When I received the topic for this week’s blog post, I thought, “Name three things I’m most grateful for? Easy peasy.” Turns out that’s not quite true. I think I wrote this post four times, and every time I started fresh, there were three new things in my life I found myself grateful for. I decided to go with the first version because, while it’s much more personal than I tend to ever get, it’s the most authentic. Here’s what I came up with.
#1: My Husband
It might sound a bit trite, but he’s the thing I’m most grateful for in life. There are too many reasons to list, plus I’d probably get all sappy, so let me hit the high points. First, that man loves me more than anything else in the world, and he makes sure I know it–texts, notes, voicemails, emails, flowers, surprise dates. He is a cuddling machine. He listens to what I have to say. He’s brilliant and not stingy in sharing the knowledge, so I’ve grown marginally more intelligent over the years. (Yay, osmosis!)
Above all, when the shit really hit the fan and I found myself in a very precarious emotional spot due to some serious ongoing health issues, he stood by me, behind me for support and in front of me as interference. He was where I needed him to be when I needed him to be there without my ever having to ask. He simply loved me harder.
This man has taught me more about love than I ever thought possible, and I am a better woman for having been his partner for eighteen years.
#2: My Friends and Family
So simple. So true. I have a very, very small inner circle of people who surround me. There are quite a few people who orbit the group, people whom I value, but those closest to me? There are only a handful. These are the people I can call at 3:00 a.m. when my old Labrador Retriever had a seizure and my husband was out of town, the person I meet at Starbucks in “our spot” and can count on to be honest no matter how hard it is to hear, the person who goes to doctors’ appointments with me so I don’t have to be alone, the person who calls and says, “My Spidey Sense was tingling…what’s wrong?” and the person who simply shows up with a cold Dr. Pepper despite her personal war against sugar and says, “You need a little sunshine, Denise. Let’s sit outside.”
I do my absolute best to be worthy of their friendship, be they blooded family or not. My life is richer because of these people who form the nucleus of who I am.
#3: My Writing
This one might strike you as odd. Let me explain. Several years ago, I lost my job after a back surgery gone wrong. My job had become my life. It was everything I identified with, everything I used to define the parameters of “me.” When those parameters crumbled, I was left a shivering mass of naked regret. A decade spent building a career — gone. Disability was suddenly an unavoidable reality, and I hated myself for it. For a long time, I sulked. I didn’t want to rediscover joy in life. I didn’t want to find new passions. I wanted my old life back, and was so busy looking over my shoulder that I nearly missed what was right in front of me. Remember my darling husband? He bought me a laptop, brought it home and said, “Write. It used to make you happy.” I sulked a bit longer, then got up in pain in the middle of the night and went to the living room. There sat the computer. I opened it up and wrote the first few pages of Legacy, the first book I sold. Writing helped me rediscover who I was, who I am, and it gave my flagging sense of productivity an outlet that I could physically, safely, manage. I found myself in the words when I thought I was lost, when things were so bleak for me that I went to a very dark place I don’t talk about. My imagination was unlocked and I found my happy inside. How can I ever thank him for that?
Take a second and let me know who or what you’re most grateful for. I’d love to celebrate them or it with you.
I love the story of Snow White. It has a little of everything… magic, betrayal, jealousy, the fight between good and evil, all that fun stuff. Now, even the Disney version has those things, but the original story is much darker, as is true with most fairy tales, which have been sanitized for modern children—who apparently are hardy enough to play Grand Theft Auto, but too delicate for dark literature!
Of course, like many heroines of the early Middle Ages, Snow White is pretty daft (they don’t call that period the Dark Ages for nothing!) and the queen gets not one but three chances to kill her, once she realizes the huntsman didn’t do the job the first time around. But, despite that, it’s still my favorite, because each time I think I’ve seen or read the very last interpretation I can of it, some wonderful author comes up with another. I’ve read Sapphic, vampiric, erotic and adventure interpretations, even a BDSM one, and each retelling highlights a different facet of the story, sometimes even introduces me to one I hadn’t considered.
Maybe that’s why it remains my favorite. It’s a story in and of itself, yet has enough nuances and levels that it lends itself to true longevity. After all, there’s no higher compliment than imitation and I think Snow White, its themes and sub-plots, will continue to spawn new stories as long as humans still exist.
There are a bunch of kick-ass, dark heroines around now, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Mejean Brook’s Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth from The Iron Duke, or Marjorie M. Liu’s Dirk and Steele series heroines come to mind when I think of dark, tortured women. I love them—their trials and backstories, the internal hurdles they face while fighting the external battles. There’s something so evocative about a woman with a past, with scars and fears she has to overcome, who often is resistant to love, usually with damn good reason. These are heroines we can root for, who reassure us that with strength and pride and a healthy dose of self-possession every obstacle can be overcome. A really great weapon doesn’t hurt either!
But here’s the thing. Of all the dark, tortured heroines I’ve read, I have a flat out favorite. She’s the heroine of a book I fell in love with even before it was published and went to bat for because I believed in it so much. Her name is Cia, an ice-road trucker and portal guard, and her story is told in A. C. Ruttan’s Incarnate. Full disclosure: A.C. is a friend and critique partner, but I know I’d have loved this book even if I didn’t know her from Eve.
Imagine being born an incarnate, having two souls, both of whom speak to you, one of which is normal, the other having once belonged to Boudicca. Yeah, I said Boudicca, warrior queen, all-round bad-ass. Worse, not only is Boudicca little changed from she was in life, but she has flashbacks to the events leading up to her death, and actually to that death itself. She also has little patience for any weakness and a wicked, abiding grudge against the Roman who caused all the ruckus in her life back in AD 60.
Not only does Cia have to contend with the duality of her nature and her constant battle to keep Boudicca from taking over every aspect of her personality, but someone’s killing other incarnates. And everyone thinks it’s Cia’s ex, Arthur. Then suddenly it seems Boudicca’s arch nemesis has risen from the mists of history, and Cia has to race across the frozen north to clear Arthur’s name and, oh, yeah, stop Armageddon too.
Can you say ‘shit-storm’?
Bring it on demon lords and other assorted bad guys. Cia’s ready to kick your ever-loving asses.
This isn’t a romance, but urban fantasy, complete with demons, unexpected resurrections and some of the best fight scenes you’ll read. And you’ll feel for Cia—so much. What she’s already gone through, what she’s now facing is more than any woman should be able to handle. She has fears, uncertainties and a real terror of allowing Boudicca to take the reins. Fighting through all that, while trying to save not just the love of her life and friends but the entire world is some powerful stuff, and I loved every minute of it. There’s the sensation of life on steroids. Every nightmare you’ve ever had of losing your temper, endangering your family, or being forced to pay far too much for past sins is blown up to untenable proportions. Cia kicks ass and takes names but always with a price. We want her to win, but often fear she won’t…and I want to be like her.
What more could I ask for in a heroine?
Enjoy the blurb below!
For an innocent man, she’ll go to her grave. Again.
The Portal Keepers, Book 1
Cia is serving her sentence in the Canadian Arctic, guarding one of the many portals that seal off Earth from Heaven and Hell. She doesn’t mind the cold. What she does mind? Someone’s bumping off other Incarnates, the dual-souled beings who hold the Apocalypse at bay. And she’s next on the list.
Worse, she learns the prime suspect is Arthur, her ex. Arthur is many things, but despite their history, he’s no murderer. Cia has only thirty days to find him and prove it before the Wrath is unleashed to mete out justice.
It’s no relief when he shows up in her truck’s headlights on the side of the ice road. He stirs turmoil between her volatile old soul and the younger one that keeps it in line. Worse, he shows all the signs of turning into a demon.
The closer they get to Yellowknife, the more rogue demons pour out of Hell, dragging with them a past she thought would never haunt her again. Another murder, and the elders prepare to summon the Wrath ahead of schedule. A move that will, literally, let all Hell break loose. Unless Cia makes a soul-tearing choice.
Ice, frigid temperatures, lots of Poutine consuming and a mention of blubber. Many demons were harmed in the writing of this book, but the polar bear really is okay.
Journeys Through Seduction