Drinking in Romance

After working months on a manuscript, mostly in isolation, it is fun when my beta readers and editor read what I have written and provide comments. Often their insight, makes me re-frame what I have constructed. Occasionally, their comments are observations on things I have done that they liked or were surprised by. These make me smile because I know the small details I labored over were noticed.

Something my editor pointed out to me during the course of edits on Storm in the Mountains got me thinking about what is and is not permissible for female leads in romance or books with a strong romantic element. She pointed out that my female leads drink, a lot, and they enjoy their ale and whiskey, unabashedly. She loves this about them.

When Petra, Dora, and especially Marina are sitting around, they are either eating cookies (biscuits), drinking tea, drinking tea fortified with whiskey, drinking whiskey straight, or drinking ale. There is a ton of drinking going on in Turning Creek. When I wrote them, I did not consider that this was odd, because it is what I would prefer to be doing most days. Who doesn’t want to sit under a shade tree with a pint of brown ale and chat with friends?

I love tea and I love beer. I drink copious amounts of tea because I am a recovering coffee drinker. I love coffee, but I loved it too much.

I like enjoy beer. Mr. Rochester and I are fairly serious homebrewers and you can get me to agree to pretty much anything by offering me a wee heavy or a Belgian ale. The darker, heavier the beer, the more likely I am to love it. I would drink scotch and Irish whiskey more often, but I can not afford that indulgence. I save those for special occasions. I might be a good Baptist girl now, but I was raised Catholic and it shows.

See those three on the right? Delicious.

See those three on the right? Delicious.

After Brenda, my magical editor (Her blog says she is a story sorceress and I completely agree with that.), pointed out my characters’ tendency to drink for leisure, I started thinking about what drinking means in romance.

In romance drinking can be a sign of dissipation, especially in regencies and historicals. A character who drinks too much is most likely a reprobate in the process of losing his family’s fortune. These characters will either be stripped of their responsibility by the hero or if they are the hero, will have to sober up, shape up, and win the lady to redeem themselves.

Characters will also over-indulge when they are grieving. It should be noted that the grieving is often brought on by their own poor choices. Poor choices, it should also be noted, which drove the damsel away. The moment the hero sees the backside of the heroine (ha!) often results in them realizing that, oops, I think she might be my soul mate. You screwed that one up, buddy. They may also be drinking because the damsel in question is making them insane with lurve and they are having trouble with all these new emotions coursing through their veins. Male leads in romance novels frequently struggle to contain and understand emoshuns and turning to drink, though only briefly, can magically help them realize, like the tin man, that they too have a heart.

All the scenarios I have described above relate only to the male leads in the story. Female leads rarely drink and almost never to excess. If they do drink, it is in ways socially acceptable for females, like wine at meals or after dinner drinks. If they become intoxicated, it is by accident because in their inexperience they did not know the punch was that strong or that too much whiskey makes everything go wibbly wobbly. In contemporary romances, which shares most of the rules historicals follow, the female leads will sometimes have a night of excess. These result most often in either accidentally winding up with the male lead or moving the plot along in some fashion. Female leads rarely drink just because and never because they really want to get their hands on that special edition limited release bourbon barrel ale.

Mmm, I really need a drink now. Good thing I have a fully stocked beer fridge.

I have been trying to think of some notable exceptions to these rules. I have read a lot of historical, steampunk, paranormal, and some contemporary romances and I could only think of one exception. It may because, honestly, it is pretty much all I am thinking about the last few days.

Outlander is on my brain. In the first book, Claire get smashed before her wedding and enjoys scotch neat, surprising many of the men. The men around her note often that she is able to hold her liquor much better than other women of their acquaintance. Claire has trouble hiding her modern sensibilities and habits which makes for some amusing conversations.

In the book, she is gloriously hungover for her wedding day after drowning her nerves the night before. Once the wedding day commences, she applies the hair of the dog strategy and drinks a bit more. She gets tipsy and then strips Jamie of his pesky virginity. In the show, she is a little more than tipsy by the combination of nerves and drink and goes through the day in a fog. It is a nice reversal that Jamie remembers the day with clarity and Claire has trouble with many of the details. In the book, she actually passes out from too much drink and not enough food as they are leaving the church.

My female leads have never drunk in the books, yet. Marina does get out of hand, as she likes to do, but even she even is never truly drunk. The harpies enjoy good whiskey and good ale. They are violent creatures who are a bit wild and do not quite fit social norms. I love them for it.

Can you think of any female romance leads who enjoy drinking openly?

For the Joy of Books

My boys were on spring break this week so my days were filled with activities with them and revisions on Storm in the Mountains.

Monday, I woke early and crept quietly into the living room, curled on the couch, and continued to devour Written in Red. Gideon, the 6 year old, woke up first, grabbed his own book and joined me. Soon, we were a threesome when Wash came bearing his own book. We sat, snuggled together, reading, for over an hour. My boys bring me joy all the time, but the quiet peace of that morning was perfect.

This week, I was able to introduce my boys to one of the wonderful things about vacation: Buying new books for a trip. It took some convincing to get Gideon not to start reading his new books the very moment they arrived. I ended up hiding the books for the trip.

I remember hauling around stacks of books on vacation, even as a kid. My family drove everywhere, they still do, and I used those hours in the car to read.

Vacation packing is different now that I have a kindle, but I still need a handful of options for every trip. Here are some of my options, not all, for this trip:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Trouble With Magic by Patricia Rice

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

Have a lovely week. I am going to have my nose in a book.

A Little Something Scary for Friday the 13th

In honor of Friday the 13th, I am going to tell you about books and stories that have creeped  me out. I do not read horror that often, so I try to choose well when I do.

Open closet doors at night are the scariest things on the planet. I blame this one entirely on Stephen King’s Night Shift which is a collection of creepiness. There is one story that confirmed all my childhood fears: The Boogeyman. I still can not sleep if there is an open closet door when I go to bed. Mr. Rochester laughs when I insist on closing closet doors, but my persistence has saved us from being snatched away or eaten. I am certain if it. The rest of the stories in the collection are classics, but this is the one that has stuck with me.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan – I bought this book because it had a blurb on the front from Neil Gaiman. The main character, Sarah, escapes the mess of her life by going to live in a ramshackle house in the country. I kept reading the book thinking it would not get any more disturbing and then it would. It is the perfect thing to read at night, under the covers, far, far away from big oak trees and the country.

I read The Ruins by Scott Smith about the same time I went on a vacation to Mexico. That was a mistake. This story is about a group of people who become trapped in an old temple ruin by supernatural forces. That whole trip to Mexico a gave every vine I saw the side-eye.

What book have you read that really stuck with you and made you look twice at dark corners, creepy dolls, or dusty attics?

Cover Reveal: Storm in the Mountains

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Styx and fire, I have had this sitting on my computer for about a month or so already and it has killed me not to show it to you.

You will notice that there are buildings on the cover of this one and that is because Marina spends quite a lot of time in town. I am in the middle of revisions and edits on Storm and I admit that Marina has kept me on my toes. She is constantly getting into trouble and saying things she should keep to herself. It is why I love her. I can not wait for you to read about her adventures.

You will be able to read Storm in the Mountains yourself in May. I have not set a firm date yet, but join my newsletter for the official date announcement and some freebies.

Here is the summary:

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.

Mythology Mondays: Harpies and Redemption

Most Mondays, 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 available in May. Cover reveal coming soon! Real soon. Later this week soon.

I am going to be changing things up for Mythology Mondays for two reasons. One, there are many other things to talk about in regards to myths besides just profiling them, that I think are important to writing and storytelling. Second, because this is my party and I can. :)

Occasionally, instead of a myth profile, I want to talk about myths themselves, the cultural construct of them, why they stick around, why we are so fascinated by them, and why I love them. Ready? Here we go!

I have been pondering over the idea of redemption recently. As a Christian, this is a common and central theme to my own belief system. Redemption is found in fiction, in music, in movies, and everywhere. It is pervasive because it is something we, as humans, long for. I believe we were created that way. Your opinion may differ, but the fact remains, redemption is important in the way we view the world.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a guest post on redemption at Para Your Normal in which I discussed how to take a shady character, like a harpy, and construct a plan to redeem them through writing. No matter what genre you write, you start with a character and a problem. At the end of the story, you should end up with a problem that is solved (or on its way to being so) and a character who has grown into a better version of themselves.

In my profile on harpies a few months ago, I said, “I wanted to know what would happen if a violent creature was forced to live in the world with people and how they would reconcile their own nature with that of the world around them.”

In mythology, harpies are nasty things, think The Last Unicorn.

The harpy attacking from The Last Unicorn.

The harpy attacking from The Last Unicorn.

When I was a kid, this moment in the movie (along with several others) completely creeped me out. I loved the movie though.

As an adult, the only book I can recall having a harpy as the main character is Thea Harrison’s Kinked, from her Elder Races series. Aryal is an amazing character that I loved from the beginning of the series. I am so behind on this series, but it is fabulous.

Mythology is ripe with characters who need redemption. The fun thing about working with myths is that a framework is already there. As a writer, I do not have to start from scratch to create a world or the people that fill it. In many myths, characters who do not find redemption are punished and punished harshly. Narcissus, Bellerophon, and Cronos are only three of many from Greek mythology alone who met unfortunate ends because of their failure to make better choices.

As readers, we want to see redemption stories. We want to see that good things can happen to characters we have come to love. I adore a good villain who mends their ways and then has to make retribution. It takes strength of character to admit wrong and then try to fix the transgressions. This is one reason why romance is rife with the wounded hero, the reformed rake, and the penitent villain.

My harpies not only need redemption, they have to find a way to redeem their most prominent but problematic characteristic: violence. The each have to find a way to make sense of what they are and then use that knowledge for the good of their community and those they love. How they answer that question is different for each of them and their struggles, while similar, are not the same.

Redemption is unique to the bearer. The theme is the same, but the way we find it is different. Some paths to redemption are easy. Some paths are uphill both ways in the snow barefoot.

May your path be straight and level today.

Fly Me To the Mountains

I recently went on a family trip to Keystone, Colorado. I grew up going to Colorado for summer camping vacations. Sometimes, there are places where you know you belong. My soul belongs in the jagged peaks of the rocky mountains. I have lived at sea level in sweltering heat my entire life, but I have always known this was not where I belonged. When I sat down to write a story with characters who needed a wild and beautiful place, there was no question where it would be. I chose a fictional Colorado mountain town called Turning Creek.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

Turning Creek, in my mind, is outside the mineral belt of Colorado, somewhere west of Leadville. Some of the mountains have similar names to other peaks in Colorado. Pikus Peak is a play on Pike’s Peak, one of the fourteeners. Silvercliff is a Christian camp my church takes our youth group to every year. It is a place I have found peace and joy as I watch young people I love find peace and understanding with the Lord.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

It was a singular joy to go to Keystone this past week and see real, honest to goodness, road-closing snow for the first time in my life. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming three years ago and while there was plenty of snow, very little of it fell during our trip. I know some of my readers from the great white north are laughing, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen real snow. I have also never seen real fall leaves, but I digress.

This post is about the mountains and what I did there not how deprived of seasons this southern girl might be.

Everyone went skiing, except me. I am horrible at it and am not too fond of the endeavor so I sat for two days and consumed more caffeine than is recommended at a delightful place called Inxpot. As an unexpected bonus, Inxpot serves Mules, a colonial era drink featuring ale or ginger beer, alcohol, and lime. I had one with ginger beer, honey whiskey, and lime. It was wonderful. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, I researched Mules and a drink called Flip for Letters in the Snow, a Turning Creek novella featuring Iris, which comes out this summer. Flip was the drink that got Paul Revere drunk on his overnight ride to warn the militia.

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

I sat, drank coffee, and wrote the first couple chapters of Plagues of the Heart, the third Turning Creek book, featuring Dora. I walked around quite a bit breathing deeply and remembering all the reasons I love the mountains. Did you know that mountain streams smell different than other moving bodies of water? They do and it is a fabulous smell.

Mostly it was an amazing  trip because it has been a very long time since I was able to go on a family vacation with my boys.

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I wish all of you a place of joy in your life, where your soul feels at home and where there are people with which to share the view and a good drink.

 

 

Mythology Mondays: Zeus

Every Monday, I highlight a different Greek myth that has woven its way into the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. If you pay close attention to the details, you will see where some of the elements and history of the series originated.

I sat down to write this post and the word that keeps going through my head is philandering.

When I was younger, I thought of a guy like this:

Zeus from Disney's Hercules.

Zeus from Disney’s Hercules.

I knew Zeus had a lot of children, and not all of them with his wife, Hera, but I did not understand the true depth of his wandering ways until I read a few articles and books which referenced his seduction/rape of Leda in the form of a swan. As an aside, The Swan Thieves by Kostova is a wonderful book. If you want to see some great depictions of this aspect of the Zeus myth do a Google image search for Leda and the swan. Be warned though, many of the results, while beautiful art, are NSFW.

Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy by Peter Paul Rubens, after a lost painting by Michelangelo

Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy by Peter Paul Rubens, after a lost painting by Michelangelo

By some counts, Zeus had relations with as many as 70 women and that makes for a whole slew of immortal and half-mortal children. I suppose if he looked like this:

Luke Evans as Zeus in the Immortals

Luke Evans as Zeus in the Immortals

I would consider his advances. Zeus was well known for seducing women in other forms. He seduced Leda as a swan, Europa as a bull, Kallisto as Artemis (both females), Antiope as a satyr, and Danae as a golden shower (insert crude joke here). I am not making this up. It seems Zeus was willing to stoop to any level to trick or coerce women into having sex with him. Why couldn’t he just buy them a drink or a villa or something?

In between chasing women, Zeus was busy inspiring culture across the civilized world. He was the giver of prophecy, controlled the weather, was the god of law and justice, and he kept a tight rule on the other immortals who lived on Mount Olympus. He was respected by other gods and mortal supplicants and was often referred to as ”Father.”

For every story of good, there is a another example of his despotism. Zeus is credited with killing his father and saving his siblings, but also with starting and controlling the Trojan War. He took revenge on mortals and gods alike who he felt did not give him his due or who went against his wishes. Zeus held onto power by being ruthless. In his defense, he was the ruler of other gods whose reputations were also less than stunning and he had to one up them to keep them in line.

In the Turning Creek universe, Zeus leans towards the despot version of the myth. He was a tyrant who abused his followers to such an extent that they rebelled. In the mythology of Turning Creek, the original four harpies led a revolt against the father of all gods and destroyed Mount Olympus. His true destruction is uncertain and he is remembered with a mix of fear and hate. All the Remnants lost something in the war and the harpies lost one of their own. James Lloyd, one of the main characters in Lightning in the Dark is a Zeus history buff which causes some issues with Petra, who has a healthy wariness and hatred for Zeus.

 

 

Sometimes, We Just Need a Reminder

Sunday night, I realized I had completely forgotten about writing a Mythology Mondays post. I waffled a bit, but decided to give myself some grace. We are getting ready for vacation this week to Colorado and everything is just as crazy as you expect it might be. Next week, Mythology Mondays will be featuring Zeus and boy do I have a lot to say about him. Other, new fun stuff is happening next week, so stay tuned.

One reminder for you, dear readers: If you read Lightning in the Dark, please write a review. It makes a big difference to sales and marketing efforts for small indie authors like me.

I offer you a quote to take with you on your day. Here is a picture of my oldest son a few years ago on a summer trip to Colorado.

Milne

Mythology Mondays: Aphrodite

Every Monday, I highlight a different Greek myth that has woven its way into the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. If you pay close attention to the details, you will see where some of the elements and history of the series originated.

Technically, Aphrodite has not appeared in Turning Creek. I am not saying she won’t at some point, but I wanted to give her a Mythology Monday because it is February after all.

There are things many of us can recall about Aphrodite from school. She is the goddess of love and beauty. Her symbols are a golden apple, a dove, a scalloped shell, and a mirror.

What you may not have known about her is that she was born under mysterious and unbelievable circumstances, even for the Greeks. The most common tale goes something like this:

The Titan Kronos wanted to rule so he did the only logical thing. He overthrew his father, Uranus, and then castrated him to ensure no other heirs were born. To seal the deal, he threw his father’s genitals into the sea. This is where the story gets a dose of crazy poured all over it. The sea foam swirls around Uranus’s severed genitals and Aphrodite springs from that mix.

Only the Greeks would have created a goddess of beauty and love from a mix of blood, genitals, other body fluids, and sea foam. Aphrodite is well known throughout the world, even places far outside of Greek and Roman influence. The picture shown below is a fountain of Aphrodite in Mexico City.

"Aphrodite fountain" by Doctor_Doomsday (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.

Aphrodite fountain” in Mexico City by Doctor_Doomsday

Aphrodite did many things during the course of her life. You may remember from a previous post that she helped Hippomenes win the love of Atalanta through the use of her golden apples. How do you like them apples? (Sorry, not sorry.)

You may also recall that one version of Hippomenes and Atalanta’s demise is through Aphrodite who was affronted that they did not attribute their wonderful love to her deceptive intervention during the courtship. Like all goddesses, she often claimed and demanded more credit than she was due and lashed out vengefully when her desires were not met.

Aphrodite’s list of misdeeds and revenge include:

  • Cheating on her husband, Hephaestus, with her lover Ares. She was caught and punished for this misdeed.
  • During the Trojan War, she went to rescue her son, Aeneas from the battle, Diomedes wounded her in her hand, she dropped her son, and ran home to Mount Olympus to complain of her misfortune.
  • Causing the gods to become inflamed with lust for mortals as amusement.
  • A mortal named Smyrna, failed to give homage to Aphrodite. As punishment, Aphrodite caused her to be inflamed with lust for her father. She bore a son through this unholy union named Adonis. Aphrodite later fell madly in love with the adult Adonis, who was gored by a bull.

Aphrodite was the goddess of love and there are numerous stories of her helping out lovers or assisting in the cause of true love.

This month, celebrate love and Aphrodite with a good book, snuggle close to someone you love, and try not to think too much about that sea foam. Unless that’s your thing.