Creative License

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.

Achilles was a famous warrior in the Trojan War. I did a Mythology Mondays profile of Achilles with more detail. In the original myth, he was slain with an arrow to his heel.

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.

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.

 

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: Asclepius

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.

Asclepius was the son of Apollo and the princess Koronis. His mother died in labor before Asclepius was born. Apollo placed Koronis on her funeral pyre, then, in his grief, cut the still living child from her womb. Thus, the child was named Asclepius, which means to cut open.

The baby was given to the centaur, Kheiron, who was the oldest and wisest of all the centaurs and an immortal god himself. He was skilled in medicine and taught all he knew to Asclepius. In time, the boy grew into a skilled man of medicine who could bring people back from the dead.

Asclepius was married to Epione and sired five daughters whose names reflect health and medicine: Hygieia (hygiene), Panacea (universal remedy), Aceso (healing), Iaso (recuperation), and Aglaea (beauty). He also had three sons named Machaon, Podaleirios and Telesphoros. Machaon and Podaleirios followed in their father’s footsteps and were famous surgeons in their own right. Telesphoros was a dwarf who is always depicted in statues as having a hood over his head. He represented recovery from illness and frequently accompanied his sister, Hygieia. Like many other Greek myths, Asclepius had trouble with fidelity and sired a son out of wedlock, named Aratus, with Aristodama.

Zeus found Asclepius’s skill of bringing souls back from the dead to be unnatural and punished him by striking him dead with a lightning bolt. He was placed among the stars as the constellation Ophiochus, the serpent holder. I’m not sure being made a constellation makes up for being killed, but this was often the consolation prize for myths when Zeus decided they had served their purpose.

While Asclepius does not often appear on reliefs, he is frequently found in sculptures as a bearded man with a serpent entwined staff. A non-venomous Mediterranean snake, called Aesculapian snake is named for Asclepius.

In classical times, a cult formed around the myth of Asclepius. Temples of healing were built in his name and often non-venomous snakes were used in the healing rituals or left to live in the temple itself. Pilgrims would travel many miles to be healed in these temples by men of medicine who followed Asclepius. Followers of Asclepius took oaths to treat the ill with equality.

The original Hippocratic oath taken by doctors began, “I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods …” The symbol of Asclepius, a serpent entwined staff, was the original medical caduceus. Today, the staff is often entwined by two snakes and topped by wings.

This is the logo of the American Medical Association and features the staff of Asclepius.
This is the logo of the American Medical Association and features the staff of Asclepius.

The resident doctor in Turning Creek is Lee Williams, a Remnant and follower of Asclepius. His unique skills sometimes get him into trouble.

Convergence

I was prepared for much of the publishing process. My experience with nonfiction and the research I conducted beforehand helped. There was one thing, though, which neither of these things prepared me for.

Being a writer is a strange thing. Ask any writer and they will tell you we do not live alone in our heads. I live with a miasma of people, their histories and foibles inside my head. They have conversations with each other (which I scramble to jot down in the strangest of places on the note cards I carry), they reveal things to me about themselves, and they act out the dramas which they find themselves enmeshed in.

All inside my head. While I am trying to do other things.

It sounds crazy.

Other writers are nodding their heads, in complete understanding.

People who are not writers often ask, “Aren’t they characters you made up? What do you mean they tell you things and you can’t make them do whatever you want? They aren’t real.”

In my head they are real. It is like having my brain full of imaginary friends.

Then, I did something all writers want to do to the people in their heads. I wrote them down, published them in a book, and now people are reading about the people who live in my head.

The strangest thing has happened to me since then, a convergence.

People are coming up to me and talking to me about my imaginary friends as if they were real. I realize this is a compliment, that they have connected with the characters in a way that makes them real, makes the reader care. It is both hilarious and exhilarating to discuss the motivations of the people I have made up and live in the world I created with other people. I did not expect these conversations and I am enamored of them.

After spending so much time with the characters of Turning Creek, I care for them. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They make me hope for something better in their lives. I want them all to find their purpose and live their life in a way which displays justice, mercy, and love. It breaks my heart to know not all of them will succeed. Most will, but only after much struggle.

Every day, someone else discovers Petra and the gang and it makes me smile to know my characters have taken up residence in someone else’s brain. For a little while, at least.

Want to meet Petra? Lightning in the Dark is available in various formats for your reading pleasure.

 

Mythology Mondays: Iris

Welcome to Mythology Mondays!

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

Today, the day before Lightning in the Dark is officially on sale, I want to highlight the myth of Iris, on which the lovely postmistress of Turning Creek is based.

Iris was the daughter of the sea god, Thaumas, and the cloud nymph, Electra. Iris shared parentage with the harpies. Iris was the personification of the rainbow. She had golden wings and carried two items: a caduceus or winged staff and a ewer of water from the River Styx. She used the water to put those who perjured themselves to sleep.

Iris was the messenger of the gods and could travel swiftly to any place in the world, above the land, under the sea, and to the underworld. In some myths, Iris was the handmaiden and messenger to Hera herself.

Iris had a twin, Arke, who had iridescent wings. Arke became the messenger to the Titans, the enemies of the gods of Olympus. As punishment for this betrayal, Arke’s wings were taken from her by Zeus and given to Achilles.

Iris was married to Zephyrus, the god of the west wind who was also the lover of Celaeno, the harpy. No one does infidelity and other shenanigans like the Greek gods. The son of Iris and Zephyrus was Pothos, the god of sexual longing.

In my series, Iris is the postmistress of a small town. She is the sage, prophet, and friend of the harpies of her generation. Iris sees it as her duty to keep her harpies grounded and help them to be better versions of themselves. She loves old books, letters, and people.

Want to read more about the characters in Turning Creek? Lightning in the Dark, the first book of the series, comes out December 2nd.

It will be available at (links will be live December 2, 2014):

ebook: Amazon, Google Books, Nook, Kobo, All Romance

Print: Amazon, CreateSpace

Mythology Mondays: Harpies

Welcome to the first post in a new series: Mythology Mondays.

The world of Turning Creek is populated with Remnants, descendants of the Greek myths, who have spent the years since the Fall of Olympus blending into mortal society and seeking a life of peace. When I started writing this series, I had some vague ideas about Greek myths, but getting to know the harpies has meant getting to know a ton of other myths as well.

Every Monday, I will highlight a different Greek myth that has woven its way into my series. If you pay close attention to the details, you will see where some of the elements and history of the Turning Creek series originated.

Today, I want to talk about the monsters that started it all: the harpies.

One of the most famous descriptions comes from Dante’s Inferno, which most of us had to read in school and some of us actually enjoyed.

Here the repellent harpies make their nests,
Who drove the Trojans from the Strophades
With dire announcements of the coming woe.
They have broad wings, with razor sharp talons and a human neck and face,
Clawed feet and swollen, feathered bellies; they caw
Their lamentations in the eerie trees

 

The English word harpy comes from the Latin word harpeia and the Greek word harpayia which means “that which snatches” or “swift robbers.” They are famous for many things, including snatching the daughters of Pandareus and delivering them to the Furies and for snatching food from the table of blind Phineus. The harpies were said to be Zeus’s agents of punishment who would torture people on their way to Tartarus and steal things at his command. In some tales, they are called the “hounds of Zeus.”

The number and descriptions of the harpies varies depending on the author of the myth. The number of harpies range from one to three and they are called by a variety of names with different spellings, again, depending on the author. In the earlier myths, the harpies are nothing but the personified destructive power of storm winds. Later they are winged, fair-haired women. Their appearance continued to evolve into that of the foul, bird-like creatures we think of today. They were always seen as violent, destructive, and cruel.

There are four names most often mentioned in relation to the harpies: Aello (storm swift), Celaeno (the dark one) who is sometimes referred to as Podarge (fleet foot), and Ocypete (swift wing).

They lived on the islands of Strophades, also called the Islands of Turning. It was on these islands that they tortured Phineas until the Argonauts came to his rescue. Before Boreades could kill them, the goddess Iris, winged rainbow messenger of the gods and sister to the harpies, interceded on their behalf. At her request, the harpies were spared, but confined to the islands.

The horses of Achilles, Xanthus and Balius, were the result of a union between Celaeno/Podarge and her lover, Zephyron, the West Wind. Zephyron was married to Iris, her sister. Scandalous!

I chose the harpies as my main characters because I wanted to redeem them. 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.

Come back next Monday when we talk about Iris, messenger of the gods and defender of the harpies.

Interested in the Turning Creek series? Lightning in the Dark comes out December 2nd. Available from Amazon, B&N, Google, Kobo, and iBooks. Sign up for my newsletter and never miss a new release.

A Collection of Words

I am a collector of words.

I always have been. I cannot imagine collecting anything else. From a young age, I hoarded books the way other kids hoarded barbies and dolls. The words in books changed my view of the world. They buried themselves in my soul and wove their way into my life. They changed who I was and helped me become who I am in this moment.

At some point, I started collecting other words. Snippets of things I read, things people would say, or words I found amusing. (Fisticuffs is truly a delightful word.) I would jot these words on paper, in notebooks, or on the stack of index cards I began to carry as an adult. I love a well-turned phrase. I collect them. The act of writing them down somehow burns them into my brain. Later, I can take them out, roll them on my tongue, and revisit the emotion in them.

Perhaps, it is a natural progression of collecting words in books, to collecting words on paper, to finally collecting one’s own words. I started writing words from my own imaginings.

The words I wrote when I was younger were touching in their naivete, but I see the seed of the adult I would be in them. I kept writing over the years, most writers have some kind of compulsion which pushes them to write, and I am no different. I wrote stories, poems, and, eventually, nonfiction as my schooling and profession required. Now, I am free to again write fiction and collecting these words has been joyous toil.

I am a collector of words. I read them. I relish them. I feel them. I create them.

Go out and discover some words today, someone else’s or your own, and be a collector of something fabulous.

Cover Reveal: Lightning in the Dark

I am over the moon excited to share with you the cover for Lightning in the Dark, the first book in the Turning Creek series, which will be out in December. The cover artist is Alexandre fom Design Book Cover, who is amazing. There are no words for how well I think the cover conveys the tone of the story. See below the cover to read about the first installment in this new historical fantasy series set in Colorado in 1858.Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00005]

 

Lightning in the Dark

Descended from the mythical harpies, Petra Celaeno is content living a solitary life in the Colorado Territory until she meets dairy farmer, James Lloyd. As her relationship with James grows, Petra fights against her harpy instincts and questions the traditions of her ancestors.

James Lloyd came to Colorado looking for a fresh start, but he can not shake his obsession with a favorite myth from childhood. Something sinister is lurking beneath the earth of the Rockies and it is calling to James.

Life in the small town of Turning Creek is about to change. A terrible prophecy will be fulfilled and Petra will have to choose between protecting her home and saving the man she has come to love.

The Turning Creek Series:
Turning Creek is like countless other small mountain towns, nestled in a valley deep in Colorado Territory, except for one thing. Many of its residents are Remnants, descendants of the Greek myths. Like the mortals they live alongside, they want a peaceful place to call home. Unfortunately, it never stays peaceful for long in Turning Creek.

If you want to know when Lightning in the Dark in available, sign up for my newsletter. I will only email about new releases. If you give me your mailing address, I will send you something fun.

YeeHaw! A RWA Roundup

It was my first time to attend RWA and it will not be my last. My general impressions were that everyone was lovely and transparent. It was breathtaking to meet so many ladies whom I have adored, some of them for years. To come face to face with someone whose words have grown into your heart is a special pleasure I wish for everyone.

San Antonio Riverwalk

First, the disappointments.

There were a couple people I was unable to meet during the four days in San Antonio. The one who sticks out most in my mind is Rhonda Helms. I took a workshop from her a couple years ago and I wanted to tell her to her face how much I appreciated the way that workshop shaped the way I tell stories.

I so wanted to meet Lauren Dane, who writes the Rowan Summerwaite series, which I love. Sadly, she was unable to come, but I still got a book with a signed nameplate.

Lauren Dane

 

The last disappointment was that the LibraryBox experiment was an all around fail. There was not one download from it the entire time, though it was on for four days straight. I am not sure if it was the wrong venue, people just did not hear about it, or authors just are not ready. I am going to try again next year. I still think the idea has merit.

Now, for something completely different: stuff that was fabulous. Please prepare yourself for the virtual equivalent of “Wheeeeeee!”

I spent more money than you can make me admit at the Literacy Signing, but I was able to meet some authors who have crafted characters and stories which make my heart swoon. A couple times, I was so awestruck, I forgot to take pictures. Here are the ones I was especially excited about.

Catherine Coulter

This is me with Catherine Coulter. I grew up reading her romances and she was a quiet, graceful lady in person. It was an honor to meet her. The book in the picture is for my mom, who loves her new series.

Vivian Arend

Vivian Arend writes about shapeshifters and cowboys. Honestly, I have only read the shifter books. They are a special kind of crack for me and I am afraid to even venture into the cowboy ones for fear I will never return. She also rescued my purse after I left it in front of her table.

Zoe Archer

Zoe Archer writes all kinds of delicious things – scifi, historical fantasy, steampunk – and I love them all. She was on a truly fantastic panel which discussed feminism and romance. It was inspiring to be in a room listening to the panel of smart women who think critically about what they write, where the genre had been, and where it is going.

Nalini Signh

Nalini Signh writes paranormal romance and does amazing world building.

Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan writes regency historicals. She has broken away from publishing and now indie publishes. I love her books. I went to some sessions in which she was one of the speakers or the speaker. She was honest about her road to get where she is now. I appreciated her transparency and the sound advice she gave.

And then this happened:

Jax Garren

 

I occasionally review books on this site when I just can not help but tell everyone how much I love and adore a book or series. Here is the review I wrote for the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren. There is a lot of swooning in the review.

After I read the series, I gushed around online about it and Jax, being the lovely person that she is, was nice back. When I realized she was at RWA, I asked to meet her over Twitter. Her response was that she was in the bar, come on down. I could not breathe, but managed to pull it together to act normal when I went down after the session I was in.

Jax is just as lovely in person as she was to me online. She lives in my state and we talked for a long time. I ran into her a few other times during the conference and I think I made a new friend, which awes me a bit.

There are a few people I forgot to get pictures of: Shannon Stacey, who writes one of the very few contemporary series I read (new book out this week!); Eloisa James, who is whip smart and nice; Danielle Monsch, who gave me some great advice; Sarah MacLean; Tessa Dare; and Julie Ann Long. It was amazing. Without fail, people would see my first timer ribbon, ask me questions, and be ridiculously nice.

Most of the sessions I went to revolved around the business of indie publishing. The panels and presenters were, without exception, transparent and full of information. I have a long to do list of things I need to get in line before I upload my first book. I think there were some in the audience who felt overwhelmed, but I was invigorated by the opportunities available in publishing if you plan, persevere, and treat it like a business.

The last night was the awards. Awards

Pictured from left to right: Michelle Boule (me!), Kelly Maher (my roommate), Stephanie Leary (a new friend from Texas), and Tara Kennedy (another new friend). The ceremony was fun, but it was so because I had great company.

Last but not least: The books.

Books

This is the haul I brought home. As I heard in many panels, “It’s all about the books.”

Amen. I am off to write. Thank you to RWA for a great conference.