Mythology Mondays: Chimera

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 book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out July 1st.

I am not sure what is is about Greeks and monsters but rarely were their monsters ever just really big ants or larger than normal, aggressive spiders. All their monsters are one part this, another part this, and why not just throw a goat head on top for kicks, shall we?

The chimera had the body of a lion, the tail of a snake, a set of goat udders, and a goat head projecting up from the middle of its back. Why the udders and random goat head? I think someone had an unhealthy phobia of milking goats but couldn’t convince his friends of the danger, so he mixed the goat with a lion body and snake tail. Instantly scary. Or weird. Maybe both. The important question is, if you could milk a chimera, what kind of cheese would it make?

The Chimera on a red-figure Apulian plate, c. 350–340 BC (Musée du Louvre).
The Chimera on a red-figure Apulian plate, c. 350–340 BC (Musée du Louvre).

Thanks to Buffy, we all know how common barn animals can be frighting. “Except for bunnies.” Thanks, Anya.

The chimera was a female monster in the myths, the daughter of Echidna and Typhon. According to Homer, the chimera had three heads, one lion, one serpent, and one goat to represent the three species which made up the whole. She also had the charming ability to breathe fire.

Bellerophon was sent on a quest to kill the chimera, which he did, riding his trusty steed, Pegasus.

In Turning Creek, the chimera does have the head of a lion and the hind quarters of a snake. I left out the goat bits because I found them a little too odd. The chimera is male, in my tale, and spits fire, though Marina does not give it much of a chance to do so.


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: Hera

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 book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out in July.

The Barberini Hera statue of Roman origin.
The Barberini Hera statue of Roman origin.

Hera was the queen of the gods of Olympus and wife to Zeus, supreme ruler of the gods. While many of the other gods have roots in different regions, Hera is strictly Greek in origin. She was the goddess of marriage which is amusing because her marriage was fraught with strife. At one time, Hera contemplated putting Zeus in chains and once he suspended her in the clouds by her wrists with anvils on her ankles.

Zeus was as famous for his infidelities as Hera was for her jealous nature and the manner in which she punished the women Zeus seduced. Zeus, on the other hand, almost always got away without a scratch. Figures.

Hera pursued Leto unto the ends of the earth while the woman was in childbirth. Leto, wracked with pain, wandered the earth looking for a safe place to give birth, until Asteria, taking pity on the woman, offered her haven. Io was changed into a cow by Zeus to cover up his transgression and Hera stole the cow Io and treated it mercilessly. Hero turned Callisto into a bear and ordered Artemis to hunt it down like a wild animal. Hera killed Semele with trickery and a lightning bolt.

Hera’s wrath was not limited to the mothers. She often hunted, cursed, or generally made the lives of the numerous offspring of Zeus’ unions miserable.

Hera was also celebrated as the goddess of family. She was such a loving mother she threw one of her sons, Hephaestus, over the cliff after his birth because he was deformed. Hera was a hard lady to please.

Hera herself has not made an appearance in Turning Creek. Most of the gods and goddesses disappeared into history after the Fall of Olympus. The harpies have been known to utter the exclamation, “Oh, for Hera’s sake.”

Summer Sale

Many of you will be traveling this summer. Most of my favorite trips are ones that Mr. Rochester and I have taken together: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in summer, Jackson Hole in winter, Scotland, Germany, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and more. We always manage to find the best local beer and walk until we find something of interest.

You might dream of a vacation on a beach like this:


Surfboards for rent in Costa Rica.
Surfboards for rent in Costa Rica.



Or you may want to sit at a cafe like this:

Order a bier and relax, friend.
Order a bier and relax, friend.


Or you may just want to escape into the wilderness:

Telluride, CO
Telluride, CO


No matter what you want to do, you will need a good book. Lightning in the Dark (now with bonus content!) is on sale at all major vendors (except iBooks, sorry). It will remain on sale until a little after Storm in the Mountains is released. When will that be? In the first couple weeks of July, depending on how fast I get it formatted.

Buy a Lightning in the Dark ebook for yourself or a friend.

Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, Nook

Mythology Mondays: The River Styx

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 book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out in July.

Who else wants to totally rock this shirt?
Who else wants to totally rock this shirt?

I am not going to talk about Styx, the 1970s band, who are on tour this summer, and whose songs seem to be composed entirely of earworms. “Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with meeeeee.”

I am going to talk about the River Styx, the river you only see in Greek Mythology if you are dead and your loved ones remembered to put a coin in your mouth or on your eyes for the ferryman’s fee.

The river was named after the goddess Styx, who personified hatred and was an ally of Zeus in the Titan wars. Styx had many children who served under Zeus. She lived in a grotto above the river bearing her name in the underworld.

When a god or goddess took an oath, Iris would fly to the underworld and retrieve a cup of water from the river. The vow was made “By the River Styx” as the oath giver poured out the water from the cup. This vow was seen as binding.

The River Styx separated the world of the dead from the world of the living. When a soul made its way down to the river, it was transported into the underworld by Charon, the ferryman.

The Styx was not the only river of the underworld, but it is the most famous. In Dante’s Inferno, it is the river of the fifth circle of hell. This circle was reserved for people guilty of wrath, anger, and sulliness.

See the souls over whom anger prevailed. In the warm bath of the sun they were hateful, down here in the black sludge of the river Styx do they wish they had never been born.” — Dante’s Inferno, by Virgil

In Turning Creek, Petra is fond of the exclamations “Styx and fire.” Both Petra and Marina are known to say “hells” and “Styx.” All of these sayings reflect Virgil’s version of the underworld with its many levels.

The Remnants, like the real Greek myths, make binding vows “By the River Styx” though they do not dump out water from the river when they do so.

A Marina Update

Publishing is a funny business. If it was only me writing in a little cabin in the mountains, things would be simpler, books would come out faster, and they would also be not as good as we would all prefer. I am, sadly, not in a cabin in the mountains and I have, happily, a small team of people who help me make my books better. Thank you Baby Jesus for editors.

picture attribution
Picture by Charles Knowles.

I wanted to have Marina’s book, Storm in the Mountains, in your eager hands already, but it is not going to happen as quickly as I planned in my head. You know what they say about the best laid plans… they get swept down the river of life.

Storm is almost done. It is so close. I want to tell you it will be June, but to be safe, let’s just say July. In the weeks before Storm comes out, I will be releasing a new version of Lightning in the Dark with some bonus material. The other good news is that Iris’ novella, Letters in the Snow, is written. It just has to get through the editing process.

Marina was an absolute joy to write. She made me laugh and she always keeps Reed on his toes. There are many moments in this book that I love, but the verbal sparing between these two is worth the wait. Trust me.

If you need some suggestions on what to read in the interim, here are some things I recently finished that I loved.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Others series by Anne Bishop (Written in Red, Murder of Crows, and Visions in Silver)

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress)

Hounded by Kevin Hearne (part 1 of the Iron Druid Chronicles)

Eagles Honor Banished by Sandra Schwab (I have not actually read this one, but you can pre-order it now or buy it as a serial. Sandra has never steered me wrong.)

Happy Reading!



Sometimes, We Cry Over the Silliest Things

For Mother’s Day, I shared a snippet of my journey through being a mom of a baby in the NICU. I thought I had faced most of those demons, but we defrosted our fridge last weekend.

When I came home from Texas Children’s Hospital, the Milk Bank sent me home with over 100 bottles of breastmilk I had pumped while staying at the hospital. They represented hours of work and tears. I put them all in the chest freezer. We did not use bottles and they all just sat there. I knew the effort that I had put into those bottles, so I started looking into donating them. It turns out that donating breastmilk is not at all easy to do. Nearly impossible, which is very sad.

Then, Hurricane Ike made an appearance.

We live less than four miles from the coastline and, while we may be at the high point in our neighborhood, we are always in one of the first zones to evacuate. We went north to safety with our four month old baby in tow. Our house was fine, but the electricity went out for about 24 hours. The chest freezer contents were alright, but I did not want to take a chance on the milk if it had even defrosted a little. I had to throw it all out. It was difficult, but I did it.

There was this one bottle though, wedged in a corner and cemented in ice. It would not budge and I left it there.

Seven years later, it was time to defrost the freezer. Past time, actually. I unloaded all the other contents and there was that bottle. I had forgotten it was there, covered up by some cranberries and juice from the lemon tree. It was wedged tight, still. I turned off the freezer and waited. A couple hours later, I knelt down, pulled out the bottle, and took it inside.

I put it on the counter.

I never could fill these things up by pumping. I'm in awe of working moms who do.
I never could fill these things up by pumping. I’m in awe of working moms who do.

The label has his name, medical number (which I had memorized after a few days because I wrote it so often), the date (6/2/08), the time (8am), and medications (which I never listed because I was too tired to write advil every dang time).

I moved it around the counter.

I carried it around the kitchen. I put it in the fridge. I took it out. I put it back on the counter. I looked at it all day.

I could not throw it away.

That night, I was washing dishes, looking at it sitting on the counter, and I started to cry.

That bottle was hours of sitting in a curtained off space in the Milk Bank at Texas Children’s. It was oceans of tears shed while I begged God for the life of my son or the fortitude to survive if he did not. It was words of prayer sent up. It was almost seven weeks of sleeping at the hospital, going to the Milk Bank every 3 hours without fail to pump. It was mastitis and wondering if I was making an effort for nothing. It was pain and heartache.

That bottle was realizing that my baby might live. It was falling in love with Mr. R all over again as he read C.S. Lewis to our boy who we had never yet heard cry. It was holding Gideon for the first time when he finally got off ECMO and was stable. It was rejoicing when I was able to feed him for the first time. It was joy and peace.

That bottle is still sitting in my fridge. Mr. Rochester asked me today if I wanted him to throw it out. I said no. I think I will pour out the milk and save the bottle.

I want to be reminded of that time. I want to remember the tears and the joy. I want to look at it and remember to be thankful for what I have been given because it is a blessing, that child that lived against all odds. I want to remember what it feels like to be cast into the fire and come out refined. I want to remember so I will remember to share my story.

Sometimes we cry over silly things and sometimes we remember why we are blessed by those tears.

Mythology Mondays: The Aegis

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. The second book, Storm in the Mountains, will be out in June.

The aegis is sometimes called the breastplate of Zeus and sometimes referred to as the shield of Zeus. The Aegis was made up of four spirits who were the arm guards of Zeus.

“Across her [Athena’s] shoulders she threw the betasselled, terrible aigis (aegis), all about which Phobos (Terror) hangs like a garland, and Eris (Hatred) is there, and Alke (Battle Strength), and heart-freezing Ioke (Onslaught) and thereon is set the head of the grim gigantic Gorgo (Gorgon), a thing of fear and horror, portent of Zeus of the aigis.” Homer, Iliad 5. 738 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.)

Phobos was the male personification of fear. He was the son of Ares and Aphrodite.

Eris was the female spirit goddess of  strife. She had such a malignant personality that she was the only goddess not invited to  the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. When she turned up anyway, she started a feud that led to the Trojan War.

Alke was the female personification of strength. Ioke was the female personification of pursuit. Both of these spirits are associated with the battle spirits known as the Makhai.

In my mind, these spirits of war and strife are like the Christian version of the Four Horseman of the apocalypse. If they show up, you better hope you have a paddle and a boat to get through that flood of unpleasantness headed your way.

A statue in the  Church of San Vitale of the Four Horseman. Photo by  Cheryl Cook.
A statue in the Church of San Vitale of the Four Horseman. Photo by Cheryl Cook.


Making a Better To Do List

I am not the most organized person owing mostly to the fact that I like piles. Piles of paper. Piles of books. Piles of stuff. My secret organization technique is to leave something in a nice pile for a few months, go through it, realize most of it is too old to be useful, and throw it away. Mr. Rochester does not approve of this.

The one thing I do that is organized is keep a To Do list. Honestly, who does not love crossing things off a list with a fist pump into the air every time you finish a chore? Sad people, that’s who.

About a month ago, a friend pointed me to a To Do list created by Ann Voskamp. (You have to sign up for her newsletter to download the PDFs, annoying, but effective.) I loved that her To Do list had different sections because I often found myself making multiple lists for different things. I decided to try out the list for a month, see what I liked, and what I wanted to change.

What I loved about Ann’s lists:

Menu: I make a weekly meal plan but it was nice to list out the meal for the day on my daily list. It helped me double check ingredients in case the boys had consumed all the milk, cheese, everything in the pantry since I made the weekly menu and went to the store.

She has a section that includes a memory verse, a relationship you were working on, and doxology (a place to write what you are thankful for). These three sections helped me be intentional about what verse or chapter of the Bible I was reading that day, who I wanted to pray for or pay special attention to, and giving thanks for the very many blessings I have in my life.

There is a section for “The Day’s Dire,” things that absolutely must get done that day in addition to a regular To Do list. There is also a timeline for the day so you know if your list is longer than the hours you actually have.

What I did not find useful:

Ann lists Daily To Dos and Domestic To Dos separate from other To Dos. It annoyed me to have my To Dos in so many places. I also never used the “Dailies” list because how disheartening is it to write dishes, laundry, pick up. Every. Single. Day. Just thinking about it makes me sad. Writing it down makes me want to cry. Daily housework sucks out my soul and I did not need to be reminded of that monster eating me bite by bite. The Domestic To Dos list was annoying in the same way but I just disliked having them in a different place. Laundry and vacuuming are not on a different priority level than running errands so I wanted them all together. If I do not go to the store, we starve. If I do not vacuum, the dust bunnies revolt against their human overlords. Either way, we die a horrible death.

I never used the area for workout, food log, or water intake. I do not currently work out and I feel no guilt whatsoever about this.

New and Improved, for Me

I created a new Daily Lists sheet this morning (link goes to a pdf of the form below). It includes everything I liked about Ann’s list and got rid of the things I did not need.

Daily List Pic


I changed “Memory Verse” to The Word. I like to read the same sections or chapters for a week or so at a time, then move on. While I was testing Ann’s lists out, I was (and still am) reading through Galatians, one chapter a week at a time. I kept the work “Doxology” because it reminds of singing the Doxology in the church I grew up in. It also reminds me that while I am to be thankful for blessings I have been given, they have also been given to be used, not hoarded.

I put all the To Dos together. The items that are pressing for the day are starred and at the top.

I bought a cheap clipboard, covered it in purple owl duct tape, and viola. I have a fun new way to keep my daily life organized.

One Caution: No matter how many lists and plans you make, remember to always be flexible. Every day has it’s own surprises and we need to be mindful when we are called to change our plans in service to God and others.

Happy list making.