Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Icarus Aftermath: Minor Myths and References

PC: Clark van der Beken

I'm thrilled you guys are enjoying the two-minute myths! I had a lot of fun writing them.

Today, the minor myths that influenced or were referenced in The Icarus Aftermath.

* * * * * *

Talos is based on a character from Greek mythology. The mythological Talos was also known as Perdix. He’s the nephew of Daedalus and also an inventor. Mythological Daedalus is jealous of him because he thinks Talos invents things more useful to humanity than Daedalus does. (Which isn't totally inaccurate.)

There was at least one Byzantine woman named Athanasia, but mine bears no resemblance to her. (Look up Saint Athanasia of Aegina, if you’re curious.) Incidentally, I didn’t know about her until after I had named this character. I’d had this name stored on a list for a while because I loved the sound and meaning of it (immortal). Sometime around the writing of the second or third chapter of this book, I wondered if any other fictional characters shared her name and googled it. Answer: yes, a few … and that’s how I found out about Athanasia of Aegina.

Most of the rebels from this particular book are not characters from Greek Mythology, although their stories will intertwine with various myths later on.

The Hestanoi Order are in part based on the Vestal Virgins, which were historical, not mythological. Also Rome, not Greece, but I've mixed in a lot of Greek elements. Yes, you'll be hearing a lot more of them.

All of the Amazon generals and most of the other Amazons named in the book come straight out of mythology. You'll be hearing a lot more about them, so that's all I'll say about them right now.

Minos of Crete really did sleep around a lot, or so the various myths imply. Some of the myths state that, at some point, Pasiphäe cast a curse on him that would ... well, for the sake of this blog's reader rating, let's just say it prevented other women from having any children with him.

The kentauri are my version/this galaxy's version of centaurs, and you are going to hear a lot more about them too. (I'm hyped.)

In many of the later versions of Greek myth, Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus and cheated on him with his brother (or half brother) Ares. A lot. A lot of cheating. I've gone with that version of the myth and added a few details you'll find out later.

At one point, Koralia mentions she has brothers, and Phobos is mentioned a few times. Phobos and Deimos were the mythological sons of Ares (yes, the moons of Mars are named for them), and their mother is usually given as Aphrodite.

Once or twice, it's mentioned that certain olympian swear words are almost never used unless the person basically has a death wish. One of those is holy titans. This is because to say 'holy such and such' is seen as 'calling on' that thing or person or swearing by it. And there are Really Big Reasons why no one in the galaxy is keen to do that regarding the titans. Said Reasons will show up later on ... and boy, will that be fun.

I also referenced various other creatures and concepts from Greek mythology. This isn't a complete list, but a few fun facts:

- An eidolon is a spirit-image of a dead person ... aka a ghost.
- The word ker is used as an insult at least once. The Keres (singular: Ker) were death demons.
- Some of the names Ariadne rattled off as notable patrons of Krete's day-club were ancient and/or mythological Greek sculptors and inventors.

* * * * * *

Most of this will at some point be compiled into a short world guide people will be able to download.  It'll also include family trees, to delight the inner nerds of my proofreader and myself and anyone else who loves such things. *grins* And a list of the major planets of the galaxy—or the ones that have been named so far.

Next up: what exactly does space opera mean and is it any different from science fantasy or are they the same?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Two-Minute Myths: Icarus

And now. The myth that began this entire journey.

Since the title of the book is The Icarus Aftermath, it may have seemed odd that I didn't begin with this myth. But it will make sense once you read the opening paragraph.

* * * * * *

After Daedalus built the Labyrinth, Minos decided the inventor knew too many of his secrets. Being such a wise and benevolent king, he concluded that the answer to this problem was imprisonment, so he promptly locked up Daedalus and his son Icarus. Some stories say it was in a tower somewhere on Crete, other stories say it was inside the Labyrinth itself. Presumably in a separate section from where the Minotaur roamed, but maybe Daedalus and Icarus just got really good at evading the Minotaur.

It’s Greek mythology—anything’s possible.

Minos maybe should have considered that inventors don’t stop thinking just because they’re under lock and key, but as we’ve established, he wasn’t the most farsighted man.

Well, of course Daedalus wasn’t going to meekly agree to spending the rest of his days in house arrest. Ever resourceful, he got busy inventing, and soon he had an answer.


Daedalus gathered feathers from birds and attached them to a light framework with hot wax. When he was done, I’m guessing he tested them for a short distance first, but the myths don’t tell us one way or another. Maybe their escape was the maiden flight of the wings.

At any rate, our dear inventor figured there was no point in hanging around Crete any longer than they had to. He handed Icarus a pair of wings and said, “Okay, we’re getting out of here. BUT, LISTEN. This is SUPER important. DO NOT fly too close to the sun. The sun will melt the wax and the feathers will come off and you’ll crash. So just don’t.”

Now, you know and I know that the air gets colder the higher you rise into the atmosphere, but if the Ancient Greeks knew that, they never let it stand in the way of telling a good story.

Gandalf would have approved.

But let's return to our intrepid inventor.

“Sure, Dad,” said Icarus. Father and son strapped on their wings, and off they went.

For a while, everything was great. Flying was great, the water was great, freedom was great, the air was … you get the picture.

Icarus was having so much fun that he decided to go higher. Just a little higher, mind you. Not much.

And then a little higher.

And higher.

After all, if the birds could do it, why not him? He had wings too, didn't he?

And … wait, why was he falling? Flap your wings, Icarus!

He did.

And still he fell.

And fell.

Streaking through the air like a golden comet.

To crash into the sea and drown.

How ignoble an end for one who had felt the wind of the skies curling around him.

But that's not quite the end. Not yet.

After a while, Daedalus realized he couldn’t see his son. He looked everywhere and called until he was hoarse, but no Icarus. Then he saw feathers floating on the water and put two and two together and arrived at the sum of four. Or maybe he just knew his son really well and didn't need to do any deducing or addition.

Cursing himself for ... well, see, there's where the myths turn foggy again. For daring to think he could fly? For not watching his son closer? For building the Labyrinth in the first place? For defying Minos's order of imprisonment?

I believe the most common version is that he was angry with himself for daring to think men could fly. But it's Greek myth, so take your pick.

Anyway. As I was saying, cursing himself, Daedalus flew on to an island—some say Sicily—where he landed, hung up his wings, and vowed to never fly again.

As if it was the wings' fault his son had died.

Ah, fatherly love.

* * * * * *

And so ends the tragic tale of Icarus, an enduring lesson on the dangers of hubris.

Tomorrow, we'll see a rather different side to Daedalus ... and learn the origins of another Sunfire.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Two-Minute Myths: The Labyrinth and The Minotaur

PC: Victor Garcia

Several readers/friends asked if I'd do a feature on the myths behind The Icarus Aftermath, since Greek Mythology can be hard to follow and confusing. ("Is that the 'correct version'?" "Hmmm, but what about this one over here?" Plot twist: there is no correct version. They evolved.)

So here you go, the Cliffnotes for the myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur.

* * * * * *

Once upon a long time ago, in the days when the Greek pantheon of gods roamed the earth, a dude named Minos decided he wanted to be king of Crete. Some say he was a human, others that he was a demi-god, the son of Zeus himself … which, given that god’s track record with kids, is easy to believe. Other stories say there were two people named Minos: the benevolent king and the weirdo king.

Our story is concerned with the weirdo king.

This Minos was said to be the son of Zeus and of Europa, whom Zeus carried off while disguised as a white bull. I don’t have time or space to elaborate his long history here, just the part that is concerned with the Labyrinth and our (wronged) Minotaur.

At some point, Minos and his two brothers were all ruling Crete. Minos decided he wanted to be sole ruler … or at least the favored ruler. So he prayed to Poseidon, god of the seas, to send him a sign of favor. Poseidon amiably did so: a snow-white bull that swam through the ocean to land on the shores of Crete. Minos was supposed to sacrifice it to Poseidon once it got there.

Well, in a nutshell, he didn’t. And that’s how all the problems started.

Minos liked the bull so much that he kept it and sacrificed a different bull to Poseidon. It wasn't like the god would notice, right?

Wrong. The sea god was not happy, to put it mildly. As gods were known to do, he cursed Minos for his arrogance. Except he did it in a roundabout way, by cursing Minos’s wife: Queen Pasiphaë.

Thanks to that, Pasiphaë suddenly decided she just had to sleep with this gorgeous white bull her husband had just acquired.

(Apparently, she learned nothing from the story of Europa, who was, incidentally, the mother of Minos. Those who know not their history are doomed to repeat it … or does that not apply when we start talking curses from gods? Yeah, probably not.)

At any rate, Pasiphaë went off to Daedalus, asking him to make it possible for her to sleep with the snow-white bull.

The probably very harried Daedalus rolled his eyes and huffed darkly about weirdos and curses and angering gods … before complying, building Pasiphaë a wooden cow.

And because cattle in ancient Greek Myth appear to all be either dumb or Zeus in disguise, this white bull didn’t know any better than to fall for the trap.

Some months later, Pasiphaë gave birth to a strange creature: half man, half bull. In art, he is usually portrayed as having the feet and lower legs of a bull, the torso, thighs, and arms of a man, and the head of a bull.

She named him Asterion or Asterius. Possibly after Asterion, the mythical stepfather of Minos. Which come to think of it would have been a grand slap in the face to Minos. Huh.

Anyway, Minos had no idea what to do with the strange child. And no idea what to feed it. So, as normal people do, he decided human flesh was the answer and began feeding the Minotaur youths from the surrounding countryside.

But this presented another problem. The Minotaur grew and grew … and grew … and grew. It got so big that good old Minos got worried and asked the inventor Daedalus to build something to contain it. The inventor did so, making the structure a maze almost impossible to get out of.

You know where this is going: it became known as the Labyrinth.

At the time, Crete had just won a war with Athens. As part of the terms of surrender, Minos insisted that Athens send a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens to feed the Minotaur. Some sources say this tribute arrived every seven years. Others that it arrived every year. As you can imagine, Athens was not happy, but the victors dictate the terms and the losers suck it up and deal.

Well, eventually the then-prince of Athens, Theseus, got tired of the tribute and got himself included in the latest group of seven youths, intending to kill the Minotaur and end the sacrifices. How he intended to accomplish this … well, he apparently didn't think that far ahead.

Fortunately for him, he was personable and charming. Apparently. Because when he arrived on Crete, Ariadne—Minos’s daughter and a Princess of Crete—fell in love with him.

Some people have all the luck.

No way was Ariadne going to allow the Labyrinth and Minotaur to destroy her new love, so she gave Theseus a ball of string to trail behind him so he could find his way out of the Labyrinth again. With plenty of impassioned kisses and pleas for him to return safely—or so I presume—off stomped our hero to slay him a monster.

The Prince of Athens did succeed in finding and killing our poor Minotaur, after which Theseus left Crete, taking Ariadne with him. In some stories, he also took her younger sister Phaedra.

And so fell the Minotaur, from unhappy birth through monstrous days to violent death. Thanks for nothing, Minos.

Moral of the story? If you make a bargain with a god, keep it.

Oh, and maybe stay away from all bulls in Ancient Greece. Especially white ones.

* * * * * *

There is more to the story of Theseus and Ariadne and Phaedra, but that's for a different Sunfire book and a different blog post.


Saturday, August 1, 2020


Graphic by the amazing Morgan G. Farris.

Yes, readers, I have finally, at long last published my first book.

Seven years.

It's been seven years since I decided to pursue writing as a serious career.

And here we are.

It's hugely surreal and also intensely exciting.

I could ramble on and on about the book, but you'll hear plenty of that over the next week+ with the blog tour. So today, let's just get down to business.

Cover art by the one and only Mirriam Neal, cover design by the incredible Morgan G. Farris.

Everyone said Krete's Labyrinth was impossible to destroy. But General Athanasia has been fighting impossible battles all her life, and with Icarus at her side, they take on the galaxy's newest threat with a smile.

Then everything falls apart.

Talos Sunfire races for rebellion headquarters, burning to avenge Icarus, but his people need him to lead now more than ever, so he shoves aside his grief to focus on them. Which would be easier if the General’s newest aide wasn’t so suspicious.

Koralia has never run from a fight, and she isn’t about to start now, no matter how much Talos wants her gone. Her head held high, she volunteers for a risky mission to Krete, one last attempt to find the key to the Labyrinth.

No one could have expected what she’d find.

The Sunfires are used to inspiring hope wherever they go. This time, they might finally be up against something too dark for them.

Kicking off the blog tour, Morgan G. Farris interviewed me over at Epic Faerytales.

The rest of the tour (now through August 10th), you can come back here every day for a new blog post about this world, these characters, and what went into the writing of this book.

On Monday, hop over to Christine's blog for a very long review of this book. (I got a sneak peek, and wow. It's the best review. I'm so happy.)

Then on Friday, see Eli's blog and Annie's blog for the next leg of the tour. (Eli asked some fantastic questions I'm having fun answering.)

I'm super grateful to everyone to has already pre-ordered this book, added it on Goodreads, and everyone who has been eagerly waiting to grab it when it goes live. Massive thanks also go out to all the friends and family who have supported this dream and cheered me on. You rock.

I hope you enjoy this book.

And now I'm going to go eat some ice cream in celebration.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Of Amazons and Ex-Wives ~ Snippets from Editing

I forgot until last week that I still haven't posted pretty much anything about this book which I'm going to publish sometime next month.

So today I'm remedying that.

I'm almost done with the second round of editing, and then the book is off to another pair of eyes while I work on more behind-the-scenes pieces. In the meantime . . . TADA, your first official snippets post.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“Hold that thought.” The General tilted her head toward the door. Quick footsteps were coming down the hall, and someone burst into the room.

Curly dark hair, tanned skin, restless eyes, dressed like a pilot, and radiating energy so fiercely it filled the whole bridge. Koralia straightened automatically. She knew this man. Well, she didn’t precisely know him yet, but she felt like she would have recognized him anywhere.

Talos. Icarus’s cousin, adopted brother, and best friend.

* * * * * *

“These aren’t just fighters,” an awed voice said, interrupting her thoughts. “These are weapons. Tal, did you see them?”

Koralia poked her head up over the stack of crates in front of her to see the speaker. He was tall, with curly auburn hair, and wore a short cape over an old imperial olympian uniform. On most of the people of the base it would have looked pretentious and ridiculous. He wore it like he was born to it.

“I saw them,” Talos said, sounding annoyed at being interrupted.

“And you didn’t think to tell me about them?” demanded the tall boy. His eyes narrowed, and his head tilted in a pout that would have looked childish except for the sharpness of his eyes and face.

Who was the kid? A careless grace sat on him, and his stance was familiar, but she couldn’t identify him.

Talos snorted. “I was a little busy, in case you didn’t notice.”

* * * * * *

“I’ve got three new women wanting to take the amazon entry test.” It sounded like Ares was pacing the floor. “They probably won’t pass, but Kora would be overseeing that anyway, and she can stay at the station there.” His footsteps stopped for a minute and then continued. “I’ll go with her. I have some armies I should check on. It’s your turn to deal with her anyway, isn’t it?”

“Since when? I dealt with her the last two times.” Hephaestus slammed his hand down on…a chair? A desk? Koralia couldn’t tell.

“She’s your wife.”

“Estranged ex-wife, thank you very much, and you slept with her! If anyone should deal with her this time, it’s you."

* * * * * *

“Do we get to set the base on fire now? Please tell me we get to set the base on fire.”

“We are not setting the base on fire.” Talos hid his grin behind his hand and motioned for the next transport to take off. Then he glanced at Heirax. The teenager’s look had turned speculative.

“If we set it on fire, there won’t be anything to trace,” he wheedled.

“We’re not setting it on fire because if we’re doing anything, we’re blowing it up, kid,” said Xuthos, walking past with his arms full of extra munitions, which he dumped behind the seat of his fighter.

Talos snorted and shook his head at the pleading look Heirax sent him. “Still no.”

* * * * * *

Ianessa’s office door was plain gray, like everything on base. Why pre-fab panels didn’t come in any other color, he’d never been able to figure out. Someone, probably one of the teen girls, had painted purple stars of different sizes on the door and scrawled a threatening message off-center, something about being dismembered if you disturbed the queen. He shook his head and knocked.

“It’s always open for you, Talos, you know that,” Ianessa’s voice said from the other side.

“How did you—?” he asked, stepping inside and closing the door behind him.

“How did I know it was you?” she finished. “You’re the only one who would dare stomp anywhere on General Athanasia’s base.”

* * * * * *

Throwing a suspicious glance at Koralia, who rolled her eyes, he lifted the scrip and read it again.

The words didn’t change.

“She was our inside operative in Minos’s palace,” he said slowly, handing the scrip back to her. “We all thought she was dead. Daedalus saw her fall.”

Koralia narrowed her eyes like she was puzzled about something and shook her head. “Apparently not.”

“Obviously,” he said dryly. “What transport are you on?”

“Last one out, probably the one you’ll be escorting.”

“Get that to the General as soon as you land.”

“Blast. And here I was planning to go take a shower and attend a fashion parade first.” She smiled blandly at him, and he grimaced. Okay, he’d probably deserved that.

* * * * * *

“An amazon. You honor us with your presence, lady warrior,” Xuthos said.

Talos cleared his throat audibly. “Can you please not flirt during a scouting mission? Bear half a degree right. I want to slide around the edge of the Labyrinth, if we can.”

“Like you’ve never flirted during a mission,” Xuthos retorted, following Talos’s flight path.

“Not during a scouting mission.” He checked his map and altered his course slightly. According to the last coordinates of the Labyrinth, this should angle them around the side, giving them a straight shot toward Krete.

“I bet Mikon tells a different story,” Xuthos said, not even trying to pretend he wasn’t baiting him.

There was a pause, and Talos quickly reviewed recent scouting missions he and Mikon had been on. He couldn’t recall any flirting, but half of those had been with Ianessa at mission ops, and who flirted with their sister?

Well, Loxias, but he’d never really seen her as his actual sister, just his teammate.

“I solemnly swear I have never seen Talos flirt on a scouting mission,” Mikon said with exaggerated sincerity in his voice.

Talos’s shoulders shook with silent laughter. Never seen—clever boy. Scouting missions meant people rarely left their cockpits, and when they did, it was usually in abandoned locations. Of course he couldn’t have seen Talos flirting with anyone—there wouldn’t have been anything to see. Hearing was a different matter.

* * * * * *

“Do you seriously think I don’t know it’ll be hard?” Arguing with someone in front of the generals and his pilots wasn’t very professional behavior, but she was acting awfully smug for a newcomer. And that remark about the Kidaon Fortress was over the top. “Did you miss the part where I said with careful planning?”

“No, I just missed the part where you said you had an actual idea of where to get in or knew exactly where the key was. What if it isn’t even kept in the fortress anymore? I’d store it in the palace, if it was me.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Ianessa interjected.

Talos threw her a glower. “Whose side are you on?”

She held up both hands and smiled, her eyes wide with fake innocence. “I’m a casual bystander.”

“So am I,” Mikon said quickly and moved to stand next to Ianessa.

“Thanks for the support, fam,” Talos said as sarcastically as possible.

* * * * * *

“It’s settled then.” Ares crossed the floor to the doors and flung one open, raising his eyebrows at his daughter. “How much did you hear?”

Koralia grinned at him and shrugged. “Mother’s coming for a visit, and you’re both running away from her.”

Hephaestus shouted with laughter behind her, and Ares’s shoulders shook as he laughed too. “That’s right, and you’re coming with us.”

We’re actually coming with you, but semantics.” Hephaestus rose from his seat as Ares guided Koralia into the office, his arm around her shoulders.

* * * * * *

As if he couldn’t stand still any longer, Tisandros moved around Talos and closer to Koralia. “You amazons certainly know a lot, especially for a set of warriors who refuse to join the rebellion.”

The atmosphere on the bridge shifted, tension slipping between everyone. The generals stood back, watching, and Ianessa ranged herself on the side of the amazon, which made Talos frown again.

“They haven’t joined yet,” Koralia’s voice was sharp-edged, “but that doesn’t mean they haven’t helped or that they won’t in the future.”

“Is that a promise?” Tisandros asked insistently.

She raised her eyebrows and drew herself up. Not that it made much effect against the pilot—he was pretty tall—but the glitter in her eyes did have him shuffling his footsteps, backing off without it looking like he was backing off.

“I would never promise for the amazons,” Koralia said, her gaze still boring into Tisandros. “But you should not so quickly dismiss them as black and white. Not everyone has either the luxury or the desperation of throwing everything away to join the rebellion.”

There was a very slight pressure of air around the bridge, as if someone had pushed a wave of something toward them.

A sure sign that Mikon was agitated, his olympian abilities accidentally coming out.

“If we’re quite finished playing 'question the new woman',” the General’s voice sliced through the tense air, “I’d like to return to the discussion.”

* * * * * *

Outside the door, Talos paused and then poked his head back in. “And for the record, I don’t think you go on a quest for vengeance. I think it’s technically a mission.”

“Disagreed, but let’s argue that another time. Shoo.”

“Yeah, yeah, love you too.” He banged the door behind him and stomped exaggeratedly down the hall until the junction, just to irritate her.

* * * * * *

Hephaestus tossed her a thin silver disk, and she caught it reflexively.

“No need,” he assured her. “I need to head home soon anyway, and I have to stop off and hand Poseidon his new weapons idea for his Seasharks. The modifications aren’t going to do what he thinks they will, but who am I to argue with a customer?”

“Especially when it’s our esteemed uncle,” Ares interjected dryly.

Hephaestus went on as if he didn’t hear. “I can drop you near the border of rebel space.”

She stiffened. “And how do you know where the rebellion is?”

Ares snorted as Hephaestus tapped her under the chin fondly. “Don’t ruffle up. I’m the Lord of Fire. You think I’m not going to know where the biggest fireball in the galaxy is?”

* * * * * *

“Where did they come from?” he asked, seeming unbothered by Talos’s irritation.

“New operative on base,” Talos said shortly. “Ow.” He spat a few inventive curses. “Mikon, would you stop drooling and get over here where you’re supposed to be? I can’t seal this back into place one-handed.”

The tone was sharp, but the boy—Mikon—again didn’t seem annoyed. His hands in his pockets, he strolled out of sight, over toward where Talos was presumably working on a fighter.

“What’s the new operative like?” Mikon asked, his voice practically bursting with curiosity. “What system is he from?”

“She.” The word was muffled, and there was a sharp whine, like a piece of metal being cut, and then a slam.

“A new girl on base?”

Koralia almost laughed. His voice sounded the way she imagined a puppy would: eager, questioning, innocent, mischievous.

“Don’t get any ideas,” Talos grunted. “No, not that way; twist it. I have to seal it separately or it won’t hold.”

Another screech of metal on metal filled the work area, and then silence until Mikon asked, “Why don’t get any ideas? Is she older? Or married?”

Hissing sparks drowned out anything else Mikon said for a minute. The welder shut off, and Talos said, “If that doesn’t hold, nothing will. And, no, don’t get any ideas because…” He paused, sounding like he wasn’t sure what to say next.

She held still, half wishing she wasn’t there and half hoping to hear something that would make his attitude a little easier to deal with.

“…because she’s an amazon,” Talos finished, as if it closed the discussion.

But it didn’t, not for Mikon.

“So?” the boy retorted. “My mother’s an olympian.”

“Your mother is a she-devil who is to blame for everyone thinking you’re going to go batstardust crazy and murder someone,” Talos said, sounding distracted. Something thunked, like a crate being closed.

“Rude,” Mikon said, conversationally, “but fair.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

And there you have it, the rebels of the Kallistratus, their general, and a few of the olympians you're going to meet in this series.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

War Past Midnight ~ Introduction to The Icarus Aftermath

This started as answers to Christine Smith's Know the Novel tags #2 and #3, and then I didn't get the post finished in December. But since it's a great format for introducing The Icarus Aftermath and its series, I'm keeping her questions.

Yes, you read that right. The Icarus Aftermath is officially Book 1 of The Sunfire Saga. (Thanks to Mirriam for bouncing names around late at night, not just once but several times, and thanks to the other people I asked for feedback.)

This autumn, I received news that my beloved horse of 14 years had died. I had given her to a friend a few months ago when we moved into town and I couldn't keep her. When I got the news, I had a long day of work ahead, so I kept going one step at a time, but dang, it hurt, obviously. By night, I was exhausted and pretty sad and heavy. I went to shower, and this story just popped into my head, fully armored like Athena herself. Showers are usually my best place for inspiration, but you bet I wasn't expecting any to hit me that night.

Time and tide and stories wait for no woman. Who knew.

It was one of those story ideas that made me tilt my head and think, Okay, why have I never had this kind of idea before? Because it's the perfect blend of so many things I love. Greek Mythology. Space Opera. Retellings. Rebels. Intense people. Pilots. Warriors. Generals. Ancient World inspiration. Star Wars aesthetic and inspiration.

The sparks were apparently waiting until they knew the time was right. And that time was then. I'd never loved the Icarus myth. I thought he was a twit who deserved what he got, to be honest. But all the sudden, I could see so clearly in my mind how to retell the myth. I got out of the shower and scribbled the foundation of what later became the second scene. I sent it to Mirriam, and her reaction was enthusiastic. So was Kate's when she read it.

I knew I had something good on my hands. Something I was going to really adore. At that time, I was dealing with a lot of work and still settling into our new place, so it didn't go anywhere for some weeks. Then mid-October rolled around and I was down to the wire to decide on a novel for NaNoWriMo. After a couple of conversations with writing buddies and some early morning walks to think, I decided to go with this story.

And boy, am I glad I did.

NaNo 2019 was weird for me in so many ways. My calendar looked like a soap opera:
- First two days: getting started and feeling like I was slogging through waist-deep mud to get word counts in. (Actually, my word counts were above and beyond what I needed, but it sure didn't feel like it. Trust not your feelings, kids. They LIE.)
- Week one: a work deadline got changed on me and I had to take an intense day to spend hours finishing a manuscript, which really stressed me out. Word counts still felt super slow. (They weren't.)
- Week two: My family caught the flu, and at the end of that week, SO DID I. I haven't had the flu in...probably eight or ten years? It's been a LONG TIME.
- Week three: recovering from the flu, winning NaNo, recovering, resting, did I mention I hadn't been that sick in ten years? It was brutal.
- Week four: Thanksgiving preparation + Thanksgiving with extended family, hit 100,000 words on November 30th for my first ever double-NaNo.
- Week five: technically not NaNo anymore, but I wrote another 15,000 words in three days to finish the novel at about 115,000 words on December 3rd.


SO yes. NaNo was a wild ride, but this book and these characters were exactly what I needed. They pulled me through the weird month, channeled the stress of the entire summer, and gave me my most favorite world/story I've written yet.

Now for some Q&A.

How did writing this novel go all around?

It went really, really, REALLY well! I thought the writing was going to suck, and I just planned to have fun, but then I got about 1/3 into it, and writing was flowing in ways it hadn't all summer. I loved it. I quickly became obsessed. And when I finished, I was even ready to keep writing about these characters instead of wanting a break.

Take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looked like.

I didn't really have a normal writing day for this novel. It varied a lot, dependent on my work schedule, my best friend/writing partner's work schedule, and my family's day. The one constant was word wars, almost every time we wrote. NaNo is always full of word wars for Mirriam and I, some that last late into the night when we've got a day where we can stay up late. (So long to the days when we were young and not working and could do whatever we wanted.)

Where do you write?

Usually at my desk. That month, I wrote a lot while sitting on my bed.

What time of day?

All times, but especially late at night and mid- to late-morning (my time) after Mirriam woke up.

Did it turn out like you expected or completely differently? And how do you feel about the outcome?

Oh gosh, both? Expected and completely differently from what I thought. The overall book turned out far, far better than I'd hoped, which is actually true of all of it. I knew going in that I was going to try to write something fun and lighter than I usually write with a more straightforward plot. And I achieved all of that and also wound up incorporating everything I really love—hints of drama and inner fires and passion and revolution and humor—into the book without it being laborious or complicated. So in many ways, it turned out so much BETTER than I even hoped.

I did think at the beginning of the month that the writing really sucked and I wasn't doing well with it, but by the time I hit about 40-50,000 words, that feeling left. (Mirriam may have yelled at me in shock a dozen times by then over why I couldn't see it was good writing, and Kate may have given me several blank looks for the same reason, but I'm apparently bad at listening on occasion.)

What was the most fun aspect of writing this novel?

THE SHIP WARS that started in chapter 6. I wasn't expecting those, and they were HILARIOUS and great fun.

What aspects of the story did you love writing the most? (Characters, plot, setting, prose, etc.)

But if I really had to choose, I'd say the Sunfire family: my nine hotheaded orphans and their found family at the forefront of the rebellion.

How about your least favorite part?

In terms of not wanting/liking to write a part, nothing. In terms of 'oh my gosh, this is going to gut me but it has to happen', there were at least four scenes.

What do you feel needed the most work?

There are a couple scenes I needed to go back and add in to flesh out a few dynamics/relationships and bring one character in more strongly, but aside from that, this book didn't need nearly the amount of work that most of mine do. And I was and am super super happy about that.

What was your biggest victory with writing this novel?

Making people cry. Legitimately, at least two of my alpha readers cried while reading, and my sister stormed into my room when she finished reading to glower at me and fume with not-very-polite language. She still sniffles every time she talks about one part.

How do you feel about your characters now that the novel is done? Who's your favorite? Least favorite? Anyone surprise you? Give us all the details?

Favorite is so freaking hard because most of the Sunfires are my favorite. But if I have to pick just one, it would be Icarus. Oh, my Icarus. (The General is such a close second that it's practically a tie.)

Least favorite: mmmm, tough choices between Theseus and Minos.

Surprise: I did not expect to love Xuthos or Mikon as much as I did. And I didn't expect two scenes to wreck me, but ohhhh, did they ever.

Who's your favorite character to write?

Icarus. Even though he's dead.
Aside from him, oooh, it's really hard. There are four who are about even: the General, Koralia, Talos, and Mikon.
But pretty much any Sunfire is my favorite to write.

If you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

Publishing is a dream for it (working toward it now!), but my greatest dream for it is to have it be loved by readers as much as I adore it, and to have the characters stay bright in their minds and remain fond memories long after the book is over. Also having people who don't normally read in this genre try it and love the book.

Did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

I didn't learn lessons so much as I did level up. I knew going into NaNo that there were several major writing flaws I wanted to work on and improve. And I did that in ways that surpassed my hopes. People have struggled to connect with my ensemble casts before, and those who have read this novel so far haven't had that problem. And I was able to practice writing only three POVs in this novel, which I haven't done in a very long time—most of my novels have six to eight POVs. (Okay, so technically there are five POVs here because of some 'cheating' scenes, but pffffft.)

Share some of your favorite snippets.

I'll share just one since I'm going to do a full snippets post later this week.

Why the Sunfires still surprised her, she didn’t know. After all, she had known Icarus. Known him with a depth that she knew he gave few others. He had opened every reserve to her in the end, and she’d seen the molten core that had led him to stand against bullies from a young age, from his father all the way up to the Jupiterian sons themselves.

Few had the courage or the sustaining fire to challenge the olympians for more than a few years, let alone over a decade, but Icarus did, and any who followed him would have to have fire of their own, not just loyalty to his.

It was no wonder the rebellion kept aflame with them at its core and Athanasia at its head. It would burn until it restored justice to the galaxy or until every last member was dead…and then the memory of it would still kindle hearts aflame.

That was the legacy of the Sunfires.

Current status:

Editing book 1 for publication sometime in the next two months, and I just started writing Book 2. Keep an eye on our Citadel Fiction newsletter for news about the publishing and snippets of Book 2 as it's written.

And come back on Saturday to finally see snippets of this book!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Twenty Reasons I Love Star Wars

Star Wars is more or less always on my mind. It's one of my top two favorite stories, and in some ways, comes closer to the heart of me than the other one. So I think about it a lot. Especially now, while I'm editing my soon-to-be-published novel, the first in a series which is in many ways a love letter to Star Wars.

And yes, I have a very complicated relationship with Star Wars at the moment because of what I thought of The Rise of Skywalker, but that's a subject for a different day.

So in honor of May the Fourth and it being 2020, I'm here to share twenty reasons I love Star Wars. Yes, still.

In no particular order:

- SPACE. I love space. I love the stars. They're my happy drug, in a way. I can have an absolutely horrible day and then I go outside and look up at the stars and breathe for a few minutes, and it's one of the most cathartic things for me.

- FANTASY in space. I adore fantasy. I love it when 'magic' aka supernatural power is part of a world, when there are questions about how to use it responsibly, epic battles about good and evil, and a good old-fashioned coming-of-age plot or quest. I love fantasy. Star Wars gave me that PLUS space. You can't beat that.

- It was never a 'simple' story. I love stories that can be both a simple adventure and something so much bigger and deeper and wider than that. On the surface, Star Wars might look like a simple adventure, but it's not. It never was. It's about more than just coming of age. It's about heroes and villains, love and loss, power, rebellion, destiny, the fate of a galaxy, and above all: choices. Which brings me to my next point.

- One of my favorite things is when a story goes into whether destiny or choice is the ultimate ruler of a person. Star Wars explored this on a lot of levels, without making it overly complicated. The fall of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader and his subsequent rise to Anakin again...my stars, it doesn't get much better than that.

- LEIA. I've never really had role models or heroes. They're wonderful and all, I'm just not wired that way. But if I had one of either or both, it would be General Leia Organa. While I loved the sassy princess who rolled her eyes at her boys and took matters into her own hands and made the plans, I loved Leia the most in The Empire Strikes Back, when she was leading and commanding rebel troops. She was so much more than just a princess or just a sassy woman or just a general. She was all of that plus more. She could repair mechanical things, like helping Han on the Millennium Falcon, she had been a senator, she could make inspiring speeches or just slap someone. Or revenge kiss them. She was SHORT, but she went toe to toe with everyone: male, female, other/alien, and consistently WON because she had the smart argument or the quick mind on her side. She was epic, and so was Carrie Fisher, and I miss them both.

- It was never a story about 'boys are better than girls' or 'GIRLS ARE BETTER THAN BOYS'. Don't get me wrong, more female characters in media is usually a great thing to see, but a lot of movies and TV shows have started to feel like another meeting of the 'boys rock, girls go away' or 'girls rule, boys drool' clubs. We're not in grade school anymore, people. And Star Wars never felt like that to me. Sure, there were more male characters than female, but it was never a statement about gender. Ever. From the very first, you had the boys sweeping in to rescue the princess...only to have the princess call them idiots and take charge and make the plans herself because these moon jockeys were rubbish at plans. Star Wars treated variety as a matter of course, like it never even asked itself why there wouldn't be variety. Even from the first. I think we can all agree that more stories should be like that.

- Heroes. A few months ago I posted about heroes vs. good men, and Star Wars is one of the stories that does this really well: explores heroes and what makes heroes vs. what makes good men and can good men rise or fall from the position of hero and can bad guys become good again. But in a non-soapboxy way; it's not shoved in your face.

- Responsibility. Star Wars went beyond 'what I want in my personal life' and asked 'what is better for the galaxy'. Not always, but often. It was never just about someone's personal quest, it was about the people around them as well. And as someone who is used to seeing the bigger picture, that meant a lot to me to see that onscreen.

- Rebels. I've always always been a rebel at heart. Less a rebel-without-a-cause than a rebel-blood-flows-in-my-veins. I look at a rule, and I don't say 'dang, I want to break this because how dare anyone think they can tell me what to do, I hate authority'. I say 'okay, but why is it there and WHEN can I break it?' 'Know the rules so you can break them effectively' has been my motto for years, since before I even knew it was a motto. This scrappy Resistance/Rebellion fighting the dark lords of the galaxy because it's what was right and they cared about other people and the future? I'm so HERE for that.

- The outfits. Oh my gosh, from the simple but classy outfits Leia wore in the Original Trilogy, to the stunning ensembles her mother donned in the Prequel Trilogy (can I have Padmé's entire senatorial closet, yesplease and thankyouverymuch.)

- Knights/Guardians. I grew up on the Knights of the Round Table, on the idea of a group of people sworn to defend truth and justice. That band WAS primarily male, but when the Prequel Trilogy came out, there were Jedi EVERYWHERE, of every race, shape, gender, and color. Heck yes, give me more.

- War. Yes, so I love war stories, okay. I especially like war stories with starships and war stories with magic. Bingo, Star Wars has both.

- Twins. Not going to lie, I love stories about twins. Whether it's about them being separated at birth and finding each other later or about twins who grew up like two halves of the same person or twins who grew up together but are radically different or twins who hate each other—I love stories about twins. And Luke and Leia are my favorite fictional twins.

- It was FUNNY. Starting with the dynamic between the main cast in A New Hope and continuing throughout the whole saga, Star Wars didn't sacrifice humor in order to tell an epic story. The story got to be both epic and funny, and I think we need more of that in fiction.

- Age never mattered. From the nineteen-year-old twins who swept through the galaxy to the nine-hundred-year-old Jedi who smacked people around with his stick to the sixty-ish mentor to the ten-year-old Chosen One to the rebels of all ages in the Original Trilogy and the Sequel Trilogy, Star Wars always sent a message that you were never too old or too young to care about what was right and to fight for it.

- Loss. I've never really loved Happily Ever After stories, especially those that seemed to have no tragedy or pain or those that did but glossed over it at the end. In some ways, Star Wars might seem like a Happily Ever After story, but it never was for me. In the end of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, as everyone gathers to celebrate their victories, there is still a bittersweet smile for those they lost. There is so much hope and happiness, but they don't forget how they got there and the people now gone.

- Hope. This is a complex point for me because of some of what The Rise of Skywalker did, but despite that, overall Star Wars was always a story of hope. And hope is something this world and each of us individually will always need.

- Friendship. I could write reams and essays and theses on the relationships in this saga, from family to friends, but in a nutshell, I adore the friendships in this saga, from Obi-Wan and Anakin to Obi-Wan and Padmé, from Luke and Biggs to Chewie and the Skywalkers, from Poe and Finn to Leia and Holdo, this saga was vibrant with friendships of all kinds, and I absolutely love that about it.

- It was generational. Star Wars isn't just relevant to one particular generation. It's a story that can resonate with multiple generations. It's a story that itself SPANS generations and is all ABOUT fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, children and grandchildren. That's hard to do without getting overly complicated or boring, but dang, Star Wars did it and did it well. Mostly.

- Passionate people. I was sort of talking about this to Mirriam last night, how a lot of stories don't really show intense, passionate people doing more than just being rebels or having love affairs. And Star Wars DID. They showed passionate people being politicians and guardians and more.

And all of this and more has been a huge subconscious and conscious inspiration to me for years, and it fueled the best book I've yet written, the book I'll be publishing sometime in the next two months. The book that I told my best friend yesterday is the most me any of my writing has yet been. So I will always owe a huge debt to Star Wars.

Thank you, George Lucas. Thank you, all of you amazing actors and crews who put together these movies.

Thank you, Star Wars.

May the Fourth be with you!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Pick Your OTP: Two Valentine's OTP Challenges

Since February is home to both Valentine's Day AND Tell A Fairy Tale Day (Feb. 26th), we've been celebrating fairy tales in general over at Fairy Tale Central. Part of that includes a blog tag about fairy tales, which you can join in on HERE.

Aaaand, we thought, what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to host a tag specifically for fairy tale couples? The tag (and its writer OTP version) are live on Instagram right now (links below), but I wanted to post a blog version too, in case you don't have an IG or prefer to fill it out on a blog (like I do sometimes).

Fairy Tale OTP Challenge:

1. The first fairy tale OTP you shipped
2. The cliché fairy tale OTP that everyone ships but you still love
3. Your favorite hate-to-love fairy tale OTP
4. The fairy tale OTP with the craziest relationship
5. The best-dressed fairy tale OTP
6. Star-crossed love: the forbidden love fairy tale OTP
7. The funniest fairy tale OTP
8. The fairy tale OTP with the most growth in their relationship
9. The sweetest, most adorable fairy tale OTP
10. The OTP who snuck up on you, the one you didn't expect to love
11. The moodiest fairy tale OTP
12. The class-crossed fairy tale OTP
13. The obscure fairy tale OTP who isn't shipped by many people (or anyone)
14. Your very favorite fairy tale OTP you'll love for the rest of your days

If you want to take part in the Instagram version, you can find it HERE.

Writer's OTP Challenge:
(You can fill this out with any of your WIPs, published books, or ideas-to-be-written. They do not have to be fairy tale related.)

1. The first OTP you wrote
2. Your cliché OTP from an early work that you still love
3. A hate-to-love OTP you’ve written. (Or your favorite, if you’ve written several)
4. Your OTP with the craziest relationship
5. Your best dressed OTP
6. Star-crossed love: your forbidden love OTP
7. Your funniest OTP
8. Your OTP with the healthiest relationship
9. Your sweetest, most adorable OTP
10. The OTP who snuck up on you, the one you didn't expect to love
11. Your moodiest OTP
12. A class-crossed OTP you’ve written
13. An OTP you wrote that most people don’t ship
14. Your very favorite OTP you'll love for the rest of your days

The Instagram version of this tag can be found HERE.

If you fill out one or both tags, please come back here and leave me a link in the comments so I can read yours! I'll be back to fill them out myself later this month.

Happy February!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Good Men: Myth or Reality? Part 3

PC: Fabrice Nerfin

Carrying on talking about good men, it's my turn today. I've posted a little about my NaNo novel, The Icarus Aftermath, and there will be more posts coming next week + for a while. (I love this book so much, you guys.)

The Sunfire family in The Icarus Aftermath is six men and three girls, most of whom you meet in the first novel. That's 2/3 men, and one of my favorite things about writing this novel was getting to take guys from a variety of backgrounds and personalities and show the one thing that unites them: a burning love for their family.

On the surface, most of the Sunfires seem to fit into one bad boy trope or another—and all of them like leather jackets. (Look, leather jackets are just great, okay?) But there is far more to these guys than what you initially see.

Impulsive, easily annoyed, bossy, he’s definitely an aggressive alpha male. He’s been protecting people from an early age, stepping between his jealous father and his cousin. And when he finally decided to do something permanent about that situation, his answer was to run away and join in the guerrilla war against the olympians. (Brilliant, right? HA.) He’s most well known for leaping first and thinking on the way down, something that drives his rebellion generals and strategists insane.

He’s not easy to work with, he’s not always easy to get along with once you get past the charming surface, and he’s irritatingly right about a lot of things.

And yet every single one of his pilots would follow him through hell and back and turn right around and do it again. His family is the first to point out his flaws but also the first to fight you if you dare speak out against him. And his death rips a hole not just in his family and his girlfriend but in every single one of the people who knew him—even the ones who didn’t like him.

Because Icarus cares. He didn’t ask to be a leader, but when it came, he stepped up and took it on. He didn’t set out to build a family of orphans and rejects, but when that chance came, he grabbed it with both hands and said ‘why the heck not, let’s do this’.

He’s widely thought of as one of the best heroes of the rebellion AND A GOOD MAN AT THE SAME TIME. He’s the furthest thing from a pushover, and he manages to be a mostly alpha male without being a jerk at the same time.

Now the oldest of the Sunfires, it’s his job to look after them all, and Talos is not prepared for it. He was bullied as a child by the very people who should have protected him and looked out for him. He grew up unloved by almost everyone, abandoned more than once, and just plain angry.

He couldn’t even break out of the bullying until Icarus said ‘hey, let’s run away.’ And while running away and going on a two-person war against corrupt empires is fun, it’s not exactly the best way to learn anger management, you know what I mean? And it didn’t help that of the two of them: him and Icarus, he’s the responsible one. He’s the one who makes plans, who reminds Icarus that some things can’t be solved by leaping first.

If Icarus was the dad of the Sunfires, Talos was the mom in many ways. He looks out for them, he keeps Icarus level, and he keeps the others level too. He knows better than most what each sibling needs to feel loved or to help keep their tempers under control.

In many ways, Talos is primed to be the grumpy jerk who goes around snapping orders and gets nasty when they aren’t obeyed.

And that’s absolutely not who he is.

Because he knows that everything in life is a choice. And he could choose to give in to the anger. He could choose to be the bitter jerk, but he chose differently. He still battles his anger almost every day. When Icarus falls, he wants to destroy Krete, and he means literally destroy it: the entire planet.

But he doesn’t. And it has nothing to do with being a coward or a wimp or preferring to sit and brood in anger. No. He chooses to control his feelings and make a sensible, responsible choice. It isn’t easy. But the good choices rarely are, and that’s why they’re worth making.

He’s not always a hero. But he’s a good man.

He’s been handed literally everything to turn him into a brooding, bitter, victimizing whiner. Half-olympian, his mother treated him like trash, and he was extremely isolated as a child. He’s a textbook case for ‘hurt boy who became a whiny victim who broods and pouts and needs anger management.’

As a half-olympian, he’s more powerful than most people. He can use persuasion on others, he can hear better than the average human/alien, and he is slightly stronger than the average human. He’s volatile, he doesn’t play well with others, he hates being treated like a kid, and he’s a BRAT sometimes. He messes with people just because he likes it, he taunts people, he thinks his family is better than most of the galaxy, and he’s a bit of a snob when it comes to who he likes and doesn’t like.

He’s the perfect setup for a manipulative little jerk.

And only two things kept him from going there. The Sunfires, and himself. The Sunfires pulled him out, they gave him a home and family, but all of it would have been utterly worthless without his own burning desire to be a better person. He’s worked to get to where he is, to be able to stand on his own two feet and look his General in the eye with a clear conscience.

Sure, it annoys and sometimes hurts him when people dismiss him as a kid even though he isn’t. Yes, he wants revenge on anyone who touches what he loves. And, oh, the temptation is definitely there to just manipulate the people around him to get what he wants.

But he won’t do that. And not because he’s a wimp or a pushover. No, it’s because long ago he chose to be responsible for himself and his actions, he chose to fight for self control, and he chose to be a good person, no matter what that took.

He isn’t a Sunfire, but he plays a major role in the book. He’s got all the hallmarks of a really annoying bad boy. Dark, tall, swaggering, arrogant, ladies' man, and he couldn’t care less if he starts conflict. Talos doesn’t like working with him, Mikon doesn’t really like working with him, and for a while, it seems like the only people who do like him are the ladies.

But as you get to know Xuthos, you find out that he isn’t your typical bad boy. He’s smart, he’s hugely capable, and the General assigned him to work with Talos because she knew he would balance the Sunfire out. And sure, he’s got a typical slightly traumatic past, but he’s no victim, and he doesn’t need saving from himself because HE’S taken responsibility FOR HIMSELF. Including when it comes to the girl he starts falling for—the girl who isn’t an option. He doesn’t whine or get fussy or huffy when she turns him down. He accepts it, he manages to not be bitter about the rejection, and he's even honest about the fact that next to Icarus, he’s not much of a catch.

At one point, Koralia tells him ‘you have one tiny spot of nobility in your heart and I managed to touch it.’ And it’s true.

On the surface, he seems like an aggressive alpha male abusive bad boy type. Is he a frustrating, aggravating man who could behave better at least some of the time? Yes, he is. But deep down, he’s trying really hard to be a good man.

In real life, good men aren’t only wimpy pushovers or aggressive bad-boy borderline-abusive jerks. They can have as wide a range of personalities as good women, with backstories as varied and complex as anyone.

Not all heroes are good men. Not all good men are heroes. And true good men don't fit either the aggressive alpha male trope OR the wimpy pushover trope because both are unhealthy. Realistic, three-dimensional good men in fiction do exist…and they’re worth writing and reading about.

And I’ll take a good man over a hero any day.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Good Men: Myth or Reality? Part 2

PC: Jehyun Sung

Guys don’t have to be wimpy pushovers to be good men. Not all good men are what you would call heroes. And not all heroes are good men.

I mentioned Mirriam's amazing NaNo novel in my last post. It's often hard for me to choose favorites with Mirriam's novels, because I love all of hers. Her writing covers such a broad range of genres, and I just love that, and I love her plots + characters.

But The Eigengrau is one of the best she's ever written, and I'm borderline obsessed with it and the characters in it. In addition to a fantastic set of female characters and side characters, she's written several male characters that are all incredible, good men without being lame, wimpy, or too-aggressive bad-boy types.

Some minor spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.

On the surface, Travis actually seems like the stereotypical pushover boring good guy. He seems sweet and quiet but nothing special.

And in some ways, he isn’t ‘special.’ He doesn’t stand out in a crowd. He isn’t the first person you notice when you walk into the room.

But as you get into the book, as you learn more about Travis, you realize he’s dealt with a lot of trauma, pain, and darkness firsthand. He’s not soft and kind because he’s a wimp or because he’s never faced darkness. He’s strong because he has seen it, and he’s kind because HE CHOSE TO LET HIS PAST MAKE HIM KIND. Not hard. Not bitter.

Several days ago, after reading a section with Travis, I told Mirriam:
‘He’s not dull at all. He comes across as the quiet guy who's observant and also the kind most people overlook but who is subtly a good guy on the side, and it's just...I love him a lot.’

And actually, as I’m writing this, we’re word warring, and she’s writing a couple of Travis-centric chapters, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that he’s been through hell and back and he had every opportunity to go sour, bitter, and become a ‘bitter bad boy’ type...and didn't.

He isn’t a soft!boi. He isn’t a leather jacket wearing melodramatic bad boy. Not that there’s anything wrong with those types on occasion; he just isn't one, unlike you might expect. He’s a quiet guy with loyalty issues who should have made some choices differently but who takes responsibility for his own actions.

At one point, I said, ‘WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS GIRLFRIEND. WHY AND HOW DID SHE LEAVE THAT?’ And that was an intentionally double-sided comment, because his girlfriend left for reasons that had nothing to do with him, but the point still stands that he is an amazing character.

He’s no wimp. He’s no pushover. He’s not someone you can walk all over. He’s 3D, he’s realistic, he’s a good man at heart, he’s trying to be a good man in his actions, and if you look a little closer at the quiet ones who smile and laugh and interact without standing out, you might just see some Travises in your own life.

It takes you a while to really get a feel for Maddox’s character, but as you read further and further, you realize that one of his biggest strengths was that he loved with all his heart and he could connect. People felt like they could talk to him. One of my favorite Maddox scenes so far is one where he isn’t even present. It comes out that another character has a big secret that Maddox knew, that he initially figured out the secret in the first place. Seemingly a tiny thing, just being there to say ‘hey, it’s okay, this doesn’t mean you’re broken, there’s a word for that, it’s a legit thing.’ But it made all the difference in the world to this one person.

Mental illness is brutal to deal with. And Maddox had more problems than most. But he knew whom to trust. He often fell down in the fight. In some ways, he wasn’t what we’d call a good guy. But he did try to be a good man.

In some ways, he’s the stereotypical ‘older brother’s best friend’. But only on the surface.
One of Jesse’s biggest strengths is his awareness. His ability to understand people and make them feel at home without making a big deal out of their problems. He’s the rock. The one you can go to and tell about your problems and he might ask some questions...or he might hand you a beer and challenge you to a game of Mario Kart.

But none of this is because he had a great childhood or had awesome role models or woke up one day with a passion to be a great guy. If anyone comes close to the ‘silent strong gruff one with a heart of gold’ type in this novel, it would be him. HE DOESN’T, but it would be him. Ex-military, bartender, the one who handed the kids alcoholic drinks before they were legally old enough, and the one who taught more than one of them how to swear.

That’s not typical hero behavior. It’s not typical good guy behavior. But is Jesse a good man? Yes. He is.

Okay, frankly, Harbor is a little, er, brat, to use a mild term. His attitude can be a real pain in the neck, he can be really annoying, and there are days you just want to stare at him and say ‘can you be any less helpful?’ Or ‘gee, you couldn’t have mentioned that SOONER?’
He’s a brat.

Did I mention Harbor is blind?
Mmmm, because he is.

He’s about the most un-stereotypically blind person in a story. But he’s one of the most realistically blind characters I’ve ever read in a book.

Not everyone with physical ‘disabilities’ is self pitying. Not all of them see themselves as victims. And not all of them are bitter jerks who have to be brought out with kindness and sweetness and love. That’s the most common storyline for people with disabilities, but not everyone in real life is like that. (I say ‘disabilities’ like that to point out that some people don’t even like calling it that. They see themselves as ordinary people living a life just as full as yours or mine—and I see them the same way.) There are people who have physical disabilities who just go about their lives as you or I would, adjusting to what they have to when they have to.

Harbor is one of these. Without the reminders of his cane, needing an AI to read aloud articles to him, someone leading him around, or him making jokes about his blindness—you’d forget he’s blind. Why? Because his blindness does not define him. He has seemingly every reason to be a bitter, sour person. He can’t see. He doesn’t get to do some things in life that others do. He has to have a lot of help in some ways. He can’t live what most people see as a ‘normal life’.

But despite the sass and the frequent brattiness, Harbor is one of the most genuinely ‘good guys’ in this book. He’s super smart, he’s observant without needing to see, and he puts facts together quickly. This is a complex plot and story and it’s really helpful to recap information often for the reader. This could get boring really fast and/or feel artificial and contrived. But it doesn’t. Harbor usually stars in these scenes, meaning a) there’s an natural reason for the recapping and b) it’s done with style. It feels realistic. And it’s lovable.

Harbor had every opportunity to be bitter and sour and a whining self-pitying guy. But he’s not. He’s one of the most genuinely good guys in the book. And there is nothing wimpy about him.

Okay, he’s going to be really hard to talk about—not because he isn’t a good guy, but because I know things about him that even readers don’t yet.

Ah, the trials of being best friends with the author.

Gavin is probably the least likable guy at first. He seems like an anti-social sociopath. He’s not even ‘in’ the gang of friends at first. He’s legitimately worrying. Has he murdered someone? Is he going to snap and go psychotic?

And some of those questions persist. Gavin isn’t an easy person to understand. I really can't say much about him because I can’t spoil the book for you, but let’s just say that GAVIN IS MY BOY AND I ADORE HIM AND YOU ALL WILL WHEN YOU GET TO THE END IF NOT BEFORE, ahem.

Despite all his problems and all the reasons he could be a jerk or whine and play the pity card because of his trauma, he doesn’t. Gavin is an amazing man, nuanced and fascinating. And he’s a hero at the same time. It’s not easy being both, especially when you are as Different as he is.

But he does it, and he does it brilliantly.


If anyone is the typical leather-jacket-wearing bad boy jerk, Declan is.
He made molotov cocktails to rob convenience stores WHEN HE WAS A TEEN, okay. That’s a bit of a spoiler, but the scene is hysterical and has so much more in it, so go read it.

But then you get to go deeper.
And you get to the heart of Declan. You get to see that under his brash exterior, he stood up for love and loyalty. He fought for what he loved. And he protected what he loved. He’s still trying to protect what he loves. He’s still trying to fight for what he cares about.

Declan is no knight. He’s not even a healthy guy. I wouldn’t suggest anyone date him, at least not for a long while.
And whether he's a good man or not is up for debate at the moment.

But deep down, he was a hero. IS a hero.

These are the main male characters of The Eigengrau. And guess what, not a single one of them is a pushover. (Well. Ahem. One or two might be occasionally when it comes to their girlfriends or puppy dog eyes but you’d have to be INHUMAN not to be, so that’s a moot point.) And not a single one is a jerk to the point where you wonder why in the name of common sense anyone is even hanging around them.

But they ARE realistic. If you look closely enough at the men you know, you can see some/all of these characteristics in them.

Again, men don't have to be lame or wimpy or bossy jerks to be good or desirable. You can write fascinating, nuanced men and still have them be good guys.