Of Eggs, Pregnancies, and Book Clubs

Last night, I was the guest at a book club that had gathered to discuss Lightning in the Dark. The night was filled with great questions, laughter, and, of course, wine.


Some of the questions were very thought provoking: The harpies pass down violence from generation to generation. What do we take with us from our parents and how does this effect our lives?

Some of them were hilarious: Do harpies lay eggs? Do they have pregnancies that only last nine months? No and yes, respectively. I had not actually considered changing the harpies’ gestation period. Imagining them laying eggs made me crack up.

We had some of the usual discussions about mythology, what did I make up verses what is present in the actual myths. The ladies talked about what they thought the harpies looked like in harpy form. It was interesting to note that the women who had previous knowledge of what a harpy was tended to see them as more monstrous and ugly. The women with no prior knowledge of the harpy myth tended to see them as I imagined them to be, strong and fiercely beautiful as only true predators can be.

It was an absolute honor to be there. I am humbled by the people that read my books and connect with the characters that I love.

If you read one of my books in a book club, I would love to be there when you discuss it, to answer questions, talk, and laugh with you. And drink wine. Or beer. Or scotch.

One more thing: tomorrow, I am doing my monthly ebook giveaway to a newsletter subscriber. This month the giveaway is from one of my favorite authors, Sandra Schwab. The book is The Lily Brand and it will keep you up late reading, but you will not mind in the slightest. You can subscribe by clicking the handy button below.

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Mythology Mondays: Scylla

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 two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

Today, we are going to talk about Scylla, a ferocious sea monster, who along with her sister, Charybdis, swallowed sailors and whole ships with abandon.

scylla rock

This story starts ordinarily enough, with a beautiful maiden and a god who could not keep his hands or, ahem, other things to himself. Well, maybe it starts earlier with dubious parentage.

The story of Scylla’s parentage is varied. Her parents could have been a god-shark, a river, Echidna and Typhon, or Phorcys and Hekate. In some versions, Scylla is born a monster, in others she is made one.

Scylla was a beautiful maiden and she caught the eye of the marine god Glaucus or maybe it was Poseidon. Both fell instantly in lust with the damsel in question. Neither was fortunate enough to have her return their affections and both were annoyed at having their attentions rebuffed. I mean, who would not want to have a romp with a god? It always turned out so well for the woman once a god turned her way.

In the version with Glaucus as the hero, he applied to Circe, a witch renowned for her knowledge of herbs, to help make Scylla fall in love with him. Once, Circe saw the lovely Scylla, she was so overcome with jealousy she put herbs in Scylla’s bath causing her to turn into a horrible monster.

In the version with Poseidon, his wife, Amphitrite, was displeased at her husband’s wayward attentions and turned the maiden Scylla into a monster.

Regardless of the cause, Scylla became a ferocious sea creature sporting six heads which had mouths with three rows of jagged teeth. In some versions, she retained her human form from the torso up and had three dog heads sprouting from her belly. The Greeks were fond of putting random animals heads in places where they did not belong. Scylla barked like a dog and lay in wait for sailors to pass through the straight she guarded with Charybdis.

scylla vase

The Straight of Messina is a particularly dangerous place for ships between Sicily and Italy. In the straight were two rocks, one haunted by each monster, Scylla and Charybdis. Ships that failed to navigate the rough seas around the rocks and their monsters, were swallowed and lost to an icy death.

In Turning Creek, Katherine Johnson, the first woman to go missing in Storm in the Mountains is a Remnant of Scylla.

The Harpies go on a #LOLHop

During this wonderful Labor Day holiday, the harpies and I (and 27 other authors) are going on a Labor of Love Blog Hop (#LOLHop). From sweet to dark, divas of romance work their fingers to the bone for your reading pleasure in the Labor of Love Blog hop from 9/4-9/6. Come join me and enter to win a Kindle with new, heart-pounding titles just for you!

Happily ever afters only come after heart-breaking work, and this Labor Day weekend, we are celebrating our written labors of love by giving our readers a chance to win a brand-spankin’ new Kindle with our personal bests. That’s right, you could win all of our books! Aren’t you excited? We are! So here’s your chance, just click the link below to enter our giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Turning Creek series, set in a small mountain town in Colorado in 1858, is full of the descendants of Greek half-myths and monsters. From the moment I started writing about Turning Creek and the harpies, I fell in love, with the mountains, with the people, and with the harpies themselves. What is life and adventure without a little love?

The scene I have chosen is from Storm in the Mountains, which is on the Kindle we are giving away. It features Marina, a sword wielding, whiskey slinging harpy, and Reed, an honest sheriff trying to hold peace in a valley full of monsters. Reed has heard rumors of a chimera in the area and has asked Marina on the hunt as back-up.

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From the Back Cover: Marina Ocypete is a harpy, a Remnant of the Greek myth living in a small town in the Colorado Territory. She would rather start a decent fight than sit around idle. The local sheriff offers her a job as a deputy which seems like a better choice than suffering from boredom, but Reed Brant has a way of getting under her skin. With the influx of Remnants in his town, Reed needs Marina’s skills as a harpy to keep the peace. His head knows she is not the get married and settled down type he wants, but she might be just the thing his heart desires. When women start disappearing in Turning Creek, it will be up to Marina and Reed to find the cause behind the fear gripping their town. Marina will have to choose between a fate she never questioned and the man who makes her believe even a harpy can have a heart.

eBook available from Amazon, Google Play, Nook, AllRomance, and Kobo.

Print available from , CreateSpace and Amazon

Excerpt of Storm in the Mountains

Marina looked around the creek. They had been walking upstream long enough. “There are no signs of an exit here. Let’s go back and move downstream.”

They passed the spot where they had turned north and kept going. The sun was arcing towards the mountain peaks, and the decent light would be gone soon. Pressure to find some trace of the chimera, if that was actually what they were looking for, ate at Marina.

“What was your mother like?” Reed asked.

Marina tried not to think of her mother often. “I think she cared for me in her own way. Harpies are not the best of mothers. She taught me what she thought I needed to know to survive.”

Reed paused on his side of the creek and moved his gaze from the gravel to Marina’s face. “And what does a harpy need to know?”

“How to fight in my mortal form. How to use a knife and a sword. She was an old-fashioned sort, so I had to teach myself how to use a firearm. She taught me how to use my harpy skill of speed, how to be a weapon, and to love what I am.” Marina felt her harpy preen with pride at the list.

Reed chuckled and walked on. “I can see your pride shining from here. I’ll admit you’re the fastest thing I’ve ever seen. Don’t get too full of yourself.”

Marina grinned in delight. “That’s the best compliment I’ve had all day, Sheriff.”

The sun sunk lower until the bottom of the orange orb touched the peaks to the west. If they were going to find something, it needed to be now. It would soon be too dark to do any tracking.

Marina listened to Reed’s measured steps on the other bank. “What are we going to do if we find the chimera or whatever it is?”

Reed looked at the coming sunset then turned to Marina. “I know how you like to swing first and maybe ask questions at a later date. I’d like to talk to it first and see if he means harm. Most of the people around here don’t know a thing about Remnants, and I think we’d all like to keep it that way for now. So we talk first.”

Marina put her hands on her hips. “I’m the model of peace and patience. I’d never start a fight unprovoked.”

Reed snorted. “Unless you were restless.”

Marina laughed and kept walking. “Best way to shake out the boredom of a day. Followed by a stiff drink.”

The sound of Reed’s footsteps slowed, and Marina turned to ask him if he had found something. The hair on her neck rose seconds before a tan and black blur bounded from the trees and knocked Reed from his feet and into the water of the creek.

The change exploded over her in a flurry of feathers. Her harpy screamed in outrage as she dove for the chimera holding Reed under the water in the stream as he struggled. That slinking piece of filth is not going to drown him, she thought. Reed was hers to protect. Hers.

I hope the idea of Greek myths flying around the mountains and getting into shenanigans sounds as much fun to you as it does to me. The first book in the series, Lightning in the Dark is also available. The third book, Letters in the Snow, will be out early 2016.

Need something to read? Comment on this post for a chance to win an ecopy of Lightning in the Dark in the format of your choice. Answer the question: What is your current labor of love? I will announce the winner on 9/8.


Thank you for join joining our Labors of Love Blog Hop. To read more fabulous stories, click the link below and work your way through our participating authors:

Indie Books, Libraries, and Intersections

My friend, Veronica, writes a smashing good blog, Wallflowers and Rakes. She recently posted a very thoughtful piece on indie books and library collections and pinged me in the post. Full Disclosure: I am going to answer this as a former librarian, as an indie writer, and as an indie reader. Hats, I have many.

As a librarian: I remember when we used to talk about the importance of having unique collections. If all you have are 100 copies of the latest Nora Roberts, but you have no Zoe Archer, Bec McMaster, or Vivian Arend, I am a sad, sad lady.* Many of the authors I love, I do not even bother to look for in the library. In my opinion, Indie books seem like a great way for libraries to build unique collections for readers, collections that many readers want, myself included.

Most libraries do not accept indies because their systems and structure (acquisition and cataloging) have not caught up with the demand and they do not have the time or budget to work out of the system. As a librarian, I know this. As a writer, it breaks my heart. There has to be a way to sift through the dross to find the good stuff. What libraries, especially public libraries, need is a Collection Development librarian who loves to read indies and genre fiction to build a deep genre collection. Somebody post that job description right now.

As a writer: My local library is great, but they do tend to only have the big indies (Courtney Milan comes to mind). I asked if they accepted donations of local author’s work and they said yes. All I have to do is drop off my books. As an indie, the hardest thing is getting face time. No matter how nice your cover and how well edited, you still have to get over the wall and it is very, very high. Getting visibility of any kind is grinding work.

As a reader: I read indie books. Most of them, I love. Some of them, regardless of high praise from others, I hate because of bad editing (both grammar and content). However, as a reader, I could say the same for books I have read from big presses too. I want my library to have a deeper genre variety and I could care less how they were published.

In my experience, most libraries tend to get big name, easily categorized books in all the subgenres. What I mean is in Romance they get a ton of contemporary romance, some of the bigger historicals, maybe a few paranormals and that is about it. Fantasy and SciFi are similarly treated. Once you start reading subgenre books, it usually does not take long to get to the edge of the collection. Anything of mixed genre, fantasy romance, steampunk romance, or scifi romance is not well represented if it is represented at all. I think one of the biggest reasons for this is that books of mixed genre also tend to be indie or small pub produced.

I think indie books have the potential to change the depth of collections for libraries. They tend to be cheaper. Most indie ebooks are in the $3-5 range. Traditional publishers price their ebooks in the $7-12 range. A library could get three indie books for the price of one overpriced traditionally pubbed ebook. I do not have any answers, but I do have hope that someone out there has a great idea that will change the conversation completely.

As a former librarian, current writer, and voracious reader, the potential for growth of indie books into libraries is an exciting opportunity, if only we could figure out a way to do it well.
*My local library Harris County Public has Archer and McMaster.

Creative License

My engineering husband questioned me about the liberties I take with Greek Mythology in my Turning Creek series. I told him it was creative license. He did not approve. The problem with engineers is that they want, nay need, things to fit into formulas. If you can turn the plot points into a color coded graph, even better.

His main complaint was that Thomas, the orphan Iris takes in after Lightning in the Dark, has the ability of speed and delivers messages. The Greek myth that these two traits fit best is Hermes.

Hermes was a god of Olympus, son of Zeus and Maia (one of the many women who fell for Zeus). Hermes was the herald and servant of Zeus.

In the world I created for Turning Creek, there are no Remnants of gods (that we know of). The gods, who reigned on Mount Olympus, required adoration and were accustomed to a certain level of power. They did not adjust to life in the mortal world after the Fall of Olympus and they faded from existence. In the world I have created, Thomas could not be the Remnant of Hermes because Hermes faded long ago, thus I borrowed Achilles for Thomas.

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

I gave Thomas speed because it was a convenient power for him to have and assist Iris. I gave him Achilles’ weakness because I wanted him to have one.

Creative License. I wield it.

One of the fabulous things about mythology, and Greek mythology in particular, is that every tale has multiple versions. Thanks to the warring nature of the Greeks, Romans, and their many neighbors, Greek myths were adopted and adapted by different peoples and regions. Even the ancients had their own version of creative license.

If, like my husband, my liberties with the original myths make you roll your eyes and wonder if I did any research at all, I assure you, I did research. Sometimes, I apply creative license to whatever facts I find.

Mythology Mondays: Medea

Let us all pause and jump for joy as we relish this beautiful, glorious day. That’s right, my friends. School is back in session and all is right with the world again.

Please enjoy your regularly scheduled mythology post now.

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 two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

Poor Medea. Like most Greek myths, her story does not end well.

Medea mixes a poison to save her love, Jason. Painting by John William Waterhouse.
Medea mixes a poison to save her love, Jason, who turns out to be a jerk. Painting by John William Waterhouse.

Medea’s story starts with the tale of not one but two young boys who were denied their rightful thrones and sent into exile. One boy’s story, Phrixus, yields the golden fleece. The other boy, Jason, comes out of exile to claim his throne. Pelias, who held Jason’s throne, says he will give up the throne he usurped if Jason brings him the Golden Fleece.

Jason is so excited about the idea of an adventure, he gets many young men of Greece to follow him in this dangerous pursuit. Thus begins the story of Jason and the Argonauts. They run into quite a bit of trouble. Harpies. Amazons. One gets the feeling that Greeks found all forms of women frightening.

Eventually, the adventurers find themselves on the borders of Colchis where the Golden Fleece was held by the King. This king has, of course, a daughter, named Medea, who was said to be a skillful witch.

The gods had watched Jason’s journey up to this point and, now that he was on the cusp of the real trial, Hera becomes worried for him. Hera goes to Aphrodite, who could best be described as a frenemy, and begs for help. She agrees to help. Aphrodite pays Cupid a shiny ball of gold to make Medea fall hopelessly in love with Jason.

Jason appears before the King of Colchis and, after a night of feasting, asks the king for the Golden Fleece. The king is incensed and agrees to give the Fleece up if Jason yokes two bulls who breathe fire, plow a field with them, plant dragon teeth in the furrows, and then kill the warriors who spring from the seeds.

Sounds easy.

Medea sees Jason at the feast and falls utterly in love. Knowing her father has condemned Jason to certain death, she meets him the night before his trial and gives him a special poison for his weapons. She weeps and admits her love for him and asks him to remember her fondly.

Jason defeats the dragon-teeth men, but the king plans to kill him anyway. Medea again goes to Jason in the middle of the night to warn him. She promises to guide them to the Fleece and bespell the serpent that guards the treasure, if Jason will but take her away to Greece. Jason agrees and says if she does this thing, he will take her back to Greece as his wife.

Medea puts the serpent to sleep and Jason gets the Fleece.

Medea’s brother, under the king’s orders, follows Jason and Medea to retrieve the Fleece for his father. Medea, once again, saves Jason’s quest. She kills her brother and his army scatters. She also rescues the Argonauts from the bronze men of Crete by calling upon the hounds of Hades before they finally reach Greece.

Sadly, Greece will be Medea’s undoing. Jason uses Medea’s power to murder the uncle who had taken his throne. One has to wonder why he went to get the Fleece in the first place when a little avunculicide would do.

Medea and Jason have two sons and all was well, for a time.

Jason was an ambitious and selfish man. To further his quest for power, he agrees to marry the daughter of Corinth, though he already has a wife. The King of Corinth threatens to have Medea removed from the country if she does not allow the wedding.

Medea is desperate. She threatens Jason’s new bride which earns her a stern talking to from her husband, who tells her she is unbalanced and he never loved her. Medea remembers all the betrayals she committed for this man who now wants to put her aside and she burns in anger.

But on me hath fallen this unforeseen disaster, and sapped my life; ruined I am, and long to resign the boon of existence, kind friends, and die. For he who was all the world to me, as well thou knowest, hath turned out the worst of men, my own husband. Of all things that have life and sense we women are the most hapless creatures; first must we buy a husband at a great price, and o’er ourselves a tyrant set which is an evil worse than the first; and herein lies the most important issue, whether our choice be good or bad. For divorce is not honourable to women, nor can we disown our lords. -from Medea By Euripides

Medea kills Jason’s intended bride with a poisoned robe. She knows that she and her sons will be exiled with no home, family, or man to guard them. They might as well be dead, she thinks. She kills her two sons and escapes in a chariot pulled by dragons.

If she could escape in a chariot, why not her sons? And if she could command dragons, could the woman not find a loaf of bread for them to eat?

Just pointing out the obvious.

The point is we mostly still remember Jason as a hero and Medea as a crazy witch. The more Greek mythology I read, the more I remember misogyny is as old as time.

In Turning Creek, Medea shows up eventually in Storm in the Mountains. Don’t worry. She does not kill anyone or send them poisoned robes.

Late Summer Nights and Giveaways

Anyone want to join me on this beach?
Anyone want to join me on this beach?

It is 9:20pm and my house is blessedly quiet for the second night in a row except for the music I have playing. Everyone is asleep but me, I have a pint in hand, and all is well.

I have reached the point in the summer when I am tired of vacation and family time. I need my kids to go back to school and I need to get back to my regularly scheduled work and writing time. I never write much in the summer. I am too busy breaking up fights and trying to entertain children who are stuck inside because outside resembles the surface of the sun. I live in Houston and that is not an exaggeration.

I love my boys, but yesterday, I told G I did not like him much at the moment and could he please get out of my face and go to another room.

I need a time out. Obviously. With beer. Of course.

Starting the last Friday in August, I will be giving away an ebook of something I have read recently and enjoyed to someone on my newsletter list. What? You are not on the list? Get a full dose of harpies once a month or so and maybe win a free book by signing up now.

Subscribe to my newsletter

I am also currently running a Goodreads giveaway for Storm in the Mountains.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Storm in the Mountains by Michelle Boule

Storm in the Mountains

by Michelle Boule

Giveaway ends August 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Soon, we will be back to regular posts around here, Mythology Mondays and the other shenanigans you love. I have to get these kids to school first.

Reasons to Love an Unexpected Romance

Two weeks ago, I cleaned off some of my bookshelves because we were shifting furniture around. One of the shelves, a round table made from wire spools by my grandfather, was in sore need of dusting.

Austin, Austin spin-offs, Alcott, Brontes, and lots of other fun things.
Austin, Austin spin-offs, Alcott, Brontes, and lots of other fun things. Notice the foam sword in the foreground. That is in case of attack by pirates.

The table holds a collection of classics from my youth and adulthood that I have kept because each formed the woman you now see before you. I could no sooner part with them than one of my limbs. I did find one book I had forgotten I owned. It is a slim regency romance by Elizabeth Mansfield called Her Man of Affairs.

What are you writing there? Let me peer over your shoulder provocatively just to make sure you know I am here.

I will give you a few minutes to absorb the beauty that is that cover. See how she gently touches his hand and leans over his shoulder? Classic! It was enough to make me squee with anticipation.

Someone of my acquaintance found this on their bookshelf and bequeathed it to me knowing what a soft spot I have for regency romance. My intention was to read it poste haste, but life got in the way and it was tucked amidst my classics. When I rediscovered it, I knew I had waited long enough.

It was predictable (every genre has some predictableness, so don’t be too judgey) but it was absolutely delightful. It reminded me of all the reasons I love romances. Here are a few I would like to share:

Reason #1 – In most romances the women are powerful. Not power in the traditional sense, though that can happen, but they have intellectual prowess, they have emotional power over themselves, they are damsels that rescue themselves, or they understand their sexuality (or they come to in the course of the book). I love a strong heroine who admits when she is wrong or when she admits she needs the hero’s help to accomplish a task. This is not to say the hero does not have power. He often does, but he does not beat the heroine down, literally or figuratively, to maintain his power. If he does start out that way, woe to him as he learns the error of his ways and then must commence with the grovelling. The best romances involve some team work between the H/H (hero and heroine). Which brings me to …

Reason #2 – Cooperation. Life is all about compromise and working together. Romances show this in romantic relationships. Too often, in real life, we think that being in a relationship is what the other person has to offer us, not what we can do for the other people in our lives. Relationships are about service to others, not what we are getting from them. In romances, this give and take is something the H/H have to negotiate as their relationship develops. Other genres show this kind of compromise and cooperation too, but nothing is more intimate than the relationship you have with a life partner. The depth of selfless giving is greater because this is a person you can not escape, even on your worst days or theirs.

Reason #3 – Everything is better with a little sexual tension, kissing, romance, and *ahem* other things. As a female reader, I have found a lot of traditional scifi and fantasy (read stuff written by men and mostly for men) as boring and dry. You know why? Because it rarely includes romance and there is romance in real life. People are attracted to each other, especially when crammed into tight quarters or in high risk situations. A book with a group of people going on a quest where none of them ever feels any emotions for the other people in the group is weirdly asexual to me.*

Reason #4 – Everything is a little more fun with kissing.

Reason #5 – I admit it. I like happy endings. I like reading about people finding peace and a partner. Who doesn’t want that?

So tell me: Do you like a little romance in your stories? Why or why not?


*It should be noted, that some people, my engineering husband for one, think that emoshuns ruin good stories. Your opinion is your own.

Mythology Mondays: Hades

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 two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

When people refer to Hades, they often, mistakenly, refer to a place (“It’s hot as Hades in here.”) instead of the character, Hades, ruler of the Underworld and the giver of wealth from the earth. This is common because first century Jews and early Christians, translating Hebrew into Greek, translated the word “Sheol” into “Hades.”

If you are in my generation, you might think of this version of Hades:

"Note to me: Maim you after my meeting."
“Note to me: Maim you after my meeting.”

Most Greek, and later Roman, depictions of Hades showed him as a serious, dark-bearded man, seated on a throne and bearing a scepter topped by a bird. To the Romans, he was Pluto. In both cultures, he was the ruler and advocate of the dead and the giver of riches from the earth. In some art, he was depicted with an overflowing cornucopia.

Hades, on left, shown with his wife, Persephone, on the right.
Hades, on left, shown with his wife, Persephone, on the right.

Hades was one of the six children of Kronos and Rhea. Kronos, fearing the prophecy which stated that one of his offspring would defeat him and usurp his power did the only logical thing. He ate his children as soon as they were born. Rhea contrived to save Zeus from her husband (one has to wonder why, after he ate the first kid, she continued to bear him five more). Zeus later defeated Kronos and cut open his father to set his siblings free. The children of Kronos and Rhea included: three daughters – Hestia, Demeter, and Hera (who would later become Zeus’ wife) and three sons – Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon.

The three brothers drew lots to divide the earth. Zeus received the land, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the darkness or shades of the earth. He was sometimes referred to as the King of Shades or the infernal Zeus. Hades set up shop in the underworld and guarded the gates to his kingdom with ferocity. He was cursed by mortal men who would slap the ground and curse his name for his power over death. When men offered sacrifices to Hades, they slaughtered black sheep and turned their faces away from the offering.

After spending some time alone in the dreariness of his domain, Hades decided he needed some companionship of the feminine variety. He asked his brother, Zeus, for one of his daughters and Zeus offered Persephone, daughter of Demeter. In case you have not been following: Persephone was Hades’ niece begot through a liaison between his two siblings. Zeus, knowing Demeter would never approve of the match, gave Hades the right to kidnap Persephone and take her forcibly as his wife.

Hades stole Persephone as she innocently played in a field of flowers and took her down into the Underworld in a chariot pulled by black, immortal horses. Demeter, distraught, brought an endless winter to the earth as she searched and mourned for her daughter. Eventually, Hades allows Persephone to leave and visit her mother, but tricks her into eating a pomegranate seed first which compelled her to return to him after a set time had passed. Thus, the Greeks thought the winter was brought by Demeter while her daughter was away and the spring came each season when Persephone was allowed to come to the surface and visit her mother.

Hades, the God of the Dead, was unable to bear children himself. His wife, bore two children fathered by Zeus (her father, uncle, brother-in-law).

In Turning Creek, there is no Hades character. There are, as far as we know as this point, no Remnants of the original six gods and goddesses. Hades is occasionally referred to in conversations between the Remnants of Turning Creek.

Mythology Mondays: Medusa

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 two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

Like the Sphinx from last week, most people have heard of Medusa even if they do not know her full story. Her snake hair and creepiness have woven their way into our cultural memory. The beautiful woman with serpents for hair that can turn a man to stone is the popular version of this myth. There are even books and cartoons for kids with Medusa as a character who is not at all scary.

There is a whole goddess series of books for girls and Medusa is featured in one.
There is a whole goddess series of books for girls and Medusa is featured in one.

In some of the first Medusa myths, Medusa was part of a triad of female monsters called the Gorgons. The Gorgons were sisters with scales for skin, hair for snakes, and small wings sprouting from their temples. The three sisters, Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale, lived near the ocean in some stories and in others they guarded the door to the Underworld. Medusa was the only one of the three that was mortal.

In the most popular stories, Medusa was once a beautiful human woman who made the unfortunate decision to submit to Poseidon in a temple of Athena. This is always a Bad Life Choice as Athena was famously jealous of anyone getting horizontal in her temple without her express permission. To punish Medusa, Athena turned her into a hideous Gorgon. From this union with Poseidon, came Pegasus, the winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant or a winged boar or a giant winged boar.

In an effort to free his mother, Perseus goes on a quest in which he kills a bunch of things with the help of the gods. One of the monsters he kills is Medusa. With a reflective shield from Athena, a bag of holding* from Hesperides, winged shoes from Hermes, an adamantine sword from Zeus, and a helm of darkness from Hades, Perseus sets off. He sneaks up on the sleeping Medusa and lops off her head. He stuffs it in the bag of holding and, using the helm of darkness, runs like the wind, with the winged shoes, and escapes the other two Gorgon who are infuriated over the death of their sister.

By Ad Meskens; sculpture Antonio Canova (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Perseus holding the head of Medusa.Photo by Ad Meskens; sculpture Antonio Canova
In some versions, Pegasus and Chrysaor spring from Medusa’s severed neck because the Greek’s loved stories of children springing from random body parts. Athena ended up with the severed head (I bet that looked awesome on the mantel) and she once gave a lock of the serpent hair to Hercules. The hair, even though the bearer was dead, retained the ability to turn men to stone. For some time, Athena affixed the head to her shield whenever she went into battle. Legend has it that the head was buried under a mound in Agora.

*Technically, it was a special monster head holding bag.

In Turning Creek, Lily Hughes, the wife of the tailor, is the Remnant of Medusa. She has the ability to mesmerize people, not turn them to stone, and her hair is a perfectly normal shade of brown. She is a very proper lady, unlike our harpies, and almost never uses her ability.