Books I Loved – Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews is the pen name of a husband-wife writing team. They have multiple series containing an impressively long list of titles. How am I only just finding out about them? Glad I did though.

Magic Bites is first in the Kate Daniels series. Set in Atlanta after a magical apocalypse, Kate Daniels is a bad-ass mercenary. I kinda love it when female leads are as tough as tougher than the men. In this first offering, Kate is set on the trail of the bad guys that murdered her mentor.

Fast-paced, with lots of action, Magic Bites reeled me in and demanded to be finished. It has what you’d expect in a paranormal thriller – magic, shapeshifters, vampires – but this writing duo gave this jaded paranormal reader vivid new takes on the standard themes. It hooked me hard and I am moving on to the following books.

Head on over to their website and find one for yourself.

Not Your Ordinary Werewolves

Most of my writing has been non-fiction, but I started with fiction about six years ago. I took a break from developing my novels to publish a dog training book, but now I’m going back to creating new worlds and stories.

I have always been in love with the idea of shapeshifters, the merging and blending of human and animal. It speaks to my own deep connection to animals and the wild.

When I was coming up with ideas for my novel, I wanted werewolves in it, but I also wanted something different. I wondered, what if the person wasn’t changing his physical form, but rather joining his soul to his animal counterparts. What would that look like?

And the lupine en-malat were born. I borrowed from the classic werewolf story – a Bite triggers transformation, silver allergies are a very real problem, but the human doesn’t get furry.

Huh? I’ll explain…

Some people live their entire lives and never encounter even a hint of magic. The Veil that divides the Earthplane from the astral realms of the Other is normally impenetrable, keeping the creatures of legend safely in their own worlds. But a few can come and go at will.

The en-malat are one of the few.

When a human is Bitten, a soul-bond is forged between the person on the Earthplane, and not one but two wolf-like creatures who dwell in the Other. This triad of siblings can freely Change places back and forth across the Veil. But, to an observer it looks like the human became the wolf.

New additions to the Pack are carefully selected by the Pack Leader. So Geremy St. Audlin is dismayed when his siblings, Giltaan and Gondar, demand that the sexy  lawyer he’s hired be given the Bite. Further, he must claim her as his Mate!  He might be next in line for Pack Leadership, but Biting and Mating Alisa Nelson would be considered treason and punishable by death.

Geremy’s already fighting to maintain his status in the Pack. His wolf sanctuary project is floundering and only Alisa can save it. So he and his siblings must keep her safe from the demonic saithe stalking her. Because she just might be the key to saving the whole world.

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

+++The rain here smells even worse! I did not think that was possible. +++ Giltaan grumped to his brothers beyond the Veil as he stalked through the steady drizzle, picking his way delicately between the deeper puddles. They glistened with an unhealthy-looking sheen in the streetlights and he shuddered to think of the oily mud at the bottom squelching between his toes. He wouldn’t mind the rain so much if it didn’t stink so. His undercoat kept him warm and dry, the water running off his harsh outer guard hairs in little rivulets. But the city’s cement walkways felt strange and cold under the sensitive pads of his feet.

Dead. It feels dead. Life is squashed deep beneath this cold human city, Giltaan muttered to himself, keeping his dismal thoughts away from his brothers. The streets and sidewalks separated him from the Earthmother and the lupus did not like feeling so cut off from Her. He leapt up into a large concrete planter filled with small trees and crouched under the branches just to feel real dirt under his feet and smell something with life in it. He glanced upward, seeking his Lady Moon, but he could not catch even a faint glimmer of Her light through the leaves and low cloud cover.

Giltaan patrolled around the building Alisa slept in, senses alert. +++ Not sure I could smell a summoning here, my brother, +++ he sent to Geremy in the Other, then sneezed as one fat raindrop rolled down his long face and into his sensitive nostril. He shook his head to clear it but it didn’t stop the burning from the human pollutants in the droplet. +++What is this place? +++

Geremy’s response from the Other side of the Veil was terse. +++It’s called Olympia. It is full of politicians. That’s why it smells so bad. +++ His en-malat did not like being stuck in the Other, but Geremy was not nearly as skilled at tracking or spellcraft as Giltaan. The lupus knew though, with their deep connection, that Geremy was fretting and tense because he could not be the one protecting his Mate.

Giltaan paused in the darkness of an overhang. This portion of the alley was so dimly lit that any passerby would be unlikely to see him. A demon though, would have no trouble spotting his huge shaggy form. Giltaan hummed and his rawllane rose to his call, weaving a cloaking spell that would hide him from any eyes, mortal or demonic. His power sigils glowed, twining gracefully around his forelegs and down to his front paws in a pattern of whorls and spirals. They flared a brilliant blue-white before dimming again to his regular fur pattern as the spell settled over him, blending him into the background. He set out again on his circuit, a deeper shadow gliding through the wet night moving silently from alley to concealing trees and doorways as he circled and circled, ever alert.

In the earliest morning hours, he spotted it. A smear of yellow detached from a pool of light and slunk down the alley. The demonling was still in the Other, its energies bleeding through the Veil and onto the Earthplane. It looked like a misshapen child with limbs that bent at awkward, unnatural angles. Were Giltaan alone, the thing would be harder to catch over there where its magical energies were naturally stronger. Luckily, he had reinforcements on the Other side of the Veil. Peeling his lips back, he bared gleaming fangs in a silent snarl and called to his en-malat siblings with the barest whisper of rawllane. He didn’t want to alert the minion to their presence. Yet.

+++ Geremy, Gondar! Draw nigh but carefully. Do not spook the demonling. We need to catch it, not scare it away. +++ Giltaan watched them, peering through the Veil to see his brothers crouch low and stalk the sickly yellow form. When they got in position, Giltaan let loose a howl that released his rawllane in a trapping spell he flung at the demonling.

Giltaan was fast, but having to cast through the Veil slowed his spell. The demon dodged and the spell splashed against the rocky landscape of the Other, dissipating in a cloud of bright blue sparks. The saithe minion paused to gloat, dancing in the fading glimmers.

+++ Now what you do, wolfie? Heh? Stuck there on the Earthplane, you can’t get through the Veil fast enough to get me! +++ The ghastly thing chortled. But in stopping to taunt Giltaan, it made a fatal mistake, forgetting that an en-malat’s siblings were usually close by in the Other. Gondar’s massive clawed hands closed around the demon and his snapping fangs cut off its scream of terror. The giant morphos spat out the demon’s head, tongue lolling between his long lupine jaws.

+++Nasty taste, +++ he complained, wrinkling his lips and nose so hard the broad expanse of dark sable fur between his wide-set eyes buckled into deep furrows.

On the streets of Olympia, Giltaan whined and sank onto his haunches, dropping his head between his forelegs. Gondar peered across the Veil, triangular ears perked and head tilted inquiringly, perplexed by Giltaan’s reaction. In the Other, Geremy reached up to pat his brother morphos’ thickly furred and muscled shoulder. His tall form was dwarfed by Gondar’s nine-foot frame.

Giltaan heard him soothe Gondar. +++ I think, my brother, that Giltaan would have preferred you to simply catch the saithe. Not kill him. +++ At Gondar’s wordless cry of outrage, Geremy amended his statement. +++ Forgive me. I meant, not kill the demon yet. +++

Gondar tossed the headless carcass aside, kicking it for good measure with one long-toed foot before sinking onto his haunches.

+++ Catch saithe. Kill saithe. +++ The morphos shook his head so hard, his ears flapped against his broad skull, then wiped at his jaws with taloned hands, still trying to get the taste of demon out of his mouth. Demon blood burned, and now Gondar was spitting and hacking.

+++ Must go wash this foulness away! +++ He rose onto his hind legs, striding away on toes that swept up to sharply angled hocks. He moved deeper into the Other where he would find fresher water than the stuff right here next to the Veil. The taint of the city bled through into the realms for a distance, making the normally pastoral Other bleak and desolate.

Geremy Changed places with Giltaan, stepping through the Veil and back on to the Earthplane. It would be easier for him to get back to Seattle from Olympia than a massive gold wolf the size of a small horse. His brother whined with relief to escape from the smells and filth of the city, following his morphos sibling into the deeps of the Other. Geremy felt like whining himself while looking at the brightly lit lobby of the Governor hotel.

His Mate was in there, sleeping safely now. He and his brothers had foiled another saithe attack.

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

This is Lupine, first in the Becoming Pack series. Many revisions and re-writes later I’ve got it ready to go. Publishing here we come!

Eye Candy Sunday

Just to mix things up, I thought I’d give the ladies out there a little mental break.  If you’ve been working furiously over the computer, take a moment and scroll through these fine examples of masculinity.

I love hunky werewolves.

 

Not into the sometimes furry?  How about godlike?

 

 

Or if you don’t like fantasy, and prefer sci-fi there’s Battlestar Galactica’s own Apollo.

 

 

I’m a little afraid to put up any more.  Don’t want to melt anything.  Enjoy!  And then back to work…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Wednesday – Happy Halloween!

I’d play Name That Mammal, but you already know this one:

Nocona, my sort-of buddy

The wolf.

Hey, it wouldn’t be Halloween without this classic creature of the moon.  Wolves are one of the most wide-spread mammals on the planet, they can be found on every land mass but Antarctica.  The rarest wolf is the Ethiopian wolf, check them out in this great article by National Geographic.

The wolf has been one of the most misunderstood animals on the planet; myth and legend frequently paint them as ravening beasts, bloodthirsty killers.  The supernatural association with werewolves and vampires has only added to the animal’s mystique and fear factor.

Conversely, the wolf has also been revered as a teacher, a pathfinder, and a keeper of wisdom with the admirable qualities of loyalty and strength.  They have been powerful totems for cultures around the globe and through history.

The Cherokee tell the following tale:

 

https://plus.google.com/101936851270775627859/posts/6cogjx9H3DK

 

In honor of Halloween, since it is a time when the Veil thins between the worlds and cycles turn, I’m going to ask you my readers, to feed the good wolf.

 

Blessed Be!

 

Weird Weekend – Werewolves? For Real?

You’re out hiking in the woods on a late summer evening.  The full moon is rising above the distant hills.  You can’t see it, but its brilliant silver light spills between the boles of the trees and the world around you is moving light and shadow.  The only sound is the rustle of your feet through the small green plants lining the forest floor and the wind sighing through the branches above you.

Off to your left, a bush shakes violently, and with a spray of leaves a massive creature leaps out onto the path in front of you.  It hunches on all fours, before slowly unfolding to a two-legged stance that towers over you.  The last thing you see as it lunges at you are its wolf-like jaws parting.

I confess.  I love the idea of being a shapeshifter.  Seriously, how fun would it be to be able to change into another creature?  Better than being dead, and still walking around.  If I had a choice between becoming a werewolf and becoming a vampire, well, I’d be werewolf all the way.  Frankly I don’t care how lively a vampire is, they’re still just a pretty zombie.  Enamored as I am of the werewolf mythos, I have always relegated it to the world of make-believe, or at least that it exists purely on the spiritual realm.  But what if it wasn’t?

I found this website, The Beast of Bray Road.  Linda Godfrey details on her blog and her websites about large creatures with manlike bodies and wolflike heads in rural Wisconsin and Michigan.  Multiple sightings, encounters, even a movie was made about these beasts, and Animal Planet talks about them.

Another version of Bigfoot, right?  Possibly. But then again, what is Bigfoot?  Lots and lots of theories have been put forth, including that these are dimensional creatures, able to shift back and forth between our reality and others.  I find these reports interesting, but I have no definitive views either way.  I heard Linda on Coast to Coast one night, and the sheer number of sightings was impressive, reported by people from all walks of life.  I do think our world is wider and wilder than most people think, and the idea that these wolf-men might actually exist is absolutely intriguing.

Not long ago, I heard David Paulides on Coast to Coast AM.  He was discussing his book, Missing 411, which describes mysterious disappearances from national parks.  Mr. Paulides has a long history in law enforcement and investigation, and I listened to him detail case after case of people who have gone missing under extremely unusual circumstances.  It was a memorable show, but what really stood out was when he described a little girl who went missing.  When she was found told of being carried away by a ‘big wolf’ who ‘picked her up in his arms.’  He ‘gave her berries to eat’ and ‘ate her hat.’  Many of those recovered described similar encounters with large beasts.  Again, intriguing, compelling but not definitive.  I think I’ll have to pick up Mr. Paulides book and get the full story.

What would you do if you ran into a werewolf?  Would you want to be bitten?  Do you think it possible that some form of this creature could exist in our world?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

Weird Weekend – How Real Is The Paranormal?

It’s all just in your head.

You have a very active imagination.

You should pay attention to the real world and not a bunch of made up ‘stuff.’

I use the word ‘stuff’ here because the actual word involved male cattle and their end products.  I get that a lot of my interests are found on the fringes of normal.  I love a good conspiracy theory, and I read books that many would dismiss as pure fantasy.  I’ve been told everything above more times than I can count.  If you read back through my blog you’ll see that I’ve had plenty of encounters with the otherworldly.

When does a first-hand account matter, and when is it dismissed?  Is the only evidence necessary that which we see or feel?  Does something have to be measurable by current technology to be valid?

What happens when science starts to catch up to theory, or myth?

Have you heard of Michiu Kaku?  He is the co-founder of string theory which is said to bridge the gap between classical and quantum physics.  Dang, I sounded smart just there, didn’t I?  I’m not much of a physicist, so I rely on sites like this one to help me through.  Parts of string theory rely on the existence of other dimensions than the four we are used to; height, length, width and time.  I have to ask, if there can be extra dimensions, why couldn’t there be worlds, or intelligences that exist within them, just as we exist in the dimensions of the ‘real’ world?

Do you want to automatically say No?  Why?  Do you see the possibilities and also wonder?

What if our myths, legends and religious tales stemmed from breaks in those dimensional barriers, and those other beings crossing over?  What if some people here on Earth were able see through those dimensions, to the worlds beyond?

Have you seen a ghost?  What if tales of things such as demi-gods, werewolves, vampires, or other paranormal creatures like centaurs and dragons were glimpses into dimensions just next to ours?  Are people who report, and consider such things merely delusional?  Why have such stories persisted through the centuries?  Have you seen something you couldn’t explain, and didn’t report because you were afraid people would think you were crazy?  Will you share it with us here?  Were you peering through the walls that separate those dimensions we’ve not yet learned to measure?

Weird Weekend – Vampires, Werewolves, and Bestsellers, Oh My!

So I’ve got to work on the consistency thing, but it seems that for the first time in a long time I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew.  Getting the garden going, managing feeding, watering and cleaning up after 29 chickens takes up the little time I have after work.  I found myself falling asleep at my computer!

But with the weekend comes extra sleep and some free time, so here is my next Weird Weekend installment.

Source: http://www.dvd-ppt-slideshow.com/blog/get-free-twilight-saga-new-moon-powerpoint-backgroundstemplates/

On my breaks at work, I’ve been reading New Moon.  I’m sure this will cause legions of girls to hate me…but I was not impressed with Twilight, and didn’t get its appeal.  There must be far too many years between me and my angst-ridden teens.  And while I was deep in their throes, yes, I fantasized about odd things, but nothing about snuggling up to an icy cold, sparkly dead guy sounded awesome then or now.  So I mostly yawned through the pages, irritated by Bella perpetual klutziness and self-deprecation and Edward’s arrogance and obsession.

I picked up Twilight in the spirit of research.  I’ve written my own urban fantasy novel about werewolves, and for the two years I was constructing my own world, I avoided the genre.  I’m a hardcore geek, former RPG’er, and life-long sci-fi fantasy reader, watcher, but by the time I came up for air and looked around, I was astonished by the sheer volume of choices out there.  It is staggering, and I decided to start with this vampire/werewolf series, and try to figure out what was Twilight’s ‘IT’ factor?

Is this hot, or not? Source: http://digitalcitizen.ca/2009/12/30/twilight-and-new-moon-wallpapers-1024-x-768-pixels-part-1/edward-cullen-poster-1024×768/

I finished Twilight a few months ago and was baffled by ‘IT.’  A friend told me that the devotion Edward had for Bella was the hook for her, “I just wish I could find someone to love me like that.”  To me, a stalker-ish dead guy with control issues is not sexy, it’s scary.  To tell the truth, I found his character unlikeable, and Bella irritating.  I was somewhere between 30 and 50 pages into New Moon when I realized ‘IT.’

I guess I am on Team Jacob, because he is so much Edward’s complete opposite; Stephanie Meyer emphasizes his warmth and Bella calls him the ‘sun.’  I never understood Bella’s attraction to Edward, but Jacob is another story!  And somewhere in Bella’s mental maunderings I began to hear echoes of my 16-year-old self.  I realized that if I were 16 right now, I would be devouring these books whole again and again.  I wouldn’t have been into Edward, but I would have been all about Jacob.  I too, would memorize every word, and treasure them up like gems.  I was in a fair way to disliking the series, and somehow Stephanie Meyers managed to connect me to a person I thought I’d left far behind, my teenage self.  I got ‘IT’!  In Bella’s self-talk I could hear echoes of the young girl I was, sifting through every word said and expression change.  What teenage girl has not thought that she was nothing special?  Not pretty enough, not graceful, and always managing to say or do the wrong thing?  Bella does all that and more and yet she still manages to get two (well, ONE, in my opinion) awesome, not to mention legendary guys to fall for her.  How can that not cause hearts and minds to race, and imagine, just for a little while that you are that one, who, as my friend said, is so utterly loved?   I even felt a little guilty that a declaration of devotion from a teen pre-werewolf could make my heart beat a little faster.  I guess shapeshifters are just my thing.

Source: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/twilight-series/images/17273251/title/jacob-black-wolf-wallpaper

What about you?  Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?  Do you get ‘IT’ or do you not understand the appeal of these books?

Werewolves? What’s Not to Love?

At first glance, why would anyone want to be a werewolf?  Does anyone really want to be able to change their shape, to have to hunt and kill?  Common legends do not paint them as very congenial creatures, and how comfortable can it be to grow hair and have to run around on all fours?  How many hands up out there?  Ok, mine’s one of them.  Guilty!  But I’ve always found shape-shifting endlessly fascinating.

The origins of the werewolf legend trace back to the ancient world.  The Epic of Gilgamesh, out of Sumeria, relates how the hero refused to knock boots with the Goddess Ishtar, because she’d turned a former lover into a wolf.  From Greece we have Lycaon, King of Arcadia.  The basic tale has Lycaon killing his son, cooking him and offering him up for dinner to Zeus, King of the Gods.  Zeus is understandably angered by his host’s menu choice and transforms King Lycaon into a wolf in punishment. I guess the lesson from this is…don’t piss off a deity!  It’s from the King of Arcadia that we get the word lycanthropy.

The wolf has had a bad reputation for a very long time.  In early European cultures the wolf was a dangerous enemy, a threat to livestock and humans both.  Not surprising that someone who did damage to the community would be characterized as a wolf.  Werewolf legends abound throughout Europe of men changing into wolves and terrorizing the countryside.  Retrospective analyses have offered us a multitude of explanations for this creature, it’s motives and behaviors; ergotism, hypertrichosis, porphyria have all been suggested.  Superstition and suspected witchcraft have also contributed.  It’s been suggested that the werewolf legend sprang up to explain the actions of serial killers; a supernatural cause to a horrific act would have made sense to religiously bound ideals of the Middle Ages.

How did we make the transition then, from serial killer to superhero?  Today, we have Jacob Black, Richard Zeeman and Alcede Herveaux to name just a few.  Hundreds of thousands of women now lust for these guys, and yeah, I’m one of them!  The literal and virtual bookshelves are crammed with paranormal romance featuring everyone’s favorite shapechanger.  Now, they’re devastatingly attractive, powerful men (or women!) who are as irresistible to us as to the heroine (or hero!) of the story.

Obviously, numerous factors have contributed to this change, but as our understanding of wolves and their environment has grown, so has our love affair with the werewolf.  It’s only fairly recently that human perception of the wolf has turned.  With a better understanding of wolf behavior that has come from research, we now know that, instead of being slavering mindless killers, the wolf is in fact a dedicated family animal.  Wolves are loyal, and live in loving family groupings.  They act together as a team, cooperating to provide food and protection for their pack.  Pack dynamics can be harsh, involving growling, lunging and slashing teeth, but looking closely at these interactions shows that these fierce displays are usually just that, display.  Physical conflict is typically brief, and injuries rare.  More commonly, pack members are physically affectionate with each other, offering grooming, cuddling and playful behaviors to the members of their pack.   Yes, they do kill other animals, but for food, not excessively or wastefully.  They do not kill solely for the joy of killing.  Seems to me humans could do a little more modeling of their own behavior after the wolf’s.

The modern werewolf  has grown to fill a much-loved niche in our world.  Striding confidently out from the fearful fringes of superstition, the werewolf has gone from terror-inducing villain to mainstream hero.  But, the modern shapeshifter has also allowed us to reconnect with an often-forgotten part of ourselves, the part that is wild and animalistic.  In our frenetic, technology-driven world, we often lose sight of the fact that we are natural creatures.  A part of us mourns a little when we are cut off utterly from the earth that sustains us and seeks to reconnect with it.  And it’s a little bit like rediscovering the divine when you do find it.

The werewolf walks in both worlds, the human and the natural, giving us that outlet, that connection.

I cast the werewolf into the protagonist’s role in my novel, Becoming Pack, to show that humans are inextricably bound to the natural world, and our actions have consequences.  We need this bond, to remind ourselves that we are not alone, we do not exist in a vacuum.  We require the wild, open spaces and the animals that live there.  Evidence mounts on evidence that each ecosystem is linked to the other, what affects one affects the next and damage to one eventually harms all.

The wolf is an icon of how man can affect the natural world.  In North America, the wolf was the object of a sustained program of eradication, and they nearly succeeded.  It wasn’t until 1973 that the gray and red wolves received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.  Wolf reintroduction programs began in 1995 in Idaho/Yellowstone.  Today, wolf populations are growing, and their resurgence has helped restore their native habitats.

I  have a very close bond to wolves; I used to work with them, well, two to be specific.  In Becoming Pack, I’ve tried to bring you into the world of the wolf, and what it would feel like to be able to experience the world through the senses of another.  Ultimately, that’s what the werewolf protagonist does for us, gives us a glimpse of the natural world through the eyes of one immersed in it.

Who is your favorite werewolf?  What’s your fascination with the werewolf mythos?  Leave me a comment and tell me about your love of lycanthropy!