“My home is not a place, sir. It’s a person.” –Aral Vorkosigan in Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold.
I have a habit in my stories of taking loners and giving them families. So it’s fitting that the print version of Phoenix Legacy comes out at the holidays. It’s probably my darkest story but I also think it’s one of my most sentimental. As goes the saying on Tumblr, it gave me so many feels to write it.
The hero of the story, Philip Drake, is the ultimate loner, a stranger even to himself. His mother and stepfather were radicals on the run from the government, so they never stayed in one place very long. So horrendous and abusive was his childhood that Philip was never even was given a proper name, instead taking one given to him by a little girl who was his only real touchstone to humanity.
This little girl was the daughter of the only real friends of his mother, and she was the only one who treated him like a person. More, she saw him as something wonderful and gentle within Philip, giving him the name of “Hawk” when he said he wanted to fly high and free like the hawks. But that friendship, the one that kept him sane, ended in tragic fashion for Philip and set the dark tone for the rest of his life.
He saved her but lost himself.
And this is the dark, brooding and deadly Philip Drake who first shows up in the first Phoenix Institute novel, Phoenix Rising. Somewhere along the way in his black ops work for the CIA, Philip ended up rescuing a little girl named Beth Nakamora and instead of turing over this little girl to authorities who wanted to also exploit her telepathic abilities, Instead, Philip faked her death, found her a foster family, and provided her with the normal life that he never had. But though he loves Beth, he keeps his distance.** (See below).
A family isn’t for him and a romance? Never. Philip sees his newfound immortality as a curse, rather than a gift.
Until the woman he knew as a child, Delilah Sefton, comes back into his life, and pregnant via genetic experimentation by Philip’s enemies.
It’s never in question that Philip’s going to protect Del, whatever it takes. But whether Del will ever forgive or accept him is in doubt, until she uncovers the truth of the night that broke them apart so many years ago.
Their story romance, so it’s not a spoiler to say this ends all happily. But Philip/Hawk still has a lot of healing to do, even with finally have a home in the person of Del and the child-to-be. Every now and then, I like to think of what their holidays would be like and what traditions they’ll create, and the long road Philip’s going to have to walk to be truly whole.
But he’s off to a very good start.
**If you’d like to read the story of little Beth’s rescue by Philip Drake, it’s up on my website, in comic book form, with some brilliant artwork by the wonderful Cassandra James.
I absolutely love the holidays. My two sons and their families live close so we see each other often, but getting together during the holidays is doubly fun. There are some excellent cooks among us, so our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are superb. Some of us like to experiment with new dishes, while others want to make family recipes we’ve enjoyed for years.
This year, we wanted to include my mother’s scalloped oysters in the Thanksgiving menu. I have her recipe, and it was delicious as always, even if it did take several of us to put it together. Crowded kitchens are more fun anyway. So many of my friends mentioned making their mother’s recipes. Getting them to turn out just the way we remember them can be an entertaining challenge.
When my mother moved into a retirement home, she gave me all her cooking things plus her little recipe boxes. I refer to them often, but some of my favorites aren’t there, and I struggle to recreate them now. I wish I had sorted through the recipes and asked for those I couldn’t find. My mother made an incredibly good meatloaf and my attempts just don’t measure up. I’ll keep trying until I reach the magic mix of ingredients.
For those of you with large families, holidays are the perfect time to record memories. Ask your grandparents about their childhoods and take notes. Most people are happy to talk about their life. I gave my mother a journal and asked her to record some of her favorite memories. She wrote a beautiful piece about the day I was born, but then didn’t continue. I should have interviewed her and kept the journal going as I’d hoped it would be. Once our loved ones are gone, it’s too late to ask questions. I know my mother’s story, and need to follow my own advice and write what I know about her and my father for my children and grandchildren. I should also begin writing my own memoir for my family.
The holidays are an excellent time to sort through old photos. The mother of a close friend passed away and in cleaning out her house, my friend found boxes of photos of relatives she couldn’t name. After the funeral, one of her aunts volunteered to take the photos and write the names and dates she could remember. It’s important to save our family history and photos are a wonderful way to do it. Just remember to add names and dates to your photos now. You may have many images saved on your computer, but did you add names and dates? You’ll want them later.
When a family friend married a bullfighter’s daughter, I was immediately inspired to make up my own story about a matador’s family. Wealthy men often have multiple wives and clusters of children which makes a rich resource for characters. I created the Aragon family as a diverse group for FIERCE LOVE, once the book was finished, I couldn’t let them go and began a new story with the bullfighter’s son as the hero for FIERCE PRIDE. The book ends at Christmastime and of course has a happy ending. There were still more stories to tell and the heroine of FIERCE PASSION was once the matador’s mistress. She is an haute couture model bothered by a stalker who sends her a gift of kittens and a lover who fails to reveal he’s the heir to a shipping fortune. The story is filled with twists and turns, and still may not be the end of the FIERCE series. There is a set of twins, you see, one who is always in trouble and one who wouldn’t dare. They deserve a book of their own too and will keep me busy in 2014.
I wish you Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year. Please shop in your local bookstore for the perfect gifts for everyone, books!
My first Doctor Who – and you never forget your first, your first ANYTHING – was Tom Baker. He of the scarf. When he regenerated, I kind of lost interest in the Whoverse until it petered out. Then Eccleston took it up – I never really glommed onto him, but then, he was only around for a season … and then *HE* came. My Doctor. My REAL TRUE Doctor.
When David Tennant said “I don’t want to go”, I was screaming right along with that no, I didn’t want him to go either. Quite selfishly, I wanted him to keep going, to stay the Doctor, to be the only Doctor, the last Doctor, even.
When #11, Matt Smith, arrived on the heels of this regeneration, I was admittedly predisposed to dislike him. And although he had his moments, like the luminous Van Gogh episode for instance, my misgivings proved prescient. He gave away his status with both hands.
While the Doctor’s companions always had a certain looming importance in the storylines (admittedly the classic Who was rather silly about things sometimes – well – most of the time, really) to me it was still very much “Doctor Who” – Who was very definitely on First, as it were. The companions were secondary. They were the Doctor’s helpmeets, they were company, they were acolytes, even, perhaps – but what Matt Smith, made the Doctor Who And Companion show into the Companion and Doctor Who show.
The companions (specifically Amy, and the unfortunate Rory who was really a dangle character who rode in a distant third – a companion’s companion – but who still managed to gain a disproportionate weight in the story) took over to the point that it was THEIR stories, THEIR storylines, and the Doctor seemed to be kind of along for the ride. Not in control. His TARDIS and his knowledge and his sonic screwdriver were at the service of the companions, and their agendas.
It severely diminished The Doctor. It made the franchise slide a little backwards into the sometimes rampant silliness of the classic Who episodes. This Doctor was manic, childish, and while there were attempts at depth, it still felt as though a boy was standing there wearing his grandfather’s shoes and pointing a wooden spoon instead of a sword (or sonic screwdriver) and yelling SHAZAM and expecting stuff to happen. And stuff still did happen, but the fact that it did was often a surprise. Or it didn’t QUITE gel. (Things got way complicated, with River. There are things in that timeline that I am still trying to get straight in my head.)
Which makes Tennant’s tenure in the role… extraordinary.
Because, you see, for me, what he did was simply… make the Doctor REAL. His Doctor was alive. His doctor was wounded, and proud, and he could drop into the dark side (“Waters of Mars”). Yes, he could be totally silly (oh, so many moments) and he could be poignant (often while, or straight on the heels of, being silly), he could be dangerous and noble and strong and you believed that he was indeed capable of doing whatever was necessary, whatever it took, he could laugh, he could make you weep, he could say “I’m sorry” and give it more meanings that you could ever believe two short simple words could ever hold.
To put it quite simply…. in the face of pepper pot villains (I’m sorry, but I never COULD look at a Dalek without wanting to season my soup with one) and a thousand and one impossible things happening before breakfast every single day… he made the Doctor alive for me. He made the Doctor one I could believe in.
There is a moment where he returns – against his own better judgment, possibly – to Pompeii to try and save ONE FAMILY from the flames… when he stands at the door of the TARDIS holding out his hand in a come-with-me invitation… that moment encapsulates it, in its own way, because it wasn’t aimed at the family in Pompeii. He was looking past them, past the flames and the ashes, through the glass of my television screen, and he was holding that hand out to ME. And if it had been remotely possible, I might have stepped up and taken that hand, and believed in the possibility that I would be stumbling into the unlikeliest spaceship in the history of storytelling and possibly be taken to the end of space and time. Or possibly to the beginning. And that I would never come to harm, at either end, or anywhere in between, because the Doctor was with me, beside me, behind me.. THAT Doctor. I would have hesitated mightily if Matt Smith had made me the same offer.
They gave him real villains, the Tenth Doctor. My Doctor. Villains who were scarier than the pepper pots could evereverever be. Villains who were so utterly plausible and believable that I looked at shadows and cemetery angels with a jaundiced eye forever after. He had to face things that mattered, in the fabric of space and time . That simply never really focused properly for me with any other Doctor ever.
I wept and wailed and gnashed my teeth when Doctor Number 10 left the TARDIS in the care of Doctor Number 11. I had dreaded that regeneration. And in so many ways I was proved right. And now another regeneration is night, and this time I’m anticipating it. I’m sorry, Matt Smith, you were… kind of… filler for me.
It remains to be seen, what Peter Capaldi will do. Knowing some of his work – I am still in absolute awe of what he did with the role of Mr. Frobisher in the Torchwood “Children of Earth” episodes – I will be waiting for the tone and tenor of what he does with the new Doctor. I know he is capable of the depths required, the depths that Tennant managed to navigate with such aplomb. In 2014… we shall see how, and where, he steers the TARDIS that is now left in his care.
In the meantime, happy 50th, Doctor Who. It’s funny to note that for all your vast immeasurable “real” age… in this world… in my time… you’re exactly as old as me…
People often ask me why I’ve set two of my novels in Canada while I live in down south in Texas. I guess the simple answer is I love the remote wilderness and Canada has plenty of it. It is also rich with Native American legends about mysterious creatures that inhabit those woods. My first Samhain novel Dead of Winter is set in Ontario and builds an epic mystery around the Wendigo legend.
My new novel The Devil’s Woods is set in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. In the novel, there’s an ancient forest that exists at the back of a Cree Indian reservation that is completely unknown to most of the world. But the Cree people have feared it for centuries. They call it Macâya Forest. Animals stay clear of it too. The townspeople of a nearby logging town called Hagen’s Cove know that those woods are responsible for the countless people who have been disappearing around those parts since the 1800s.
My story’s main character is Kyle Elkheart. He’s half Cree and was born on the reservation. When he was a child, his parents got divorced and his white mother moved Kyle and his brother, Eric, and sister, Shawna, to Seattle to live with an abusive stepfather. Now, all three of the Elkheart kids are adults trying to make it in the world. When they learn that their Cree father has disappeared, Kyle and his brother and sister fly a seaplane to the Canadian wilderness. Traveling with them are Eric’s girlfriend, Jessica, and Shawna’s boyfriend, Zack. When the five arrive at the Cree village set deep in the wilderness, Kyle begins to see clues to an unsolved mystery that spans decades and he learns the real reason why his tribe fears Macâya Forest.
As for why I write about Canada … well, while living in Texas is nice, we don’t have mountains here and there are no ancient forests where man has not tread. I once traveled to British Columbia, visiting Vancouver and Whistler and I’ve hiked around the Rocky Mountains. The mountain country north of the U.S. border is breathtaking and a beautiful place to visit in my mind as type at my keyboard in Dallas. The Canadian wilderness is also so vast and remote that it’s ominous when you find yourself far away from civilization. The native tribes feared the legendary creatures of the forest. And if you enter the Devil’s Woods, you will discover there are some places in the world where man is considered prey.
Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell…ROCK!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again! We’re having a party to celebrate the season and the Mod Squad is asking you to help us ROCK the Samhain Publishing Café at our weekend long Christmas party. We’re adding a new venue to the mix this year: our FaceBook page, the Samhain Romance Book Club and Café! WOOT!
Here’s the info:
When: Saturday, December 14 from 1-4 pm, (3-4 on FB)
9-11 pm EST, (10-11 on FB)
Sunday, December 15 from Sunday 1-4 pm, (3-4 on FB)
6-8 pm EST. (7-8 on FB)
All times are EST
We’re asking that you sign up for a day or days convenient to you. Please sign up at:
Samhain Publishing is giving us lots of lovely prizes to award our readers including a KINDLE, eBooks and goodie boxes! WOOT!
When you come to the party, bring an excerpt or two, and prizes are always welcome, of course! LOL
Just a reminder about excerpts:
1) May only be from books already contracted to Samhain Publishing.
2) If any heat level other than PG must indicate that in the Subject line of your post (Adult, PG-13, Triple X, etc)
We look forward to seeing you there. You and your wonderful books are what we’re all about.
We’d like to take this time to thank you for all that you do for the Café and to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2014.
The Mod Squad
Angel, Maria, Fedora, GiGi
P.S. Please remember to LIKE us on our FB page!