Mythology Mondays: Hephaestus

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.

Today, we are talking about Hephaestus, the god of the forge, fire, masonry, metalworking, sculpture, and craftsmanship. In some myths, he is the son of Zeus and Hera. In others, he is the son of Hera alone.

Hephaestus, though a powerful man, was born sickly and ugly. In anger over his appearance, Hera threw him off Mount Olympus when he was born. He lived in a grotto for nine years, cared for by sea divinities. He learned to work the forge and he plotted revenge.

To regain his place among the gods of Olympus and to retaliate against Hera, Hephaestus crafted a golden throne for his mother. When she sat in it, overwhelmed by the gift, invisible fetters encircled her and she was immobilized. Dionysus, with motivations of his own, went down from Mount Olympus, got Hephaestus drunk, and convinced him to let his mother go. Hephaestus did as asked and Dionysus was rewarded with a place in the heavens with the gods.

Hephaestus crafted all manner of weapons and furnishings for the gods of Olympus. He made and wielded the ax which split Zeus’s forehead to birth Athena. He also crafted golden handmaidens who assisted him in the forge. As an aside, knowing what I know about Greek myths, I have to wonder exactly what kind of “assisting” they were doing.

In the myths, Hephaestus has two wives. Aphrodite was his first wife. She was an unfaithful companion to the god of fire and pined for her true love, Ares. Hephaestus takes revenge on her infidelity by creating chains which bound Aphrodite and her lover to the bed. Once ensnared, Hephaestus called all the gods to come and mock them. He divorced Aphrodite and married Algaia, one of the three Graces. Algaia is said to have borne him many children.

In my series, Hephaestus is Henry Foster, the blacksmith of Turning Creek. He is a quiet, hardworking man who is one of the few people the harpies count as a close friend.

 

Lightning in the Dark is Out

My book is making its debut, and while it is not wearing a white dress, it does have a darn fine cover. Here is a peek at the print cover which is even more beautiful than the ebook version:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00071]

 

Lightning in the Dark, set in Colorado Territory in 1858, is filled with harpies, cattle herding, drinking, kissing, cheese, battles against evil, and general shenanigans. I know you are all dying to read it so here are the buy links:

print: Amazon, CreateSpace
ebook: Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, Nook, All Romance

All the vendors should be live by the end of the week.

I am unsure what to even write this morning. I swing wildly from being excited to having a panic attack. I am scared no one will read it. I am scared that everyone will.

I started writing this series because harpies were fascinating and I wanted to redeem them. I wanted to write a book I would love to read, a historical fantasy with some romance. I set the series in one of my favorite places, Colorado, because my soul belongs in the mountains. While parts of the process were painful, development edits, other parts were fantastic, seeing the cover for the first time.

I love writing this series. The draft of the second one is already to my editor and I have started the third. There will be four full length books and two novellas before I am done with Turning Creek. It is going to be a fabulous ride.

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.

On Marriage, Sexuality, and Sassenachs

*Minor Spoiler alert for both the show and the book*

I was in high school when I finally read something that stole my heart and soul enough to supplant Little Women as my favorite book. I was never without a book in my hand, and that is still true, so giving a book the title of favorite has significant meaning. I bestow the title with reverence.

That book which replaced Alcott was, and still is, Outlander. You may have heard of of this book recently because Starz has created a very successful show from the book.

I have been swooning over this book for the better portion of my life. No matter how many times I reread the books or listen to the audio books, my heart and soul are mesmerized.

It is not just the romance which is striking, though that is part of it, which makes Outlander the powerhouse it is to so many readers. Starz has done an absolutely phenomenal job transferring the book to the screen with integrity to both the story and the characters. Their social marketing campaign has been fabulous too. More on that another time.

For now, I want to tell you why this book, and now the show, are important and why, after all these years, it is still the book I recommend the most. Even if you have never read the books, the show is well worth your time. The history, costuming, and characters are fantastic.

Reason 1: Men in Kilts

Let’s just get this out in the open early. Kilts are sexy as hell and when you have an entire cast of men running around in them, I do not give a fig what they are doing while kilted. Can you just show off those knees a little more? Thanks. I’ll be in my bunk.

Reason 2: Dialog

Gabaldon has her characters going from serious to witty in less time than Jamie can throw Claire’s skirts over her head. The dialog is honest, true, poignant, and laugh out loud funny. The writers of the show have highlighted some of the best lines from the book and put in many more to showcase some of the characters (Angus and Rupert, you dogs. I love you).

Reason 3: Real Marriage

Marriage is messy, sexual, heart-wrenching, beautiful, and work. Jamie and Claire, once they figure out how much they do love each other, love hard, but that does not mean their marriage is easy. As a reader, and now as a viewer, we are privy to watching how a real marriage works. It is rare that I see a marriage which reflects my own healthy relationship with my husband on a screen. The only other example I could think of this week was Wash and Zoe from Firefly.

Jamie and Claire argue with flair and heat and in the beginning, they argue a lot. They yell at each other and occasionally throw things, but they always make up. They are a team. Jamie tells Claire in the beginning, “It’s the two of us now.” It is them against the world and they never forget where their loyalties lie even when they do not agree.

Ever since the hype of The Wedding episode started, I have been thinking about healthy sexuality in marriage and what a good example Jamie and Claire are of this. As an aside, the episode was a shining example of the Female Gaze and it hit all the right places, for everyone. Here is a controversial truth: Married people have good sex lives. Our culture has people fooled into thinking that the only people having frequent, good sex are single people in their twenties. I am sorry to say this is simply not true and it is amazing to have this portrayed so vividly before us, both in print and on screen.

Jamie and Claire give and take in a way that is realistic and beautiful. Growing with them as they figure each other out in the bedroom and watching the awkwardness of the first few encounters is priceless. We can all relate to the awkward moments because we all have a few of our own to share.

As the series progresses, we travel with them as they deal with separation, loss, tragedy, and war after war. We are able to watch them as they continue to work together as a married couple to navigate the world. It is a treasure to see and I am grateful to have been a witness on their journey so far. Through it all, they are a team who communicates and loves the way a healthy married couple should.

Reason 4: Claire is not a trope.

I have grown incredibly tired of watching otherwise great shows in which every single woman in the cast is either a bitch, a damsel in distress, a manipulator, or a slut (or hoor as the highlanders say). There are many popular shows on right now, even some written by women, who do not have one redeeming female character. Gabaldon created a female lead who is flawed, but not a trope. Best of all, Claire is a sexual being who is celebrated instead of punished for it.

Don’t get me wrong. Claire has her moments of idiocy and she has trouble keeping her twentieth century opinions to herself, but she is rarely a simple bitch. She is a compelling character you forgive and love and the men around her respect her, even if they do so begrudgingly. They are not that enlightened after all. It is the 1700s.

Claire has a healthy sexual relationship with both her husbands and she is never portrayed badly for enjoying this aspect of her married life. It is refreshing to see a woman allowed to be sexual without being labeled a hoor. Women are sexual beings too and we should not be punished for something that is natural.

Reason 5: JAAMF

James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser. I have been pondering marriage and why Jamie is so appealing. I can only come up with one reason: he is the perfect man. A mix of innocence, but with a hearty dose of knowing exactly who and what he is. His vows mean something to him on a visceral level. Jamie pledges to Claire, “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well.” Repeatedly, Jamie makes good on his promise, compromising himself to ensure the protection of his wife and others he considers his.

This is the kernel of his character which draws people in.

Jamie is a servant leader. He rarely asks to lead, but when it is his duty he does so without reservation and with the needs of others always fixed firmly in mind. He gives every ounce of himself to his purpose. Other men recognize this and willingly place themselves in his hands.

On top of all the uprightness of character, Jamie is so obviously, even in the beginning, quite over the moon for Claire that you fall for him hard and fast. As the years pass and their relationship endures, he still loves her with a fierceness that any lassie would be blessed to call her own.

 

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.

Author List for RWA LibraryBox

This is going to go live as I am driving to San Antonio for the fun. I am packed and I wish I was leaving right this moment.

I wish I could tell you I had dozens of people sign up to join this experiment, but I did not. It is very easy to add content so should you be at RWA and see me, feel free to come up and ask me to add your content. I will have my laptop and LibraryBox handy.

There is a ton of other free content on the LibraryBox too. If you have a wireless device and see LibraryBox as an option, connect to it, launch a browser, and download whatever you want. I will have it with me everywhere I go at the conference starting Thursday.

That being said, I did have three ladies who opted in. I was especially tickled that Sandra Schwab, who y’all know I adore, sent her new book just out this past week! Here is the list of books on my LibraryBox for RWA, complete with blurbs.

Nicky Penttila – The Lunchbox
A surprise reunion on Valentine’s Day at New York Public Library’s main branch offers former high-school sweethearts a second chance.

Sandra Schwab – A Tangled Web
Lawrence Pelham works as a comic artist for Allan’s Miscellany. A chance meeting with a young woman dressed in mourning changes Pel’s whole life, and without his even knowing, he is thrown into a world of mystery and intrigue, where nothing is as it seems to be – especially not the woman he has given his heart to.

Her whole life Sarah Browne has been told how plain she is, how nondescript, destined to become an old maid. For years she has been her family’s dutiful nursing maid, but now a secret inheritance and an encounter with the charming Mr. Pelham seem to offer her a chance to break out of her life of duty and drudgery – if she dares to take it. Yet how could such an interesting, witty man be possibly interested in her boring self?

And so, Sarah soon find herself entangled in a web of lies and deceit, which might cost her the love of her life.

Mia West – Initiation
Bryn Talbot knows who she is: a time-traveling art thief with a list of lovers seven millennia deep. Seduction is part of her job, something she enjoys in the moment – whenever and wherever that may be – and then leaves behind. Until she gets a hot new colleague.

Bryn knows him only as Doc, the man who must keep her fit to travel, and give her the orgasms that launch her into the past. But this Doc is nothing like his predecessor. He’s younger. He’s as scarred as she is. And when Bryn pushes his buttons, this Doc finds hers and pushes back…with skill.

When Doc’s initial effort lands Bryn practically in the lap of the Roman-era blacksmith she seeks, she suspects her once-routine job is about to be reforged with white-hot intensity.

 

The Best of San Antonio from a Native Texan

With RWA this week, I thought I would write a few of my favorite things about San Antonio down for all the people coming in for the conference. I am a native Texan and these are the things I never miss doing whenever I am in town.

Eat some TexMex and other local flare while you are here. In fact, eat it every day, for more than one meal. TexMex, or what we just call Mexican food, has a lot of cheese and meat and is sure to make you smile. I recommend a margarita while you eat your chips and salsa. If you have never had a breakfast burrito, do yourself a favor and eat one. Other fun Texas foods include kolaches, both the fruit and meat varieties, and BBQ.

There are a ton of places to eat on the Riverwalk, but if you are looking for great TexMex and want something more local, my favorite places in San Antonio are La Fogata and Rosarios. La Fogata is off the loop and will require a drive. It is family owned and started in a gas station. The food is excellent, the margaritas superb, and the atmosphere original. Rosarios has absolutely amazing food and cocktails and is within walking distance of the conference center though it is a bit of a hike.

I love craft beer, but if you are looking for a variety of brews along the Riverwalk, you will be disappointed. There are some fun nightspots, though they are almost all loud in the evenings with live bands. My favorite bars on the Riverwalk are MadDog’s British Pub, Durty Nellie’s, and Pat O’Brien’s. Out of all of these, MadDog’s has the best beer variety and their porch is nice. It is usually where I end up at the end of the night.

If you want to go shopping and have a real San Antonio experience, try Market Square. The restaurants here are pricey, like the Riverwalk, but there is a Mexican bakery in Mi Tierra which is well worth the extra pounds you will gain after visiting. I suggest forgoing actual lunch or dinner and skipping right to dessert. If you do not have a car, you can ride the local streetcars or take the bus.

We are extremely proud of our history here. The Alamo is free to visit and will give you a good overview of how Texas won its independence. The Alamo is close to the Riverwalk and worth an hour of your time. I have been there enough times I could give tours and I still go for a peek when I am here. There are also many local Spanish missions which you can do on a walking tour.

Overall, Texans are a friendly bunch and San Antonio is as nice as it gets here in the summer. Translated for all the visitors coming in: It is darn hot, but less humid than the coastal areas, where I am from.

Howdy, y’all. Welcome to the Lone Star State.