Mythology Mondays: Harpies and Redemption

Most Mondays, 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 available in May. Cover reveal coming soon! Real soon. Later this week soon.

I am going to be changing things up for Mythology Mondays for two reasons. One, there are many other things to talk about in regards to myths besides just profiling them, that I think are important to writing and storytelling. Second, because this is my party and I can. :)

Occasionally, instead of a myth profile, I want to talk about myths themselves, the cultural construct of them, why they stick around, why we are so fascinated by them, and why I love them. Ready? Here we go!

I have been pondering over the idea of redemption recently. As a Christian, this is a common and central theme to my own belief system. Redemption is found in fiction, in music, in movies, and everywhere. It is pervasive because it is something we, as humans, long for. I believe we were created that way. Your opinion may differ, but the fact remains, redemption is important in the way we view the world.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a guest post on redemption at Para Your Normal in which I discussed how to take a shady character, like a harpy, and construct a plan to redeem them through writing. No matter what genre you write, you start with a character and a problem. At the end of the story, you should end up with a problem that is solved (or on its way to being so) and a character who has grown into a better version of themselves.

In my profile on harpies a few months ago, I said, “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.”

In mythology, harpies are nasty things, think The Last Unicorn.

The harpy attacking from The Last Unicorn.

The harpy attacking from The Last Unicorn.

When I was a kid, this moment in the movie (along with several others) completely creeped me out. I loved the movie though.

As an adult, the only book I can recall having a harpy as the main character is Thea Harrison’s Kinked, from her Elder Races series. Aryal is an amazing character that I loved from the beginning of the series. I am so behind on this series, but it is fabulous.

Mythology is ripe with characters who need redemption. The fun thing about working with myths is that a framework is already there. As a writer, I do not have to start from scratch to create a world or the people that fill it. In many myths, characters who do not find redemption are punished and punished harshly. Narcissus, Bellerophon, and Cronos are only three of many from Greek mythology alone who met unfortunate ends because of their failure to make better choices.

As readers, we want to see redemption stories. We want to see that good things can happen to characters we have come to love. I adore a good villain who mends their ways and then has to make retribution. It takes strength of character to admit wrong and then try to fix the transgressions. This is one reason why romance is rife with the wounded hero, the reformed rake, and the penitent villain.

My harpies not only need redemption, they have to find a way to redeem their most prominent but problematic characteristic: violence. The each have to find a way to make sense of what they are and then use that knowledge for the good of their community and those they love. How they answer that question is different for each of them and their struggles, while similar, are not the same.

Redemption is unique to the bearer. The theme is the same, but the way we find it is different. Some paths to redemption are easy. Some paths are uphill both ways in the snow barefoot.

May your path be straight and level today.

Fly Me To the Mountains

I recently went on a family trip to Keystone, Colorado. I grew up going to Colorado for summer camping vacations. Sometimes, there are places where you know you belong. My soul belongs in the jagged peaks of the rocky mountains. I have lived at sea level in sweltering heat my entire life, but I have always known this was not where I belonged. When I sat down to write a story with characters who needed a wild and beautiful place, there was no question where it would be. I chose a fictional Colorado mountain town called Turning Creek.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

Turning Creek, in my mind, is outside the mineral belt of Colorado, somewhere west of Leadville. Some of the mountains have similar names to other peaks in Colorado. Pikus Peak is a play on Pike’s Peak, one of the fourteeners. Silvercliff is a Christian camp my church takes our youth group to every year. It is a place I have found peace and joy as I watch young people I love find peace and understanding with the Lord.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

It was a singular joy to go to Keystone this past week and see real, honest to goodness, road-closing snow for the first time in my life. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming three years ago and while there was plenty of snow, very little of it fell during our trip. I know some of my readers from the great white north are laughing, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen real snow. I have also never seen real fall leaves, but I digress.

This post is about the mountains and what I did there not how deprived of seasons this southern girl might be.

Everyone went skiing, except me. I am horrible at it and am not too fond of the endeavor so I sat for two days and consumed more caffeine than is recommended at a delightful place called Inxpot. As an unexpected bonus, Inxpot serves Mules, a colonial era drink featuring ale or ginger beer, alcohol, and lime. I had one with ginger beer, honey whiskey, and lime. It was wonderful. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, I researched Mules and a drink called Flip for Letters in the Snow, a Turning Creek novella featuring Iris, which comes out this summer. Flip was the drink that got Paul Revere drunk on his overnight ride to warn the militia.

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

I sat, drank coffee, and wrote the first couple chapters of Plagues of the Heart, the third Turning Creek book, featuring Dora. I walked around quite a bit breathing deeply and remembering all the reasons I love the mountains. Did you know that mountain streams smell different than other moving bodies of water? They do and it is a fabulous smell.

Mostly it was an amazing  trip because it has been a very long time since I was able to go on a family vacation with my boys.


I wish all of you a place of joy in your life, where your soul feels at home and where there are people with which to share the view and a good drink.



Mythology Mondays: Zeus

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.

I sat down to write this post and the word that keeps going through my head is philandering.

When I was younger, I thought of a guy like this:

Zeus from Disney's Hercules.

Zeus from Disney’s Hercules.

I knew Zeus had a lot of children, and not all of them with his wife, Hera, but I did not understand the true depth of his wandering ways until I read a few articles and books which referenced his seduction/rape of Leda in the form of a swan. As an aside, The Swan Thieves by Kostova is a wonderful book. If you want to see some great depictions of this aspect of the Zeus myth do a Google image search for Leda and the swan. Be warned though, many of the results, while beautiful art, are NSFW.

Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy by Peter Paul Rubens, after a lost painting by Michelangelo

Leda and the Swan, a 16th-century copy by Peter Paul Rubens, after a lost painting by Michelangelo

By some counts, Zeus had relations with as many as 70 women and that makes for a whole slew of immortal and half-mortal children. I suppose if he looked like this:

Luke Evans as Zeus in the Immortals

Luke Evans as Zeus in the Immortals

I would consider his advances. Zeus was well known for seducing women in other forms. He seduced Leda as a swan, Europa as a bull, Kallisto as Artemis (both females), Antiope as a satyr, and Danae as a golden shower (insert crude joke here). I am not making this up. It seems Zeus was willing to stoop to any level to trick or coerce women into having sex with him. Why couldn’t he just buy them a drink or a villa or something?

In between chasing women, Zeus was busy inspiring culture across the civilized world. He was the giver of prophecy, controlled the weather, was the god of law and justice, and he kept a tight rule on the other immortals who lived on Mount Olympus. He was respected by other gods and mortal supplicants and was often referred to as ”Father.”

For every story of good, there is a another example of his despotism. Zeus is credited with killing his father and saving his siblings, but also with starting and controlling the Trojan War. He took revenge on mortals and gods alike who he felt did not give him his due or who went against his wishes. Zeus held onto power by being ruthless. In his defense, he was the ruler of other gods whose reputations were also less than stunning and he had to one up them to keep them in line.

In the Turning Creek universe, Zeus leans towards the despot version of the myth. He was a tyrant who abused his followers to such an extent that they rebelled. In the mythology of Turning Creek, the original four harpies led a revolt against the father of all gods and destroyed Mount Olympus. His true destruction is uncertain and he is remembered with a mix of fear and hate. All the Remnants lost something in the war and the harpies lost one of their own. James Lloyd, one of the main characters in Lightning in the Dark is a Zeus history buff which causes some issues with Petra, who has a healthy wariness and hatred for Zeus.



Sometimes, We Just Need a Reminder

Sunday night, I realized I had completely forgotten about writing a Mythology Mondays post. I waffled a bit, but decided to give myself some grace. We are getting ready for vacation this week to Colorado and everything is just as crazy as you expect it might be. Next week, Mythology Mondays will be featuring Zeus and boy do I have a lot to say about him. Other, new fun stuff is happening next week, so stay tuned.

One reminder for you, dear readers: If you read Lightning in the Dark, please write a review. It makes a big difference to sales and marketing efforts for small indie authors like me.

I offer you a quote to take with you on your day. Here is a picture of my oldest son a few years ago on a summer trip to Colorado.


Mythology Mondays: Aphrodite

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.

Technically, Aphrodite has not appeared in Turning Creek. I am not saying she won’t at some point, but I wanted to give her a Mythology Monday because it is February after all.

There are things many of us can recall about Aphrodite from school. She is the goddess of love and beauty. Her symbols are a golden apple, a dove, a scalloped shell, and a mirror.

What you may not have known about her is that she was born under mysterious and unbelievable circumstances, even for the Greeks. The most common tale goes something like this:

The Titan Kronos wanted to rule so he did the only logical thing. He overthrew his father, Uranus, and then castrated him to ensure no other heirs were born. To seal the deal, he threw his father’s genitals into the sea. This is where the story gets a dose of crazy poured all over it. The sea foam swirls around Uranus’s severed genitals and Aphrodite springs from that mix.

Only the Greeks would have created a goddess of beauty and love from a mix of blood, genitals, other body fluids, and sea foam. Aphrodite is well known throughout the world, even places far outside of Greek and Roman influence. The picture shown below is a fountain of Aphrodite in Mexico City.

"Aphrodite fountain" by Doctor_Doomsday (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia.

Aphrodite fountain” in Mexico City by Doctor_Doomsday

Aphrodite did many things during the course of her life. You may remember from a previous post that she helped Hippomenes win the love of Atalanta through the use of her golden apples. How do you like them apples? (Sorry, not sorry.)

You may also recall that one version of Hippomenes and Atalanta’s demise is through Aphrodite who was affronted that they did not attribute their wonderful love to her deceptive intervention during the courtship. Like all goddesses, she often claimed and demanded more credit than she was due and lashed out vengefully when her desires were not met.

Aphrodite’s list of misdeeds and revenge include:

  • Cheating on her husband, Hephaestus, with her lover Ares. She was caught and punished for this misdeed.
  • During the Trojan War, she went to rescue her son, Aeneas from the battle, Diomedes wounded her in her hand, she dropped her son, and ran home to Mount Olympus to complain of her misfortune.
  • Causing the gods to become inflamed with lust for mortals as amusement.
  • A mortal named Smyrna, failed to give homage to Aphrodite. As punishment, Aphrodite caused her to be inflamed with lust for her father. She bore a son through this unholy union named Adonis. Aphrodite later fell madly in love with the adult Adonis, who was gored by a bull.

Aphrodite was the goddess of love and there are numerous stories of her helping out lovers or assisting in the cause of true love.

This month, celebrate love and Aphrodite with a good book, snuggle close to someone you love, and try not to think too much about that sea foam. Unless that’s your thing.

Mythology Mondays: Bellerophon

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.

Bellerophon, was said to be the son of Poseidon and the Corinthian princess, Eurynome. Eurynome was, of course, married when she became with child by Poseidon. The joining may have been by mutual agreement as her husband, Glaucus, was the son of Sisyphus who had been cursed by Zeus to have his family line die out.

It never is simple with the Greeks.

Bellerophon has the ordinary life of a rich, titled prince until he commits murder. There are various stories about who he killed, either a brother or another noble of Corinth. Either way, he was exiled for his actions and sent to live in the court of Proetus.

Enter in the deceitful woman. Proetus’s wife tries to get Bellerophon in her bed. He refuses. Repeatedly. She does not take kindly to being rebuffed and tells Proetus that Bellerophon has made inappropriate overtures to her. She demands that her husband kill Bellerophon in retribution for her threatened virtue.

Bellerophon is a charming man and Proetus likes him. He is loathe to kill a man he admires. I would venture to say it is was also probably likely that Proetus was not ignorant of his wife’s character. Proetus comes up with an idea that he believes will both soothe his conscience and appease his snake of a wife.

Proetus sends Bellerophon to his father-in-law, Iobates of Lycia, with a sealed note instructing the man to kill Bellerophon. Iobates feasts for nine days with his guest before opening the letter. When he does so, he does not want to comply with the request. It was considered very bad form to murder a person to which you had extended your hospitality.

Instead of killing Bellerophon, Iobates sends him on a quest, which he believes will probably kill the young man. Bellerophon amazes everyone and completes the quest, and the next one, and the next, and the next.

It is in this manner that one of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology begins. By the time Bellerophon is done, he has completed the following feats:

  • Captures Pegasus, the winged horse, with the help of a golden bridle from Athena.
  • Slays the fire-breathing Chimera.
  • Defeats the Solymi, a war-like tribe of Lycia.
  • Defeats the Amazons, women who fought like men.
  • Kills the Carian pirate, Cheirmarrhus, who had been sent to assassinate him.
  • When Proetus’s castle guard is sent to assassinate him, Bellerophon calls upon Poseidon, who floods the plain and drowns the soldiers.
A floor mosaic from Syria depicting Bellerophon and Pegasus defeating the Chimera.

A floor mosaic from Syria depicting Bellerophon and Pegasus defeating the Chimera.

Iobates realizes his plan has failed and, in true ancient history fashion, gifts his daughter to Bellerophon and makes him heir to the throne. Bellerophon sired three children with his wife, Isander, Hippolochus, and Laodamia.

Over time, Bellerophon began to believe he deserved to be welcomed into the halls of Mount Olympus. He was eaten up by his pride. He attempted to fly Pegasus up Mount Olympus to join the gods by force. Zeus was angered by his impertinence and sent a gadfly to bite the flank of Pegasus. The horse threw off Bellerophon who fell to the earth and landed in a bramble of thorns.

Pegasus was welcomed into Zeus’s stable. He carried Zeus’s lightning bolts when the god went off to war.

Bellerophon, blinded and crippled from his fall, spent the rest of his life as a wandering hermit consumed with bitter gall for his treatment.

In Turning Creek, I fudged the details about Bellerophon a bit, but his pride and sense of entitlement are definitely intact.

Mythology Mondays: Nymphs

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.

You might have a vague idea of what a nymph is and I would guess your level of nerd influences your ideas about this creature. I am a nerd, so my first inclination is towards the Dungeons and Dragons version on the nymph. It is OK to admit that here.

According to the D&D Monster Manual Core Rulebook III (which I have sitting on my desk right now), a nymph is a fey and “nature’s embodiment of physical beauty.” They hate evil and can blind or kill anyone who looks at them directly with their beauty. They are solitary creatures, live in wild areas, and avoid conflict when possible. They will fight to preserve the purity and sanctity of nature. If you want to know, and I know you do, their hit die is a 3d6.


Greek mythology abounds with nymphs of all kinds. Nymphs were female spirits who ruled and protected natural and wild areas including lakes, springs, rivers, caves, clouds, trees, beaches, and fields. They cared for the plants and animals in their domain. They were not gods themselves, but were often involved with the gods and were frequent attendees to events on Olympus.

There were many classes of nymphs, which mostly depended on where they chose to live. Unlike the D&D version, Greek nymphs often lived in groups. They served as handmaidens to goddesses, had relations with the gods and bore their children, married mortals and gods alike, and served often as nurses or nurturers to gods and children.

In Turning Creek, there are a number of nymphs running around in various forms. Beth Kramer, wife of Simon Kramer, runs the mercantile with her husband and is a nymph.

Books Read in 2014

Total Books Read: 56

Most Books Read in One Month: January with 8

Least Books Read in One Month: The fall was abysmal. I read an average of 2 books per month. At the time, I was slogging through the last two Outlander books and book 7 (Echo) was a hard read for me. I think it has replaced Voyager as my least favorite.

Summary: I read a ton of wonderful things this year. This list does not include my DNFs (Did Not Finish) so if a book was really bad, it is not on here. I admit, I plowed through a couple bad ones, but they were few. My list is chock full of historicals, paranormals, and paranormal historicals. It is pretty obvious what my reading tastes are.

Favorite Reread: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I reread it along with the show and fell in love again and again. I wrote a post about sexuality and marriage in Outlander because I love it that much. Outlander has been my favorite book since I first read it in high school and it has yet to be replaced. I also reread Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab, again. I’m sorry. I can’t help myself. Did you know Sandra has some lovely novellas out right now? They are on the list below.

Favorite New Read: I am going to go completely off track and choose a nonfiction as my favorite read because it was THAT good. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink blew me away. It was like reading about a beautiful, heartbreaking train wreck everyone knew was coming and yet no one prepared for. The way Fink writes about the doctors and staff and the absolutely crazy things that happened during Katrina in New Orleans wrecked me. Even if you hate nonfiction, you need to give this one a try.

A close second was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book is gorgeous. The plight of the common German citizen and the impact the Nazis had on their daily lives is beautifully wrought by Zusak. I adored this book.

Authors I Can’t Get Enough Of: Sandra Schwab, Lauren Dane, Eloisa James, Courtney Milan

Authors Who Were on my TBR List Forever, Finally Got a Read, and Now I Love: Nalini Singh, Kevin Hearne, and Bec McMaster

January – 8
Blade to the Keep by Lauren Dane
Springtime Pleasures by Sandra Schwab
Damon: The Protectors Series by Teresa Gabelman
Blade Song by J.C. Daniels
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis
Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster
Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster
Nightfall by Rebecca York

February – 6
The Silver Chair by CS Lewis
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Strong Enough To Love by Victoria Dahl
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
Wrecked by Meljean Brook
Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab

March – 5
Following Isabella: Travels in Colorado Then and Now by Robert Root
Riveted by Meljean Brook
The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Angel’s Blood by Nalini Singh

April – 6
The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh
A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James
The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis
Archangel’s Consort by Nalini Singh
Taken With You by Shannon Stacey

May – 6
Defending the Faith: Apologetics in Women’s Ministry by Mary Jo Sharpe
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Runaways: Dead End Kids by Joss Whedon
Skies of Gold by Zoe Archer
Chasing the Lion by Nancy Kimball
The Bride Prize: Allan’s Miscellany by Sandra Schwab

June – 6
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
Fury of Fire by Coreene Callahan
Moon Shine by Vivian Arend
Heart of Stone by Christine Warren

July – 6
Tactics by Gregory Koukl
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Last Battle by CS Lewis
Amulet: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale

August – 5
Hounded by Kevin Hearne
A Tangled Web by Sandra Schwab
Devil’s Return by Sandra Schwab
Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey
Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul

September – 2
An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

October – 2
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

November – 3
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Blade on the Hunt by Lauren Dane
Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville

December – 2
No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Mythology Mondays: Atalanta

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.

This week, I am featuring Atalanta who inflamed men with her virginity, as one does, and outshone them with her prowess in whatever arena she competed.

Atalanta has many stories told regarding her her parentage, but the most prominent one claims that she was the daughter of King Iasus, who wanted a son and instead got a daughter. He was so disgusted by her sex when she was born, he left her on a mountaintop to die. She was raised by a bear who taught her to fight with ferocity.
Despite her beginnings, Atalanta was said to be a cheerful woman who pledged an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis.

Atalanta went on to have many adventures which included:

  • Vanquishing a destructive boar set upon the countryside by Artemis and in doing so inspiring love in Meleager, who set aside his wife to pursue Atalanta.
  • Stealing upon the Argonauts ship, despite the protestations of the some of the men over having a woman on board, and proceeding to have many adventures where she saved the day.
  • Outrunning all her erstwhile suitors who were put to death when they lost the foot race to her superior stamina and speed.

Eventually, her father heard of his daughter’s exploits and, like many men, thought Atalanta needed to marry so she would settle down, stop showing up all the men around her, and have babies like a proper woman. He also wanted to claim her as his daughter now that she was famous and held her own political power. Atalanta refused to marry and revoke her vow of virginity.

With the help of Aphrodite and some of golden apples, Hippomenes tricked Atalanta into falling in love with him. They had a son named Parthenopaios, who was one of the Seven who stood against Thebes.

There are two versions of the end of their love story, both tragic and vengeful, as Greek myths often are. Either Hippomenes and Atalanta made love in Zeus’s temple, thus angering the god, or they failed to give Aphrodite the proper accolades for their epic love, thus angering the goddess. Whatever the reason, Hippomenes and Atalanta were turned into lions. At the time it was believed that lions could not mate with each other, only with leopards. This separated the lovers for eternity.

In Turning Creek, Cyrene and Atlanta (Atalanta) are huntresses who travel the world in an effort to find the most challenging hunt. Atlanta is the slightly bolder, more mouthy of the duo. Their efforts put them at odds eventually with the harpies of Turning Creek who do not appreciate their methods.