Tap-Dancing the Minefields by Lyn Gala
Cover art by Anne Cain
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words welcomes Lyn Gala here today on her tour for Tap-Dancing the Minefields. Welcome, Lyn.
I write romance, so clearly I’m obsessed with people falling in love or being in love or struggling to make love work. But sometimes I miss seeing a wide range of love. In Romeo and Juliet, everyone talks about the young couple, but what about Mercutio’s love for Romeo?
In Frankenstein, I am obsessed with how much the creature struggles to find brotherly love with all these imperfect people. For one shining moment, he has it, sitting in a hovel with a blind man who talks to him like an equal, and then the family returns and reveals the truth about the monster’s horrible appearance. That breaks my heart. And I maintain that Huck Finn’s redemption comes when he learns to love Jim.
So I want a romantic love interest, but I also want deep, abiding love in all its forms. Tap-Dancing grew out of that desire. Back in New York, Tank lost too many people he loved. He took those broken connections and used them as an excuse to run as far and as fast as he could—ending up in the northern wilds of Alaska running supplies to a remote Army base. Once there, Tank finds himself in the center of an alien conspiracy, a military unit struggling to defend the planet and a group of people who share the sort of camaraderie Tank desperately needs.
Lev is shy with a core of steel and a big heart, and Tank is immediately attracted to him. But this story is also about Aldrich who is the mentor and father figure Tank needed. It’s about Brian Hoffer who tried to be the big brother Tank needed and John who actually filled that role. It’s about how these people all love each other, and yes, Lev and Tank are the centerpiece because they have the romantic love, what the Greeks called eros—sexual passion. And they do have a lot of passion.
But I wrote this with a list of the Greek words for love sitting in front of me.
I love the fact that the Greeks identified a number of different ways that love can develop in the human heart, and I want to explore all of them. Philia, deep friendship, motivates these people as much as their desire to protect the world. When Aldrich is talking to John or Deborah, who are technically under him in the chain of command, the ludus, playful love, shows as they tease each other.
These soldiers have agape, a love for all people that drives them to protect others, even when their own lives are at risk. Deborah and her husband show pragma, a deep longstanding love. More than any of my other books, I think this one has a happily ever after in that Lev and Tank develop that pragma by the end. They have patience for each other, and love that comes from a place of compromise and patience can survive anything.
But more than anything, this is about philautia—self love. Tank hates himself for not being perfect and being helpless to stop evil in the world. Much of this book is about his struggle to forgive himself for being imperfect—for losing friends to a fight he couldn’t hope to win. He is damaged in ways that only another warrior could recognize, and much of the book is about his struggle to forgive himself and rediscover his philautia because until he can open his heart to himself, he can’t truly allow Lev into it.
I will admit that I am stupidly in love with these characters. I love how broken and flawed they are and how they keep fighting no matter what. The love running through these guys isn’t about hearts and flowers. This love is steel and fire. And sometimes the fire does burn too brightly.
Sometimes the fiercest battle a man faces is against himself.
In the hidden alleyways of New York City, George “Tank” Tankersley defeated what he believed were demons. But the victory cost too much. Tank joined the Army in the hope of outrunning the guilt haunting him—only to stumble into a vast and deadly conspiracy, the enemies he’d hoped to never encounter again, and the arms of the brilliant, eccentric scientist tasked with saving humanity.
In a world where the line between dark magic and alien science is thin, Dr. Lev Underwood must reverse engineer recovered alien technology to give humans a fighting chance against the extraterrestrial beings who consider Earth nothing more than a petri dish. His old friend, Colonel Clyde Aldrich, wants to protect Lev from entanglement with the scarred and emotionally volatile young soldier, but Lev cannot help the pull he feels toward Tank. Still, his first loyalty is to the secret government program, and love might have to take a back seat to protecting the world. But if he can find a way, Lev wants both.
The connecting door opened, and Clyde looked up as John stood in the doorway, silently watching. He had no censure on his face, but he stood as a mute witness as Tank’s cries gradually faded. It took over an hour, but eventually the stiff muscles and hard tremors faded until Tankersley lay limp in Clyde’s arms, either asleep or too worn out to keep grieving. Clyde didn’t fool himself. This was the first step on a long journey. But at least Tankersley had the balls to start down it. Plenty of men could never face their own fears.
“You want to give me a hand?” Clyde asked softly. John moved into the room, a silent shadow as he walked over and knelt down to scoop Tankersley up. He was really out of it. His eyes didn’t even flicker as John lifted him and moved him to the bed.
Clyde sat on the floor feeling nearly as exhausted himself. Watching Tankersley fight through all the pain made his own wounds feel rawer than they had in a while. Losing people. It wasn’t easy. And the officers for whom it became easy weren’t worth spit.
John frowned at him, and Clyde made a production of standing with his stiff knees. Usually he was exaggerating when he talked about his old legs, but Tankersley had put his weight onto Clyde’s left leg, and he had a raging case of pins and needles. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Clyde rubbed his sore leg.
“You guys wouldn’t hurt so much if you weren’t so willing to give your love to so many people,” John commented.
“Yep,” Clyde agreed. They’d talked about it on the gladiator ship—the danger of loving others and the way it stole a man’s soul when those people died. Clyde figured that neither of them needed to talk about it, because both of them had seen their share of men struggling to carry the emotional burdens the world required of them. Really, Lev should have found someone with fewer scars.
Lynsey “Lyn” Gala started writing in the back of her science notebook in third grade and hasn’t stopped since. Westerns starring men with shady pasts gave way to science fiction with questionable protagonists, which eventually became any story with a morally ambiguous character. Even the purest heroes have pain and loss and darkness in their hearts, and that’s where she likes to find her stories. Her characters seek to better themselves and find the happy (or happier) ending.
When she isn’t writing, Lyn Gala teaches history in a small town in New Mexico. Her favorite spot to write is a flat rock under a wide tree on the edge of the open desert where her dog can terrorize local wildlife. Writing in a wide range of genres, she often gravitates back to adventure and BDSM, stories about men in search of true love and a way to bring some criminal to justice… unless they happen to be the criminal. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lyn.gala