Cover Reveal: Letters in the Snow (Turning Creek 3)

I am so pleased to finally be able to show you the cover for Iris’s story, Letters in the Snow. Alexandre Rito, who has done all the Turning Creek covers, did a beautiful job, again, on this one. I was concerned Iris’s wing would come out yellow on the cover, but Alexandre managed to make the wing look luminous in the snowy winter sky. I adore it.

The story takes place, appropriately, in February when spring still seems very far away. As suggested by the title, letters are integral to the plot. Many of my favorite books use letters as a plot device. Two of them stick out in my memory. Mr. Darcy writes that beautiful not really an apology letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Folie and Robert fall in love through letters in My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale.

Letters in the Snow officially launches February 25th. You can pre-order ebooks at these fine retailers:  Amazon, Google Play, and Kobo.

The week before it comes out, I will be giving away some free copies to my newsletter group. Sign up for a chance to win a copy before you can buy it.


Subscribe to my newsletter

 

So you want to see the cover?

 

 

Do you?

 

 

Are you sure?

 

 

Here you go!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00071]

 

Release Date: February 25, 2016

Pre-order ebook now on Amazon, Google Play, and Kobo.

Back Cover:
Iris is a simple postmistress in the small town of Turning Creek, Colorado. Simple, except for being a descendant of a Greek myth, having a pair of golden wings, and possessing the ability to speak prophecy. She has had her hands so full guiding the harpies towards their destinies that she has forgotten to seek out her own.

A mysterious letter from an anonymous admirer begins a correspondence that weaves itself into Iris’s heart and awakens a longing for a love of her own. The letters keep arriving, and Iris is increasingly more aware of the charms of Jacob Wells, a newcomer to Turning Creek. She wonders if the letters are from him. But even with Jacob’s charisma and the lure of a new relationship, Iris discovers the heart can’t be contained, and that her heart’s desire might be for someone who was there all along.

Unfortunately for Iris, the letters and the resulting affairs of the heart are not the only perplexing things happening in Turning Creek. Something more than nature is burying the town in a deadly winter blanket, and a closely guarded secret that will change Turning Creek forever is revealed.

Giveaway for Storm in the Mountains

In anticipation of Letters in the Snow coming out (release date to be announced with hoopla soon!) I am giving away some signed copies of Storm in the Mountains.

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.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Storm in the Mountains by Michelle Boule

Storm in the Mountains

by Michelle Boule

Giveaway ends February 08, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I Met Kevin Hearne and Life is Very Good

 

Staked is the latest book in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne and this copy is ALL MINE.
Staked is the latest book in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne and this copy is ALL MINE.

I went to a local bookstore, the delightful Murder By the Book, last week to see an author I liked an awful lot. It was so fabulous, I left loving Kevin Hearne (but not in a weird creepy way) (I swear).

Kevin Hearne writes an absolutely wonderful fantasy set in modern day Arizona whose main character is a witty last-of-his-kind druid. The pages are filled with interesting villains, a hilarious side-kick dog, and side characters that refuse to leave their share of the lime light. The first book is Hounded and you really need to go read it right now. I have not read all the books in the series yet. Part of me does not want to binge through them, afraid I will forget to savor them as they should be savored, like a good beer at your favorite pub. Relax, enjoy these wonderful words.

I have followed Kevin Hearne online for awhile now. He is smart, funny, geeky, and supportive of his fellow writers online. He loves craft beer and is an English teacher when he is not writing, being a dad, husband, and person in the world. I can now attest he is the same in person as he is online to people. He was worth every minute of the hour through Houston traffic (save me) that it took me to get there. If you look at his Twitter feed, you can see all the pictures he posts of fans. It’s amazing. I love it.

He answered a ton of questions, told funny stories, and admitted his writing has a higher purpose. Namely, he thinks we should all be good humans and be nice for Pete’s sake. He was gracious and obviously appreciated the crazy people who turned out to talk to him for ten seconds and buy a book. Worth. Every. Moment and Penny.

This whole post is really a love letter to authors I love that I have fawned over online and in person. Thank you for being gracious when I act ridiculous when I meet you. Words are important to me. I love to write them. I adore reading ones I did not slave over. Thank you for being good humans online and in person. Thank you for writing characters I cry over, cheer for, and think about long after the book is over.

Yours truly,

A grateful consumer of words

 

Mythology Mondays: Satyr

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

Honestly, when I set out to write this, even though I knew it was not accurate, this is what my mind thinks a satyr looks like:

Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Or perhaps like this:

Dancing fauns from Fantasia.
Dancing fauns from Fantasia.

What I tend to think of as satyrs are actually fauns. A much better example of a satyr would be this:

A saytr from the land of Narnia.
A saytr from the land of Narnia.

In true Greek mythology, satyrs were between a faun and the Narnia satyr above. In Greek mythology, satyrs were closely tied with Dionysus though they were also known to cavort with and serve Gaia, Rheia, Hermes, and Hephaestus. They were most often the companions of Dionysus, drinking and playing flutes or tambourines. The flute was their preferred instrument.

A Greek vase depicting a satyr with Dionysus.
A Greek vase depicting a satyr with Dionysus.

Satyrs had the head of a man, but had pug noses, donkey ears, donkey or horse hind legs, and a horse tail. Though their body was mostly hairless, they were almost always depicted with long dark hair and beards. If they wore clothes, they were made from animal skins with the fur still intact and wore laurels of vines or ivy on their brow. They were considered to be symbols of nature, life, and the harvest, and as such were often shown with large, erect members. *cough* If you do a Google image search for satyr quite a few interesting things come up. I would advise you not trying that one at work.

Satyrs often consorted (sexually) with the nymphs, maenads, and other bacchanals. By some accounts, they were adapt at every kind of sensual pleasure. Their main purpose seems to be to follow Dionysus around, drink, and pursue females of all kinds.

Their parentage is disputed. The most widely held belief is that the satyrs were the sons of Hermes and Iphthima or that they were descended from the Naiads. They were also claimed by Silen. Strabo wrote that they were sons of the five daughters of Hecataeus and the daughter of Phoroneus.

In Turning Creek, satyrs make an appearance at the end of Lightning in the Dark as not very welcome additions to a gathering.

Goodreads Giveaway for Lightning in the Dark

This giveaway ends tomorrow!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lightning in the Dark by Michelle Boule

Lightning in the Dark

by Michelle Boule

Giveaway ends January 24, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Books Read in 2015

Before I compiled the numbers, I was sure I was going to average less than a book a week. There were a couple months there I felt like I was not reading at all. Only two books a month?! Ridiculous. In a perfect world, I would just sit on the couch all day and read only getting up to make more tea or go write. Sounds fabulous.

Here are the numbers:

Total = 55
Least Read in a Month – 2 in March and November
Most Read in a Month– 7 in September

Favorite book of 2015: Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

I hate writing this category, sometimes because I read a ton of great books and I do not want to pick one and sometimes because not very many stood out. I read a lot of meh books this year and a lot of books whose covers I remember but the details are fuzzy. Song of Blood and Stone easily stood out from the crowd.

It is set in a world that is wonderfully created. There is a strong romance arc. Penelope uses this world to discuss some extremely timely social issues: injustice, slavery, where do exiles belong, who is an immigrant, what do people’s origins have to do with the person they are/become, bigotry, racism, economic inequality, and fear (especially of the Other). The words of this book are beautifully crafted, as are the characters and, while I appreciated the fantasy and world-building, I loved her light hand on some very heavy topics. Bonus, the main character is a WOC (woman of color).

Other books of note: The author I read the most from is Courtney Milan. There are six of her books on the list and they never, ever disappoint.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a stand out on this list. From the eighties nods to the geek jokes, I devoured that book. Anne Bishop’s Others series was a favorite of mine this year as well. I liked her take on supernatural creatures and want my hands on the last in that series yesterday. Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles are absolutely fantastic.

I have marked some of my other favorites on the list with a *.

Best Reread: I only reread five books this year and three of them, the Tolkiens, were because we are reading them to the boys and only half count. I reread an old Garwood, The Bride, and Emma by Austen. Emma gets tedious in some of the middle bits because, while I love Emma Woodhouse, she needs to be shaken a couple times, so I would have to go with The Bride.

Other notes: If you read my monthly list, you will also see that I went on a bit of a non-fiction journey starting in May on the subject matter of the church and gay people. While I did have a conservative book, a rather large one, to balance my reading, I DNFed so it did not make the list. I felt I already had a solid handle on the conservative argument, so I wanted to read the other side of the coin.

I learned a lot and would highly recommend  to anyone God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. I heard an interview on NPR with him, which is what sparked my journey, and found him to be passionate about God and the Bible. I knew I needed to read his book. Besides being wonderfully researched and well thought-out, it is a passionate plea for Christians to consider another biblical view. I loved it. I think everyone should read it. 

I also read a lot of dragon shifter books, because DRAGONS. They are like crack. I tried an erotic romance (not my first one) and I want to write a whole post on it, but if erotic romance is your thing, the Kit Rocha books are fantastic. Plus the ladies that write them are hilarious online.

The very last book on the list is an indication of things to come. Mr. Rochester has decided we are opening a brewpub and is dragging me along, pint in hand, with him. Enjoy the list!

 

January – 5
Unveiled by Courtney Milan
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Unlocked by Courtney Milan
Unclaimed by Courtney Milan
A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

February – 3
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater*
Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha

March – 2
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
The Trouble With Magic by Patricia Rice

April – 6
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Cress by Marissa Mayer
Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop
This Wicked Gift by Courtney Milan
Proof of Seduction by Courtney Milan

May – 6
Hexed by Kevin Hearne*
Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin
Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church by Jack Rogers

June – 4
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Eagle’s Honor: Banished by Sandra Schwab*
Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick

July – 6
Highland Fling by Amanda Scott
The Avalon Chronicles: Once in a Blue Moon by DeFillipis, Weir, and Vieceli
The Avalon Chronicles: the Girl and the Unicorn by DeFillipis, Weir, and Vieceli
The Bride by Julie Garwood (reread)
Emma by Jane Austin (reread)
Her Man of Affairs by Elizabeth Mansfield

August – 5
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins Through the Woods by Emily Carroll*
Laird Wolf by Vivian Arend
The Polaris Uprising by Jennifer Ibarra
Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland*

September – 7
Medusa, a love story by Sasha Summers
The Lilly Brand by Sandra Schwab*
Wilder’s Mate by Moira Rogers
It Started With a Scandal by Julie Anne Long
Shadow of Flame by Caitlyn McFarland
Burned (Dragos, book 1) by Amber Kallyn
Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend

October – 4
Scandal: a Regency Historical by Carolyn Jewel*
God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines
Rebel Mind by Olivia Dart (pre-release)
Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron*
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

November – 2
A Heartless Design by Elizabeth Cole
Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan

December – 5
Dragon Fall by Katie MacAlister
Avatar of a Dream by Kai Mullins (pre-release)
At Blade’s Edge by Lauren Dane*
Truth of Embers by Caitlyn McFarland
Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope
The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery by Dick Cantwell

Mythology Mondays: Manticore

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. Letters in the Snow (Turning Creek 3) comes out in February.

A Greek historian and physician, Ctesias, who lived in the 4th century B.C., and served in the court of Artexerxes II, wrote a book called Indica (India) which included descriptions of many terrible animals he said could be found in the land of Persia. One such monster he described had a diet which consisted mainly of human flesh.

A brass engraving of a manticore by Joannes Jonstonus.
A brass engraving of a manticore by Joannes Jonstonus.

The Manticore (“man-eater” in Persian) was called Anthropophagos (“man-eater”) by the Greeks. Ctesias described it this way:

It has a face like a man’s, a skin red as cinnabar, and is as large as a lion. It has three rows of teeth, ears and light-blue eyes like those of a man; its tail is like that of a land scorpion, containing a sting more than a cubit long at the end.

The manticore’s stinger had the unpleasant and deadly ability to launch poison darts, like arrows, at its prey. Later, historians theorized the tale of the manticore originated from sightings of nothing more exotic than tigers.

Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century A.D., described the sound of the manticore as a horrifying combination of pan-pipe and trumpet.

Manticores are a staple of many different mythologies and have made appearances in modern fantasy stories and worlds like Westeros (George R.R. Martin) and Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling).

In Turning Creek, the matriarch of the Neal family is a manticore. I will close this post with an amazing picture of some fabulous street art from Australia.

Art by McMillan and Gage from H-Studios.Blogspot.com
Art by McMillan and Gage from H-Studios.Blogspot.com

Finding Safe Harbours

Photo by Chad Sparkes.
Photo by Chad Sparkes.

If you talk to me long enough, you will probably know a few things about me. I am a Christian, I read a lot, and I am a geek girl to my core. My dad raised me to love Star Trek and scifi and it was the one lesson I never argued about.

I loved Joss Whedon before he directed The Avengers and non-geek people took notice of him. My movie collection contains Buffy, Angel, multiple copies of Firefly and Serenity, and a fan film (not made by me). I have books that discuss his world creation and the fandoms that have resulted from the work of this geek god.

I tell you this so you will understand that I love him with zealousness, but I realized last week that he does one thing that I do not like.

He never lets his characters be happy and he keeps a sense of realism by killing off characters we love. Main characters that are unhappy, unfulfilled, or facing the yawning portal of doom drive forward and move the plot along.

This means, as a viewer, I always knew that, while the bad guys might get caught, relationally everything could go to hell (literally in Buffy and Angel) in a moment. If two characters settled down and were happy, one of them would die, or leave, or have a pesky soul getting in the way of them consummating their relationship. If two characters had been pining for each other, the moment one decided it was time to move the relationship forward, the object of their desire would move on, tired of waiting.

It ripped out my guts. It broke my heart. I can describe all those heart-wrenching scenes from those shows because they slayed me. (word choice intended)

I still love Joss Whedon. I think he is a genius, but all that emotional upheaval without some safe harbour is exhausting.

This lack of safe harbour is one of the reasons why I broke up with the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. For the non-geek, they are the Game of Thrones books. I read three or four of them, praying they would get better, but my prayers were in vain. Nothing good ever happens in those books to the characters and if it does, they die a horrible death or want they want/need gets horrifically snatched away. It was emotionally draining and no amount of great prose and character development made up for the way it hacked away at my heart with no glimpse of it ever making a turn for the better.

Recently, I read At Blade’s Edge by Lauren Dane and I realized Joss Whedon and the Martin books scarred me. At Blade’s Edge is the fourth in the Goddess With a Blade series and I highly recommend it. Like drop everything and read this book, recommend it. In the fourth book, Rowan, the main character, has finally found a safe harbour in the midst of a very violent and responsibility filled life. Her harbour grounds her, makes her stronger and lets the reader know that things can still be going to hell in a hand basket, but there is hope.

The entire time I as reading At Blade’s Edge, I was waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me. Dane has never done this to me as a reader, the way Whedeon and Martin do, but a sense of dread followed my reading. I was so caught up in my worry, I failed to let myself become emotionally attached to the relationship cementing on the pages. I was waiting for the worst to happen and for Rowan’s harbour to be smashed to pieces. I wanted desperately for that not to happen. It did get dented, but at the end of the book, Rowan’s harbour is, mostly, in tact and that made me realize something.

There is power in a safe harbour.

I want the characters I love to have one good thing even if the world around them is crumbling at their feet. I need them to be able to come back to one person they love and who loves them back. I want an HEA* or some semblance of it. I need it. Not only do the characters need a safe harbour, so do I.

I am not talking about a unicorns pooping rainbows kind of HEA. It does not have to be perfect, but I do want some hope at the end, a light that tells me all is not lost for the characters I have come to love. I think everyone deserves some peace and happiness.

I know that real life is not like that. I know many people live desperate, horrible lives filled with pain, abuse, hunger, and death. Life on this planet sucks an awful lot.

But sometimes it doesn’t and we need to be reminded that life can be good. Life can be great, fantastic, and amazing.

When I read a book, I want to be entertained by hope and happiness. You can take me to hell, but I want you to drag me back from the brink before you write The End.

As a writer, I can promise, even with only a few books under my belt, that I will never leave you without a safe harbour to dock your ship, fold up sail, and have a nice rest with someone you love.

 

*Happily Ever After

 

Mythology Mondays: Echidna

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. They make great Christmas gifts. 

I am not, sadly, going to talk about this Echidna, also known as the Spiny Ant Eater.

echidna animal
Look at that cute face!

Instead, we are talking about Echidna,  known as the Monstrous Mother of Monsters, who was both prolific in her fecundity and frightening in what she produced. The myths of Echidna and Python are frequently the same stories.

Her parentage is much disputed, but all stories hold fast to the tale that she was born of slime and rotting things. In one version, she springs from the leftover sludge from the great Deluge. Yes, that one that Noah rode through in his ark. Echidna had the head and breast of a woman and the body of a serpent or dragon. She needed those breasts, apparently, for all the horrible children she would eventually bear.

Echidna was given in marriage to the horrible Typhon, the one hundred headed dragon beast. You know they saying, “There’s someone for everyone”? It turns out, Echidna took one look at all of Typhon’s scaly heads and fell head over dragon body in love with him. Typhon, likewise, was quite taken with his new bride. So taken that they spent much of their time engaging in marital relations because their list of offspring was both impressive and frightening.

Their children included:

  • Orthus – the two-headed hound
  • Cerberus – the three-headed hound
  • The Sphinx – the half feline, half woman who ate men who could not answer her riddles
  • Nemean Lion – who could only die by strangulation
  • Ladon – the dragon
  • Lernaean Hydra – a dragon who lived in water and spit acid
  • Chimera – a fire breathing  lioness with a snake tail
  • Caucasian Eagle – who ate the liver of Prometheus every day
  • Crommyonian Sow – a vicious pig who terrorized the region around Crommyonian
  • The Gorgons – fierce female monsters who ate men and whose number included Medusa
  • Colchian Dragon – guarded the Golden fleece and never slept, ate, or wavered
  • Scylla – sea goddess with the head of a woman and the body of a snake
  • Harpies – in some versions the harpies spring from the loins of Echidna and Typhon
  • Other various serpents and plagues on mankind

I wonder what their family gatherings were like when they all sat around the table for dinner together.

Echidna: Sphinx darling, what did you learn today?

Sphinx: I learned fat, stupid men taste delicious.

Echidna: That sounds lovely, my dear.

In most of the myths, Echidna is an ageless horror. There are two accounts of her death. In one, Apollo slays her to rid the Earth of her foul presence. In another, she is slain by Argos, the hundred-eyed giant at the behest of Hera because Hera had grown tired of Echidna’s foulness.

Echidna and some of her most famous offspring come to Turning Creek but to tell you more would spoil the fun.

 

Jesus Was Not An Isolationist

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I dare you to prove that statement wrong.

He loved the unlovable. He loved the outsider. He loved when it was hard. He put himself in physical danger. His disciples were driven from their homes. Stephen was stoned in the street. All but one of the first disciples (except Judas Iscariot) died violent deaths at the hands of others.

Because of love. Because they believed there was something more important than their safety, something so important it required everything of them.

You can argue about safety and security, but none of that matters in the face of love. None of that matters in the face of such need.

That’s a dangerous thing to think, you might say.

Damn right.

Love is dangerous. Love is hard. Love is messy, but if you do it right, love is everything.

We are called to love despite the danger, despite the hardships, and despite the fear.

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

There are no qualification there, no exceptions, no room to wiggle out of what we are morally called to do.

I sit here in my safe house, in my relatively safe country, with food to eat, and I think I am not loving enough. We can’t say no to people in need because of fear. We can’t let danger, hate, or insecurity be bigger than the one thing God asked us to do.

Love God. Love others.

He asked it of us because it is stronger than everything else, anything else. Love can change the world because it is the most dangerous thing of all.

There are a lot of organizations helping refugees. Donate to one. There are a lot of organizations helping people in your own community. Give some time to them. The hurting of the world belong to all of us and it is about time we stopped acting like it’s not our problem.