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.

Whatever the Circumstance

This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers.

Not that I speak from want; I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. – Paul writing to the Philippians 4:11

I am stuck in the middle of revisions. I have been floundering since I started this step in the writing process. My brain, which normally has no problem with words, has turned to mush. Needless to say, I have not been content in my writing life.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the launch party for Chasing the Lion. This book and its author had a long way to publication. Nancy Kimball is one of the most amazing ladies I know and I am truly blessed to have her as a friend. I smiled all day for her and for many days after. She reminds me that no road is easy, but we still have to make the right choices and be thankful.

At Nancy’s party, I was also able to reconnect with other authors I know and meet some new ones. We are all at different stages in our lives and careers, but we have two things in common: a love of the written word and a love for the Lord. These encounters reminded me why I write. They each, in their own way, encouraged me to persevere. I had forgotten, in my battle with revisions, to be thankful for where I am.

I have everything to be thankful for and I neglected in the past weeks to find contentment in my circumstance. When I pause to consider where I started, how far I have come, and where I have yet to go, I am excited and thankful. I am content.

For you: In what ways have you let daily frustrations rob you of contentment? What can you be thankful for today?

For your characters: When they face a frustration, what is their reaction? How do they handle a situation for which they feel unequipped? What will it take to make your character feel contentment or even joy in their circumstance?

The Best in This Moment

When I wrote Mob Rule Learning, it was the longest piece of writing I had undertaken at that time. Before that, the bulk of my writing had been articles and blog posts. The glory of writing for the web is the constant feedback, discussion, and metamorphoses a conversation can undergo in hours, days, or months. Writing long form non-fiction was painful because it is like writing in an echo chamber. I spent a lot of time wondering, “What the heck do I know any way?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

Since then, I have completed three fiction manuscripts and I have one WIP (work in progress). The process of writing the first draft of fiction is wonderful. I love the worlds I have created and I love the process of weaving words together.

I took the next step and found an editor I thought would mesh well with my writing and my goals and who would challenge me. I am now in the middle of development revisions for the first book in a series I want to release next year and I have learned something valuable.

This stage of fiction writing is just as painful as writing long form non-fiction.

The reasons are different for each type, but it boils down to the same questions, “What the heck do I know?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

In facing these questions again, but for different reasons this time, I know that no matter what kind of stuff you write, if you are author, you spend time wrestling with these questions. The secret is to get past them quickly because they can mire you in indecision and immobilize your brain.

This morning, when you sit down to do the thing you do (write, teach, cook, lead, or change the world) be the best you can be today, this moment, and keep pushing forward. If we do it right, each moment teaches us something new and wonderful and each moment we improve.

Development revisions are painful and I have spent the last week pulling out my hair, but I want what comes at the end, a better book, and so I persevere.

Whom shall I fear?

This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.
Psalm 27:1-3

Memorizing scripture comes up often enough in different classes I have taken over the years. My response has always been, “I don’t want to,” which is a terrible attitude in general. A close friend memorized the entire book of James last year and she said it changed her life. It was the last nail in the coffin of my excuses.

I am starting with what has come to be my life’s verse, or rather verses. Some people claim a verse, I claim the entire chapter 27 of Psalms, as my guide. I know it is a bit excessive, but each part has resonated with me at different times. Last week, I started with the first verse of my favorite Psalm.

“Whom shall I fear?”

We fear many things, some real, some imagined. I am scared of the dark, still at thirty-six, and I find myself walking faster through dark halls. I am scared of my own failings, that I will allow my faults to define who I am becoming.

We fear death, our own and of those we love. We fear pain and failure. Sometimes, we fear the truth and the consequences it holds. We fear the scars and baggage we carry from our past experiences. Our entire lives can be wrapped in fear of one thing or another.

Fear has the ability to rob us of what we should be enjoying. It robs us of peace and thankfulness.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…”

Faith is our light in the darkness. It is our salvation in a world bursting with things to fear. Our anxiety and fears should be handed over the the Lord because all we have comes from Him. In Him, we can find strength and courage to face what comes for us.

I am still afraid of the dark most nights, but I know where my strength comes from.

For you:

What fears are keeping you from living your full life? Turn them over to God and look for one way to step out of our fear this week.

For your character:

What is their greatest fear? What is the origin of this fear? Are they forced, over the course of the plot, to confront their fear? When presented with the opportunity to overcome it, do they? If not, what are the consequences for them and for others?

Gathering Fruit

This is part of a series of devotionals for writers.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. -Galatians 5:22-26

I will be honest. I struggle with this passage. All these things, these fruits which are the natural out flowing of our love for the Lord, are hard for me.

I struggle with loving people who are mean. I struggle to find joy in an afternoon of housework. I struggle to have forbearance, also known as patience, every moment of every day. I struggle to be kind to people who say hurtful things. I struggle with having faith when the process becomes long and hard. I struggle with being gentle when my spirit tells me to charge in and take control. I struggle with keeping my big mouth shut when a little self control would save me from some apologies later.

It is hard to harvest these fruits.

I can say though that I am better than I used to be. I have more patience than I used to when presented with an opportunity to be impatient. I choose to keep my mouth shut more often. I have more self-control. I find more moments in my day where I notice the peace, joy, and love around me and then I turn and show that to others with my words and actions.

I do not always choose the right thing, but I make better choices more often than I used to. I will never be perfect, but God does not ask perfection of me. He only asks that I try with my whole heart and that I improve over time. He asks that, in striving towards Him and becoming like Him, I grow into a better version of myself.

For you: Are you making better choices today than five years ago? If yes, say a prayer of thanksgiving and ask for new ways you can change and grow. If not, what one small thing can you do this week to make a change?

For your character: What thing on this list of fruits is hardest for them and why? Does the plot force them to confront their fault and do they grow as a result? Do they lose something, a relationship or opportunity, because of this fault? How do they deal with the loss?

 

Justice, Kindness, and Humility

This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

The Lord requires we do justice. It means helping those who have fallen and speaking up for those without a voice. It means seeking justice for others when they cannot but it also means acting with justice towards others. Sometimes it means extending grace and forgiveness to someone who does not deserve it. It may mean making a hard choice because it is right and then facing a storm of consequences.

The Lord requires we love kindness. Kindness is actions and words which place value on other people and not ourselves. It means speaking words which edify and not destruct. It means reaching out and offering a warm embrace to the lonely, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry. It means we love to do kindness more than our need to be comfortable or serve ourselves.

The Lord requires we walk humbly before Him. This is the toughest one for me. It means laying aside my pride and humbling myself before Him. It means submitting to His authority and doing what is right in His eyes which is love Him and love others. It means looking to serve instead of be served. It means looking for ways to love others instead of seeking love for myself. It means I am not the center of the universe.

For you:

Which is hardest for you, justice, kindness, or humility? What is one practical way you can extend justice, kindness, or humility to someone else this week?

For your character:

What do they do when they see injustice done to someone they love? What if the person is a stranger? Does it change their reaction and subsequent actions?

Twitter Dos for Writers

Like all tools, we need to use Twitter (and other social media tools) for good and not evil. As writers, we are our product. We steer the company and we have control over what we put out into the ether. Once the information is out in the wild, we lose control, but the initial message and how we communicate it is all on us. Communicate it well.

Twitter is a fabulous way to build a circle of professionals to whom you can pose questions. It is also a concise and interactive way to build relationships with your readers. If you want a list of Twitter Dont’s, read the post from two weeks ago.

How do you walk the line between building a following and pushing your product too hard? Grab a cup of your beverage of choice, sit back, and let me offer you some advice to get you started.

Do

Have a good profile and keep your picture consistent across platforms. Your profile should not be too long or short and it should convey just enough information for people to find you. Don’t give your enitre CV or list every book you have ever written. Be concise and show your personality. My Twitter profile describes what I do, who I am, and is amusing (I think). If you use more than one social media platform, keep your picture consistent across platforms. This will help people instantly recognize that they have found the right you. After all, as an author, you are your own brand.

Use a management tool. There are many different ones to choose from, but I prefer Hootsuite. The free version does just about everything you need to control and stay on top of your different social media accounts. It allows you to schedule posts ahead of time which is especially helpful for promo tweets. Hootsuite makes it easy to keep up when people @ you or DM you and then allows you to respond quickly.

Be a human being. You are not a robot and your Twitter account should reflect the fact that you are a living breathing person who has good and bad days. Be yourself. Be funny. Interact with people. Tell jokes. Share successes and failures. Be real. People want to interact and follow people who have something to say or will share something which will enhance their day in some way. In order to be that person for someone else, you have to be real.

Schedule promo tweets to happen at different times on different days. If you share the same promo tweet every day at the same time, you are not reaching any new people and you are annoying the ones you are reaching. Use a variety of promo tweets and schedule them to happen at different times throughout the week. Be very judicious in how often you send promo tweets. Except on launch days or other special times, once a day is plenty. See the above suggestion for being a human being.

Follow people doing the same thing as you. Use the search and suggestion features to follow other writers. Follow authors you admire and tell them how much you love them. Find people with similar hobbies or researchers specializing in the topic of your next book. Better yet, find your local library or friendly librarian on Twitter and follow them. They will be tickled all shades of pink to answer your questions. Believe me. Librarians live to answer the questions of others. After you find people to follow, be a human being and talk to them.

Use the list function in Twitter. You can add people to different lists and then have those lists appear as columns in Hootsuite. The people you know IRL and the people you interact with often should be in their own list. This will enable you to read their tweets separate from the influx of tweets from others and continue to develop your relationship with them.

Be nice. I said this in my Twitter discussion of Don’ts, but I will say it again. Just be nice. Have opinions but have compassion for others and be nice. A good rule to follow is if you have constructive criticism, offer solutions to the challenge before you instead of just harsh words. We’re all in the same sea here. Just keep swimmin.’

What would you add to this list? What do you think is an essential skill or guideline to follow on Twitter?