Wronged Women

While taking a break from working on the new story that the plot bunny brought the other night, I just started looking at a few of my favorite Internet pages for mythology—places like http://www.greekmythology.com/, http://www.pantheon.org/areas/mythology/, and http://www.maicar.com/GML/index.html.  And, inevitably, I started reading about Medea and Medusa—probably two of the most wronged women in the whole of the Greek pantheon.  I’ve always been drawn to both Medea and Medusa. 
Medea, according to the play by Euripides, killed her two sons to exact revenge on Jason (yes, thatJason—of the Argonauts fame) when Jason spurned her to marry a princess, because he thought it would look better for him to be married to a Greek princess, not a barbarian princess.  And, Jason tells Medea all of this AFTER Medea helps him complete all the tasks necessary to win the Golden Fleece and he then takes Medea from her homeland to a place where she is a stranger in a strange land.

Jason: O children, what a wicked mother Fate gave you.
Medea: O sons, your father’s treachery cost you your lives.
Jason: It was not my hand that killed my sons.
Medea: No, not your hand; but your insult to me, and your new-wedded wife.
Jason: You thought that reason enough to murder them, that I no longer slept with you?
Medea: And is that injury a slight one, do you imagine, to a woman?

Ummmm, Jason…you’re an idiot. 
Older myths have the people of Corinth killing Medea’s children and blaming her.  Euripides, of course, has Medea killing her own two children. 
Medusa was a priestess of Athena and almost as beautiful as the goddess she served.  Unfortunately for Medusa, Athena was “one of the guys.”   Remember, Athena sprang from Zeus’s head, fully formed, without a mother.  She was girl in form only.  When Poseidon saw Medusa and wanted her, Medusa said “No” because she was bound to remain virgin if she was in Athena’s service.  Poseidon wasn’t about to take “no” for an answer and he raped Medusa in Athena’s temple.  Now, did Athena get angry at her uncle and demand Poseidon’s proverbial head on a platter for debasing one of her priestesses, in her own temple?  Hell, no!  Athena was furious with Medusa.  Athena is the one who turned the beautiful Medusa into a Gorgon, complete with hissing hairdo and the original “looks that kill.” 
Western myth is full of wronged women, unjustly condemned just because they were beautiful, smart…and all the gods forbid…WOMEN!  But, it’s the myths of Medea and Medusa that I relate to the most.  I’ve never quite understood why, but those tales resonate deep within me.  Maybe it’s because I try to put myself into the mindset of each of the characters that I write that I can empathize with Medea and Medusa. 
Imagine that you’ve met the love of your life.  He’s smart (as guys go), the gods know he’s got brawn and bravado (he better, or he isn’t going to last five seconds in this crazy, bloody world of the Greek gods and demi-gods), and he’s drop dead gorgeous.  Now, you’ve got the goods he needs to be able to defeat a fire-breathing bull, a field full of soldiers who pop up out of the ground, and a dragon who never, ever sleeps.  You promise to help him on one condition: he take you far, far away from this little backwater place and marry you.  Even though your daddy is the king here, and that makes you a princess—this isn’t the happening place.  So, this guy agrees to your terms, and you proceed to defy and betray king and kingdom to follow your heart.  And, once he’s got what he wants—the Golden Fleece and you’re now in a strange land, hated by everyone around you—this guy tells you, “Gee, honey, it’s been great.  Thanks for giving me two kids, but I’m a Greek hero.  I need to be married to a Greek princess, not a barbarian princess.”  (To the Greeks, anyone who wasn’t a Greek was a barbarian.) 
HELLO???????  Frankly, Jason should be really, really thankful all Medea did was poison his new wife and father-in-law.  Myself, I would have castrated the philandering jackass and then killed him.
And, then there is Medusa…my heart aches for Medusa.  Sworn priestess to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and by all accounts of the myth, Medusa was devoted to her goddess.  Medusa was a stunning beauty, but she took her responsibilities—including remaining virgin—seriously.  Enter the God of the Sea, Poseidon, Athena’s uncle.  He sees Medusa and tries to seduce her.  Medusa tells him to go soak his head.  This doesn’t play with a god who fooled around almost as much as his brother, Zeus.  Like Zeus, he doesn’t take “no” for an answer.  Apparently to these guys, “no” didn’t mean “no.”  So he chases Medusa into Athena’s temple, corners her, and rapes her.
Athena comes totally unhinged.  Instead of comforting her priestess, instead of smacking the crap out of her uncle, instead of demanding Poseidon make retribution to this poor woman, Athena blames Medusa for being raped.  Remember when I said Athena was “one of the guys”?  Trust me on this.  This was a goddess in name only.  She wasn’t a female in her thought patterns, actions, or emotions.  Perhaps, because Athena didn’t have a mother…but whatever the reason, Athena thought and acted like one of the guys.  Can’t you just see her sitting down to the Saturday night poker game with these boys on Mount Olympus? 
Athena is so furious with Medusa for allowing herself to be raped, she curses this beautiful woman to a fate worse than death.  She changes her into a Gorgon—Medusa’s hair becomes a writhing mass of serpents and her very gaze turns all she looks on into stone.  And, then, Athena banishes Medusa to solitary confinement (as if her new state of being wasn’t solitary enough) on a deserted island.  Can you imagine what that must have been like—as everything you look at turns to stone and the island becomes quieter and quieter as every living thing turns to stone when you look at it?  And, the rock garden continues to grow with every want to be hero arriving, trying to kill you?  I’d imagine that death, when it finally came in the form of Perseus, was welcomed and a blessing.

And, I’m thinking, somewhere in these myths, is the kernel of another romance.  Dangit, dear Muse, can we work on one thing at a time?


The Voices Won’t Shut Up!

In between doing laundry (it’s amazing how many dog blankets I have to wash after a Nationals), answering the telephone, playing ponies with Jadelynn (there was no school today for Good Friday), and working on the edits for The Devil’s Own Desperado, I became very aware of a plot bunny hopping around inside of my head.
Now, I was very happy to see this little plot bunny, because it means my Muse has decided to make an entrance.  She has been on sabbatical for almost two years now.  She’s sent a baby sister for some of the creative work in the form of short stories, working the show leads (which actually is an incredible creative outlet), and other smaller creative projects, but SHE has not been around.  I recognized this plot bunny, fuzzy ears and all, as a full grown plot bunny. 
This little bunny hopped around inside of my head while I was sorting dog blankets, whispering names and scenes to me.  While I was playing ponies, more scenes began filling in the landscape.  With every twitch of its nose, every flick of its tail, every jerk of its long ears, more and more began to fill in.  I’ve got a hero—complete with full name: Leigh Caden Rockland.  The ever generous Muse even let me see him, to get a good look at him.  He’s tall, a long drink of water.  Think John Wayne, about age 30.  (Frankly, in my humble opinion, they don’t make ‘em like the Duke anymore.)  Sandy blonde hair, cobalt blue eyes, light on his feet, a man of few words…maybe my Muse likes John Wayne as much as I do.  There’s two shes in this one: the girl he left five years before and the girl he grows to love now.  The girl he left before is a blonde-haired, dark-eyed haunting beauty who hates Leigh so much she’ll do anything to ruin him…and I think, unfortunately for him, I do mean anything.  She’s Katherine Hathaway.  She’s pure poison, sugar-coated to be sure, but poison, none the less.  The girl he grows to love now is Delia McCord: dark-headed, blue-eyed and the opposite of Katherine.  Delia is the grand-neice—by marriage—of Ethan McCord and she is Ethan’s only known living relative.  She’s come to Federal to inherit her uncle’s ranch, the Diamond Bar M.  Ethan, however, was not a very good man while he was alive, and he’s got a few kids wandering the scenery, kids who know they’re Ethan’s and who want a piece of the Diamond Bar M.
And, now, the voices won’t shut up.  Those scenes are being populated with dialogue, action, emotions.  There’s a land speculator in here, somewhere.  The Muse hasn’t told me yet how he figures into all of this, but I know—sooner or later—She will let me know how he plays into the story line.   I’m not seeing any gunfights at this stage of the process, but I’m willing to bet that Leigh can handle a gun pretty well, considering that it seems he’s been cast in the Duke’s image, if there are any gunfights.   
Leigh comes back to Federal, a letter from Ethan in his pocket, and he’s supposed to go to work on the Diamond Bar M as foreman.  Ethan’s dead when Leigh arrives in Federal, shot in the back.  (I know I really have to have a long talk with Harrison Taylor, because the crime rate in his county seems a little high…)  I think this is where the land speculator is going to come into the story, but don’t quote me on that because She hasn’t told me yet.
Delia is on the same train as Leigh.  And, they both meet Katherine within minutes of arriving in Federal.  Katherine’s instant response to Leigh is to slap him across the face, tell him he’s about as low as a snake’s belly, and she has every intention of running the Diamond Bar M into the ground and then buy it out from under Delia.
Yeah, like I said…the voices won’t shut up.  

National hangover and edits

Okay, most people will probably think that somehow the “hangover” from the exhaustion brought on by the insanity which is the Collie Nationals and working on edits for The Devil’s Own Desperado which came while I was in Philadelphia have nothing to do with one another.  Let me change your mind.

For one week, my life is defined by a grooming area and show ring.  I get to the show site as soon as the doors open and often don’t leave until they’re turning out the lights and pushing us out the door.  I’m grooming dogs, showing dogs–and in the case of this year’s National, having a meltdown outside of the ring with every cut in the specials’ ring that Snape was making.    I pour myself into these dogs.  I spend hours a day with them, brushing them, bathing them, caring for them.  To quote Roger Carras, the esteemed announcer at Westminister Kennel Club for years, “Dogs are not my whole life, but they make my life whole.”  I have one client dog who carries so much coat, if he is not given a weekly bath and blown dry, his coat is so dense and so heavy, its own weight will cause his undercoat to mat down.  Right now, my smooths are losing every stitch of undercoat they own, so twice weekly baths are in order to bring them back into show coat.  Showing dogs and having them in prime condition is a serious commitment.  It is hard work, but the rewards are priceless.  Being told how wonderful my dogs look in the ring vindicates what I do.  Handing over a new champion to a deliriously happy owner is often the highlight of my show season.  Being able to show that new champion to an award of merit at the Nationals is incredibly gratifying.  Leaving an owner speechless with disbelief on the amazing condition of her dog does help to stroke my ego.

GCh. Gwyn Marc’s Against the Wind

However, the whole time I was in Philly, I knew when I got home, there would be one e-mail waiting for me from my editor at The Wild Rose Press which would have an attachment with editing suggestions for The Devil’s Own Desperado.  I opened up that e-mail when I got home, downloaded the attachment, and started crying.  I felt my editor had bled red all over the pages.  I immediately closed the attachment, saved it to my jump drive, and said, “I can’t do this.”

I went to bed, and I cried myself to sleep.  I couldn’t help but wonder how in heaven’s name my manuscript was contracted for publication if the thing needed that much editing.  There had to be some mistake–that following on the heels of that e-mail with its attachment would come a subsequent e-mail telling me that the publishing house had changed their minds and they really weren’t going to publish it.

After a good night’s sleep, I reopened that attachment.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.  Writing is just as much hard work and takes as much commitment as does this insane hobby I have of showing dogs.  I’m not afraid of hard work.  So, I took a deep breath and reread the e-mail and then began to read the editorial comments.  Frankly, the editing this manuscript needs is a lot of surface work, with some in-depth plot holes to repair.  But, one comment made me stop reading, made me sit back in my chair, and grin from ear to ear. That comment was “Colt is great! Readers are going to love him :).”

Colt is great…readers are going to love him. 

I’ve been told over and over to write what I love, and that I have to love my characters or else my readers won’t connect with those characters.  I admit, I love both Amelia and Colt.  Amelia has always been this very quiet, very composed young woman who is so much stronger and resilient than her appearance would allude to.  She is the embodiment of the proverb about still waters running deep.  Colt is a character near and dear to my heart.  I loved him so much, I named one of my smooth collies for him.  Colt (the collie) was a lovely tri smooth boy with gorgeous detail of head.  Colt was registered with the American Kennel Club as Wych’s Rolling Thunder (the original, working title of The Devil’s Own Desperado).  He finished his championship with points awarded to him by both all-breed judges and specialty judges, something I strive for in my breeding program–to have dogs who have a pretty enough head to win at specialty shows and yet still have the body and movement to be awarded wins from judges where movement is more valued than head detail.  Colt (the character) has a very gruff, almost cold exterior–but inside he’s a blasted toasted marshmallow.  His ability to “love ’em and leave ’em” ends abruptly when he meets Amelia, because with Amelia, he’s found what he’s longed for.  She offers him a chance to put his past as a gun-fighter behind him, to settle down, and live his life without the specter of his past rising up to destroy him.

So, as soon as this blog is posted, I’m back to the editing process.  Fortunately, the collies don’t need a bath for a few days.  So, Colt and Amelia can take precedent.  Snape, Tucker, Vander, Diva and the rest will have to wait a few days…

Thunderstorms, collies, characters, and cowardice

We were under a severe thunderstorm watch this afternoon.  I have several collies who really don’t like thunder and one is deathly afraid of it.  Long before the first rumble of thunder was heard, Snape began howling.  (Yes, I have a champion collie named “Snape.”  He was born the day that Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was released.)
This howl wasn’t his “I’m bored” howl, or his “Mommy, you’re home!” happy howl.  It was his “I’m terrified and I want in the basement in my crate where it’s safe” howl.  Needless to say, several collies were put safely in crates in the garage, and Snape was brought into the house.  He raced me to the basement and dove into his crate.  (And, please, before anyone says anything about dogs in crates—it’s like a den for them.  They feel safe there, guarded, and protected from the world.)  When Snape’s this terrified, there is no way he can stay in the rest of the house with me because all he does is hyperventilate and stress out, and he honestly feels safe in his crate in the basement.
Once I was sure he had settled down (which took him about ten seconds), I went outside to watch the weather roll in.  I started thinking about my cowardly collie and the fictional character I named him for.  The conversation I had with someone at his first show came to mind.  It went something like, “HOW can you name such a beautiful puppy for such a horrible character?”
“Snape’s not a horrible character.  Yes, he’s a piece of work, but he’s not horrible.”
“He killed Dumbledore!”
“Yes, and I’m not sure why, but I’ll bet every last dollar I have that Dumbledore told him to do it, or he had made an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore to kill him if the old man asked him to.”
“Yeah, right…”
Needless to say, by the end of the last book, my belief in Snape and his never wavering from the side of the Light was vindicated, and quite frankly, Dumbledore wasn’t the gentle, sweet, caring character quite a few people seemed to believe he was.  (Trust me when I write I could go on a pages long rant about how cruel, manipulative, and vindictive Dumbledore truly was, but this isn’t the time or the place for it.)  I was one of those who always believed in Snape, from the very first book, and I always felt that there was more than a vein of pettiness and evil in Dumbledore.  I fell in love with Snape long before Alan Rickman portrayed him in the movies.  Alan Rickman as Snape was simply frosting on the cake for me. 
However, I’m digressing from the point of this blog entry.  That poor dog, howling his terror of thunderstorms, got me to thinking about the character of Snape and how (in my humble opinion) J.K. Rowling created a personality in Snape that was a “gift of a character” and yet because he was so layered and faceted, he was a character a lot of the Harry Potter fans could get behind and grow to love, despite Snape’s many short-comings.  And, he was a character that Ms. Rowling could never understand why people loved him so.  Allow me for a moment to be completely rude and state, “Well, DUUUUUUUH!”
There are parts of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 that I honestly cannot watch a second time.  The first time I saw those scenes, I was sobbing and thinking, “Stop, you fools!  Stop!  Look at him.  He doesn’t want to be doing this.  Just stop!”  One of those scenes is when Harry steps out of the student body and accuses Snape of killing Dumbledore and demands to know how he could do such a thing to a man “who trusted you.”  Another is the scene where Snape duels with Professor McGonnagall in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. McGonnagall calls Snape a coward when he flees the Great Hall. 
Coward?  Coward?!?!?  Really?  Never once, in any of the books or movies—other than in the chapter “Snape’s Worst Memory”—does Snape ever retaliate when attacked.  He blocks and parries, but he doesn’t attack. 
How much courage does it take to merely defend rather than return the attack, especially when facing an opponent as skilled and deadly as you are?  How much courage does it take to face the most evil being your world has seen in a generation—or longer—and play double agent, knowing every moment could be your last?  How much courage does it take to keep your mouth shut, when you know in your last moments, that evil Dark Wizard is going to kill you, and with one sentence, you can send him looking for a fairly defenseless boy, because you aren’t the one he really needs to kill if that evil Dark Wizard wants to control the most powerful wand of all time?  But you don’t say it because you know that boy deserves to live. 
Coward?  I don’t think so.
And, what does any of this have to do with the writing life?  I don’t know how it applies to other authors, but I know that when I write, I want to write characters as compelling, as faceted, as complex as J. K. Rowling created, the kind of characters that readers grow to care deeply about and remember long after the last page is read.  I want to pull the many threads of the story line together to form a rich tapestry, shimmering with the magic that every author weaves within their story. 
And if the Muse is ever generous enough with me to give me that “gift of a character”, as J. K. Rowling referred to Snape, I won’t be so ungrateful to kill that character, and certainly would never kill that character in such a senseless, demeaning manner where that death served truly no other purpose than to thumb the author’s nose at the myriad of that character’s fans.
Now, to go check on my Snape and give him a hug, and assure him that he is loved and as long as he lives, there will never be a shallow, petty bitch at my house named “Lily.”

How to Explain It

From my earliest memories, I can recall sitting on my Daddy’s lap or curled into a big recliner, favorite “blankie” clutched to my chest, watching Lassie.  And, I remember Sunday afternoons, watching syndicated reruns of The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, and The Sisco Kid.  Even now, I can hear, “Oh…Sees-ko…Oh, Pancho…” in my head.  A little older, and I remember watching Bonanza with our baby sitter because both my parents worked a full time job and a part time job to make ends meet.  Our favorite movies to watch were John Wayne westerns.

Somewhere in all that television viewing time, I started to form life goals.  Don’t laugh…because it is the direct influence of those programs that has shaped my goals.  I was going to have a collie just as beautiful and smart as Lassie.  I have long since learned, Lassie is not a beautiful example of the breed, and quite frankly, that dog lied.  I have yet to meet a collie with Lassie’s Einsteinian I.Q.  But, I’ve got collies…and the breed has not had better PR than that dog.  I was going to have horses.  I’ve got two now…a wonderful, old Arab gelding who has been with me for almost 29 years and all of his life has been the most patient, gentle, sweet baby-sitter a first time horse owner could ever dream of having…and a six year old Arab mare who is as crazy as a March hare, but I still love her dearly.  I was going to live somewhere in the West, most preferably in Wyoming. (And, yes, I know most of those westerns I watched were either filmed high in the California hills overlooking LA or in Monument Valley, and Bonanza was supposed to be in Virginia City, NV, somehow, it was Wyoming for me.)  The hubby and I own 36 acres in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, and the plan is to someday live there.  
36 acres–near Medicine Bow, WY
Horse Creek rain storm
And, Wyoming brings me to the title of this blog–how to explain it.  How to explain why I love Wyoming.  I could say it’s the breath-taking, wide open vistas, mountains blurry and blued in the distance.  I could say it’s the harsh, often unforgiving landscape colored in faded yellows, reds, greens, and browns that has its own, unique, compelling beauty in the twisted and mangled shapes created from eons of geologic activity.  I could say it is the mountains that rise in the distance, becoming more and more clear and intimidating as you approach them, capped year round with snow and glaciers.  I could say it’s the way the ever present wind seems to whisper my name as it hisses through the pines, or rustles across the sagebrush.  I could say it’s all of those things, but it’s so much more.  
church at Frontier Prison town in Laramie, WY
It’s those things added to the first time Ken took me there, over twenty years ago. It was if something deep in my soul was finally at peace, finally calm, and whispered with profound relief, “I’m finally home.”  No, I’ve never lived there in this lifetime, but that first trip, and every one subsequent to Wyoming–namely the area near and around Laramie–has been a homecoming. It is this place that holds my soul so much more firmly than even the sagebrush can cling to such barren ground as it buries its roots deep into that alkali soil.  It is this place that calls to me, over and over, urging me to come home.  It is in this place that I am most at peace, most calm, and here that I am able to nourish my starving soul.  
When I first started writing, it was never a question of where–or when–my romances would be set.  I knew they would happen in Wyoming.  So, I dug out all the old maps my grandmother had collected over her fifty years of automobile tours (that’s what she called them and I’ve always loved the sense of adventure and romance just that phrase creates), and on a map of Wyoming from the mid 40s, I found a little town called “Federal.”  There isn’t another Federal anywhere in the US.  Federal still exists on the maps of Wyoming, though now it is little more than a wide spot on a spur of the Burlington-Northern Railroad.  I think, I brought Federal to life a lot sooner than it actually came into being, and I probably gave Federal a lot more inhabitants that it ever had.  Call that “poetic license.”
You’ll probably note, when “The Devil’s Own Desperado” is published by The Wild Rose Press, that my deep love of this place, this wild, wonderful, incredibly unforgiving, fantastically beautiful place we call Wyoming shines through.  It takes a special breed to live in Wyoming, even today.  In the era of the cowboy, it took someone incredibly resilient and strong.  Amelia is that resilient and Colt is definitely that strong.  
I look forward to my publication date and to hear from my readers.

Well, gotta start somewhere

I signed my contract for publication with The Wild Rose Press.  When I got the first letter from Susan, asking for revisions (it seems like months ago), I didn’t quite know what to expect, but thought that she was the editor, she’d know more than I might about the line I was targeting at TWRP.  So, I did the revisions, resubmitted, and waited…

I had to admit to myself, this was further than I’d ever gotten into the process.  I’d had complete manuscripts requested, and then the very nice letters, praising my ability to write, but the story just wasn’t for that house.  Or, the letters that just said, “Thanks for sending the whole MS, but it’s not ready.”

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting to be offered a contract.  And, then I got another request for one more change.  Okay, this WAS a whole other step in the path to publication that I hadn’t taken before.  So, I did the requested revisions, resent the MS, and waited…

And, then came the e-mail…”I would like to offer you a contract…”

I don’t think I stopped dancing around the house for three days.  I kept pinching myself.  I kept asking my better half (and before anyone jumps on me for that, Ken is my better half because he makes me better) if it was real and to please re-read the e-mail, because maybe I hadn’t read it right.

After signing the contract, I received all kinds of goodies from TWRP, tips on how to market me and my MS, things I needed to do for the artists who will be creating my cover art, suggestions for joining certain writers’ loops (not to mention the one mandatory loop that is used for communication between signed authors and the house–which actually makes a lot of sense and would have to save immense amounts of time, effort, and money).  One of those tips was that I needed to create a blog.

So, I’ve taken the plunge.  I now have a blog.  As much time as I spend online lately, blogging shouldn’t be too much of an issue–other than when I’m gone for dog shows.  Oh, did I forget to mention that another part of my life is totally owned, ruled, and dominated by a bunch of “fur kids” who also happen to be collies?

So, sit back, read the musings.  I don’t and won’t guarantee that the blog will always have a relation to the writing life, but, I don’t think it will be that boring.