My engineering husband questioned me about the liberties I take with Greek Mythology in my Turning Creek series. I told him it was creative license. He did not approve. The problem with engineers is that they want, nay need, things to fit into formulas. If you can turn the plot points into a color coded graph, even better.
His main complaint was that Thomas, the orphan Iris takes in after Lightning in the Dark, has the ability of speed and delivers messages. The Greek myth that these two traits fit best is Hermes.
Hermes was a god of Olympus, son of Zeus and Maia (one of the many women who fell for Zeus). Hermes was the herald and servant of Zeus.
In the world I created for Turning Creek, there are no Remnants of gods (that we know of). The gods, who reigned on Mount Olympus, required adoration and were accustomed to a certain level of power. They did not adjust to life in the mortal world after the Fall of Olympus and they faded from existence. In the world I have created, Thomas could not be the Remnant of Hermes because Hermes faded long ago, thus I borrowed Achilles for Thomas.
I gave Thomas speed because it was a convenient power for him to have and assist Iris. I gave him Achilles’ weakness because I wanted him to have one.
Creative License. I wield it.
One of the fabulous things about mythology, and Greek mythology in particular, is that every tale has multiple versions. Thanks to the warring nature of the Greeks, Romans, and their many neighbors, Greek myths were adopted and adapted by different peoples and regions. Even the ancients had their own version of creative license.
If, like my husband, my liberties with the original myths make you roll your eyes and wonder if I did any research at all, I assure you, I did research. Sometimes, I apply creative license to whatever facts I find.
Poor Medea. Like most Greek myths, her story does not end well.
Medea’s story starts with the tale of not one but two young boys who were denied their rightful thrones and sent into exile. One boy’s story, Phrixus, yields the golden fleece. The other boy, Jason, comes out of exile to claim his throne. Pelias, who held Jason’s throne, says he will give up the throne he usurped if Jason brings him the Golden Fleece.
Jason is so excited about the idea of an adventure, he gets many young men of Greece to follow him in this dangerous pursuit. Thus begins the story of Jason and the Argonauts. They run into quite a bit of trouble. Harpies. Amazons. One gets the feeling that Greeks found all forms of women frightening.
Eventually, the adventurers find themselves on the borders of Colchis where the Golden Fleece was held by the King. This king has, of course, a daughter, named Medea, who was said to be a skillful witch.
The gods had watched Jason’s journey up to this point and, now that he was on the cusp of the real trial, Hera becomes worried for him. Hera goes to Aphrodite, who could best be described as a frenemy, and begs for help. She agrees to help. Aphrodite pays Cupid a shiny ball of gold to make Medea fall hopelessly in love with Jason.
Jason appears before the King of Colchis and, after a night of feasting, asks the king for the Golden Fleece. The king is incensed and agrees to give the Fleece up if Jason yokes two bulls who breathe fire, plow a field with them, plant dragon teeth in the furrows, and then kill the warriors who spring from the seeds.
Medea sees Jason at the feast and falls utterly in love. Knowing her father has condemned Jason to certain death, she meets him the night before his trial and gives him a special poison for his weapons. She weeps and admits her love for him and asks him to remember her fondly.
Jason defeats the dragon-teeth men, but the king plans to kill him anyway. Medea again goes to Jason in the middle of the night to warn him. She promises to guide them to the Fleece and bespell the serpent that guards the treasure, if Jason will but take her away to Greece. Jason agrees and says if she does this thing, he will take her back to Greece as his wife.
Medea puts the serpent to sleep and Jason gets the Fleece.
Medea’s brother, under the king’s orders, follows Jason and Medea to retrieve the Fleece for his father. Medea, once again, saves Jason’s quest. She kills her brother and his army scatters. She also rescues the Argonauts from the bronze men of Crete by calling upon the hounds of Hades before they finally reach Greece.
Sadly, Greece will be Medea’s undoing. Jason uses Medea’s power to murder the uncle who had taken his throne. One has to wonder why he went to get the Fleece in the first place when a little avunculicide would do.
Medea and Jason have two sons and all was well, for a time.
Jason was an ambitious and selfish man. To further his quest for power, he agrees to marry the daughter of Corinth, though he already has a wife. The King of Corinth threatens to have Medea removed from the country if she does not allow the wedding.
Medea is desperate. She threatens Jason’s new bride which earns her a stern talking to from her husband, who tells her she is unbalanced and he never loved her. Medea remembers all the betrayals she committed for this man who now wants to put her aside and she burns in anger.
But on me hath fallen this unforeseen disaster, and sapped my life; ruined I am, and long to resign the boon of existence, kind friends, and die. For he who was all the world to me, as well thou knowest, hath turned out the worst of men, my own husband. Of all things that have life and sense we women are the most hapless creatures; first must we buy a husband at a great price, and o’er ourselves a tyrant set which is an evil worse than the first; and herein lies the most important issue, whether our choice be good or bad. For divorce is not honourable to women, nor can we disown our lords. -from Medea By Euripides
Medea kills Jason’s intended bride with a poisoned robe. She knows that she and her sons will be exiled with no home, family, or man to guard them. They might as well be dead, she thinks. She kills her two sons and escapes in a chariot pulled by dragons.
If she could escape in a chariot, why not her sons? And if she could command dragons, could the woman not find a loaf of bread for them to eat?
Just pointing out the obvious.
The point is we mostly still remember Jason as a hero and Medea as a crazy witch. The more Greek mythology I read, the more I remember misogyny is as old as time.
It is 9:20pm and my house is blessedly quiet for the second night in a row except for the music I have playing. Everyone is asleep but me, I have a pint in hand, and all is well.
I have reached the point in the summer when I am tired of vacation and family time. I need my kids to go back to school and I need to get back to my regularly scheduled work and writing time. I never write much in the summer. I am too busy breaking up fights and trying to entertain children who are stuck inside because outside resembles the surface of the sun. I live in Houston and that is not an exaggeration.
I love my boys, but yesterday, I told G I did not like him much at the moment and could he please get out of my face and go to another room.
I need a time out. Obviously. With beer. Of course.
Starting the last Friday in August, I will be giving away an ebook of something I have read recently and enjoyed to someone on my newsletter list. What? You are not on the list? Get a full dose of harpies once a month or so and maybe win a free book by signing up now.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Sphinx has the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the breasts and head of a woman. The sphinx is a well known mythology figure and appeared frequently in both Greek and Egyptian art. The Egyptian version of the Sphinx, the most well known of which is the Giza Sphinx, has no wings, only the body of a lion and the head of a woman. It is believed that the Egyptian version appeared first and was, like many other things, accepted and absorbed into Greek culture.
In Greek mythology, the Sphinx in the daughter of Typhon and Echidna. There are some versions where she is the offspring of Orthus and Chimera or Typhon and the Chimera. Either one of those scenarios required some incest to happen, but Greek mythology never shied away from pairings we would find strange.
The Sphinx was sent to Thebes to punish them for crimes against the gods. The exact crime depends on what version of the myth you read. She could have gone to punish Thebes because:
Surprise! Hera was hacked off at Liaus, who was the king of thieves and the father of Oedipus. Yep, that Oedipus.
Ares was mad at Cadmus for the slaying of his son.
Dionysus was mad.
Hades was annoyed.
Some women went crazy and turned into monsters.
All the reasons boil down to either the gods were angry or some women were have some epic PMS. All of these things were bad news for the Thebians.
The Sphinx was ordered to guard the road to Thebes, there was apparently only one, and told to pose a riddle to every traveler. If they gave the correct answer, they were allowed to travel into the city. If not, the Sphinx had a nice second breakfast and waited for the next poor soul.
The riddle is a famous one now, but it was new to the Thebians.
What is it that has one voice, and is four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?
The riddle went so long unanswered that no supplies could go in or out of Thebes and the people began to starve. A young man, an orphan named Oedipus, approached the city and was stopped by the Sphinx. He gave the correct answer which was a Man, as a baby, as a man grown, and as an old man with a cane.
The Sphinx, her duty complete, then fulfilled the rest of her prophecy. She threw herself off a cliff and died. The town of Thebes was so happy they made Oedipus king and he married the late king’s wife. Unfortunately, the queen was also his mother and in doing so he fulfilled the prophecy of his own family. That is a story for another time.
In Turning Creek, Pearl Nasso moves in with her family in Storm in the Mountains. Pearl is the Remnant of the Sphinx. She does not speak in riddles, yet, but she is young yet and her story has not yet been written.
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 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.
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:
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! a Rafflecopter giveaway