greek heroes that everyone knows something about because his name is used in conjunction with a cultural phrase, “to be an Achilles’ heel,” which means you are the weak link.

"Achilles in Corfu" by Dr.K. - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Achilles_in_Corfu.jpg#/media/File:Achilles_in_Corfu.jpg
“Achilles in Corfu” by Dr.K.

Achilles was the son of Peleus and Thetis, a sea nymph. When Menelaus rallied Greece to help him recover Helen from Paris (the man not the city), Achilles was kept from the draft by his mother who disguised him as a girl and hid him in the court of Lycomedes. Odysseus, who also joined the war under duress, was sent to fetch the boy. Odysseus disguised himself as a peddler and took shiny trinkets for the ladies and an array of weapons. The ladies of the court flocked to the shiny things, as women do, and the boy Achilles fingered the weapons thus revealing his true gender.

You read that right. This plot was furthered by sexism: men can not keep from fondling their weapons and women can not resist sparkly things.

Achilles was eager for war, as all young men are, apparently, and went with Odysseus despite his mother’s prophetic predictions of his death.

Very brief is your lot. Would that you could be free now from tears and troubles, for you shall not long endure, my child, short-lived beyond all men and to be pitied. – Thetis to Achilles

The Trojan war waged for years, fueled by deceitful women and vengeful men. Achilles and Agememnon, who fought for the same side, entered into a vicious feud over the fate of two women. Thetis begged Zeus to put an end to the war, which was so fierce that even the gods were at odds with each other.

There are a few different versions of Achilles’ death, but they all have one thing in common. He was shot in his heel by an arrow which killed him while he was in Troy. Achilles was one of the Greek’s most famous and valiant warriors and we was worshiped by heroic cults. He is also revered in Corfu, Greece as the patron of platonic love.

In Turning Creek, Thomas, an orphan taken in by Iris, is the Remnant of Achilles. I took some license with the original Greek myth. In my version, Achilles was blessed with speed and strength. The seat of his power was in his heels and when he was shot by an arrow, he lost his power and was defeated. His Remnants often exhibit enhanced speed or strength.

 

Book Birthday: Storm in the Mountains

Storm Cover

 

Today is the day I launch book two of the Turning Creek series into the wild. Storm in the Mountains tells the story of Marina and how she finds her true purpose. With Marina, things are never easy. In this book, you will find saloon fisticuffs; throw-down brawls with monsters of all kinds; women who love their whiskey, tea, and coffee; a harpy who is always ready for an adventure; dialog full of wit and snark; and a man who knows the best things sometimes have the biggest thorns.

Here is the blurb:

Marina Ocypete is a harpy, a Remnant of the Greek myth living in a small town in the Colorado Territory She would rather start a decent fight than sit around idle. The local sheriff offers her a job as a deputy which seems like a better choice than suffering from boredom, but Reed Brant has a way of getting under her skin.

With the influx of Remnants in his town, Reed needs Marina’s skills as a harpy to keep the peace. His head knows she is not the get married and settled down type he wants, but she might be just the thing his heart desires.

When women start disappearing in Turning Creek, it will be up to Marina and Reed to find the cause behind the fear gripping their town. Marina will have to choose between a fate she never questioned and the man who makes her believe even a harpy can have a heart.

Order your very own copy at these fine establishments:

print: Amazon, CreateSpace
ebook: Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, Nook, AllRomance

Links will go live as soon as vendors are up.

To celebrate Marina’s book birthday, I am giving away a Colorado Book and Coffee package which includes a signed copy of Lightning in the Dark, a signed copy of Storm in the Mountains, a Colorado coffee mug, a tree ornament made from recycled Colorado pine, and a bag of gourmet coffee. Click on the entry form below and share with your friends!
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Mythology Mondays: Chimera

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out July 1st.

I am not sure what is is about Greeks and monsters but rarely were their monsters ever just really big ants or larger than normal, aggressive spiders. All their monsters are one part this, another part this, and why not just throw a goat head on top for kicks, shall we?

The chimera had the body of a lion, the tail of a snake, a set of goat udders, and a goat head projecting up from the middle of its back. Why the udders and random goat head? I think someone had an unhealthy phobia of milking goats but couldn’t convince his friends of the danger, so he mixed the goat with a lion body and snake tail. Instantly scary. Or weird. Maybe both. The important question is, if you could milk a chimera, what kind of cheese would it make?

The Chimera on a red-figure Apulian plate, c. 350–340 BC (Musée du Louvre).
The Chimera on a red-figure Apulian plate, c. 350–340 BC (Musée du Louvre).

Thanks to Buffy, we all know how common barn animals can be frighting. “Except for bunnies.” Thanks, Anya.

The chimera was a female monster in the myths, the daughter of Echidna and Typhon. According to Homer, the chimera had three heads, one lion, one serpent, and one goat to represent the three species which made up the whole. She also had the charming ability to breathe fire.

Bellerophon was sent on a quest to kill the chimera, which he did, riding his trusty steed, Pegasus.

In Turning Creek, the chimera does have the head of a lion and the hind quarters of a snake. I left out the goat bits because I found them a little too odd. The chimera is male, in my tale, and spits fire, though Marina does not give it much of a chance to do so.

 

Naming Mountains

When I set out to name the place that my harpies would live, I wanted it to have meaning and sound like a western town. In Greek myths, the harpies are banished to the islands of Strophades, which means the isles of turning or returning. Thus, Turning Creek, the place where each harpy must make a choice about her future, was named.

I struggle with naming the mountains more than anything else. More than the names of characters. Definitely more than the names of the books themselves.

I can only conclude it is because mountains are, by far, my favorite topographical feature. Most of the names of the mountains are slight variations on real peaks in Colorado and Wyoming. Pikus Peak. Baldy. Lady’s Favor. Atlas’s Peak. The Twins. Shaker’s Way. They all pay homage to real mountains found in one of the best regions of the US.

Only one name was borrowed from a real place: Silvercliff.

Silvercliff on a sunny summer day.
Silvercliff on a sunny summer day.

Nestled in the middle of Colorado, down the road from the small towns of Buena Vista and Nathrop, there is a camp called Silver Cliff Ranch. It sits at the base of a cliff face called Silvercliff, named for the grey rock which makes up its exposed face.

Silvercliff in shadow.
Silvercliff in shadow.

For the past two years, I have spent a week at Silver Cliff with high school students from my church. I could tell you hilarious stories of shenanigans, touching tales of how students stepped forward to love each other, or amazing ways God has used five short days to impact the lives of the people on the trip.

All the stories would never do the place or the people justice. It is a cherished place in a state that I love.

In the Turning Creek books, Silvercliff is Dora’s home. Dora, who is the most introspective and sensitive of the harpies, lives near the peak of the mountain named for a place that has changed many lives. It is fun, as an author to pay homage to things that hold weight in my life.

In a few short days, I will board the bus again and head to Silvercliff. I will wake up in the mornings and watch the sun rise from a fallen log on the mountain. I will hear the birds sing and the crisp air will remind me that I am home.

Nothing is better than a sunrise in the mountains.
Nothing is better than a sunrise in the mountains.

Mythology Mondays: Hera

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out in July.

The Barberini Hera statue of Roman origin.
The Barberini Hera statue of Roman origin.

Hera was the queen of the gods of Olympus and wife to Zeus, supreme ruler of the gods. While many of the other gods have roots in different regions, Hera is strictly Greek in origin. She was the goddess of marriage which is amusing because her marriage was fraught with strife. At one time, Hera contemplated putting Zeus in chains and once he suspended her in the clouds by her wrists with anvils on her ankles.

Zeus was as famous for his infidelities as Hera was for her jealous nature and the manner in which she punished the women Zeus seduced. Zeus, on the other hand, almost always got away without a scratch. Figures.

Hera pursued Leto unto the ends of the earth while the woman was in childbirth. Leto, wracked with pain, wandered the earth looking for a safe place to give birth, until Asteria, taking pity on the woman, offered her haven. Io was changed into a cow by Zeus to cover up his transgression and Hera stole the cow Io and treated it mercilessly. Hero turned Callisto into a bear and ordered Artemis to hunt it down like a wild animal. Hera killed Semele with trickery and a lightning bolt.

Hera’s wrath was not limited to the mothers. She often hunted, cursed, or generally made the lives of the numerous offspring of Zeus’ unions miserable.

Hera was also celebrated as the goddess of family. She was such a loving mother she threw one of her sons, Hephaestus, over the cliff after his birth because he was deformed. Hera was a hard lady to please.

Hera herself has not made an appearance in Turning Creek. Most of the gods and goddesses disappeared into history after the Fall of Olympus. The harpies have been known to utter the exclamation, “Oh, for Hera’s sake.”