Happy Halloween: The Raven


If you haven’t read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” in a while, take a few minutes to dive into that glorious madness. And if you don’t have time to read, then listen to Christopher Walken’s fantastic narration available on SOUNDCLOUD.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!



ONCE upon a midnight dreary,

While I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious

Volume of forgotten lore–

While I nodded, nearly napping,

Suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping,

Rapping at my chamber door.

“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered,

“Tapping at my chamber door–

Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember

It was in the bleak December,

And each separate dying ember

Wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the morrow;–

Vainly I had tried to borrow

From my books surcease of sorrow–

Sorrow for the lost Lenore–

For the rare and radiant maiden

Whom the angels name Lenore–

Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad uncertain

Rustling of each purple curtain

Thrilled me–filled me with fantastic

Terrors never felt before;

So that now, to still the beating

Of my heart, I stood repeating,

“‘Tis some visitor entreating

Entrance at my chamber door–

Some late visitor entreating

 Entrance at my chamber door;

This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul

grew stronger;

Hesitating then

no longer,

“Sir,” said I,

“or Madam, truly

Your forgiveness

I implore;

But the fact is

I was napping,

And so gently you

came rapping,

And so faintly

you came tapping,

Tapping at my

chamber door,

That I scarce was sure

I heard you”–

Here I opened

wide the door:

Darkness there and

nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering,

Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals

Ever dared to dream before;

But the silence was unbroken,

And the darkness gave no token,

And the only word there spoken

Was the whispered word, “Lenore?”

This I whispered, and an echo

Murmured back the word, “Lenore!”

Merely this and nothing more.

Then into the chamber turning,

All my soul within me burning,

Soon I heard again a tapping

Something louder than before.

“Surely,” said I, “surely that is

Something at my window lattice;

Let me see, then, what thereat is,

And this mystery explore–

Let my heart be still a moment

And this mystery explore;–

‘Tis the wind and nothing more.”

Open here I flung the shutter,

When, with many a flirt and flutter,

In there stepped a stately Raven

Of the saintly days of yore.

Not the least obeisance made he;

Not an instant stopped or stayed he;

But, with mien of lord or lady,

Perched above my

chamber door–

Perched upon a

bust of Pallas

Just above my

chamber door–

Perched, and sat,

and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling

My sad fancy into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum

Of the countenance it wore,

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven,

 Thou,” I said, “ art sure no craven,

Ghastly, grim and ancient Raven

Wandering from the Nightly shore–

Tell me what thy lordly name is

On the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly

Fowl to hear discourse so plainly,

Though its answer little meaning–

Little relevancy bore;

For we cannot help agreeing

That no sublunary being

Ever yet was blessed with seeing

Bird above his chamber door–

Bird or beast upon the sculptured

Bust above his chamber door,

With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely

On that placid bust, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in

That one word he did outpour.

Nothing farther then he uttered;

Not a feather then he fluttered–

Till I scarcely more than muttered,

“Other friends have flown before–

On the morrow he will leave me,

As my hopes have flown before.”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

Wondering at the stillness broken

By reply so aptly spoken,

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters

Is its only stock and store,

Caught from some unhappy master

Whom unmerciful Disaster

Followed fast and followed faster,

So when hope he would adjure,

Stern despair returned,

Instead of the sweet hope he dared adjure,

That sad answer, “Nevermore.”

But the Raven still beguiling

All my sad soul into smiling,

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in

Front of bird and bust and door;

Then, upon the velvet sinking,

I betook myself to linking

Fancy unto fancy, thinking

What this ominous bird of yore–

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly,

Gaunt, and ominous bird of yore

Meant in croaking “ Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing,

But no syllable expressing

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now

Burned into my bosom’s core;

This and more I sat divining,

With my head at ease reclining

On the cushion’s velvet lining

That the lamplight gloated o’er,

But whose velvet violet lining,

 With the lamplight gloating o’er,

She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser,

Perfumed from an unseen censer

Swung by angels whose faint footfalls

Tinkled on the tufted floor.

“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee

By these angels he hath sent thee

Respite–respite and Nepenthe

From thy memories of Lenore!

Let me quaff this kind Nepenthe,

And forget this lost Lenore!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–

Prophet still, if bird or devil!–

Whether Tempter sent, or whether

Tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate, yet all undaunted,

On this desert land enchanted–

On this home by Horror haunted–

Tell me truly, I implore–

Is there,–is there balm in Gilead?–

Tell me–tell me, I implore!”

Quoth the Raven, “ Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!–

Prophet still, if bird or devil!–

By that Heaven that bends above us–

By that God we both adore–

Tell this soul with sorrow laden

If, within the distant Aidenn,

It shall clasp a sainted maiden

 Whom the angels name Lenore–

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden

Whom the angels name Lenore.”

Quoth the Raven, “ Nevermore.”

Leave no black plume as a token

Of that lie thy soul hath spoken!

Leave my loneliness unbroken!–

Quit the bust above my door!

Take thy beak from out my heart, and

 Take thy form from off my door!”

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting,

Still is sitting, still is sitting

On the pallid bust of Pallas

Just above my chamber door;

And his eyes have all the seeming

Of a demon’s that is dreaming,

And the lamplight o’er him streaming

Throws his shadow on the floor,

And my soul from out that shadow

That lies floating on the floor

Shall be lifted–nevermore!

Text from Project Gutenberg


Notice from team Gutenberg:

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Werewolf Wednesday: Introducing Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magaña


What will hook the reader? Who knows? I just know what hooks me. And I’m a sucker for a good chase scene. I’m also a sucker for beginning in medias res — right in the middle of the action. No explanation needed. I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Jim Butcher does this brilliantly in his Harry Dresden novels – remember the flying monkeys at the beginning of Blood Rites? Genius.

When it came to introducing our protagonists in The Werewolf Whisperer: Book 1, Bonita and I absolutely had to go with a chase. It’s what Lucy and Xochitl’s lives have been all about — running toward or away from something. But we also wanted to establish a certain kind of tone — funny, nearly absurd, but with underlying danger and a palpable “something is very wrong here” feel:

Arms and legs pumping, lungs burning, Lucy Lowell sprinted up the Beverly Hills street due north toward Sunset Boulevard.

I hate when they don’t listen to me!

Xochitl Magaña, her long blond hair whipping her cheeks, ran hard on the parallel sidewalk and cursed loudly in Spanish. The awkward weight of her Remington 12 gauge forced Xochitl to lag just a few feet behind Lucy. A great runner, Xochitl was obviously furious she hadn’t caught up to Jimmy Stanton and Fat Dan Walters yet, but the shotgun was a necessity in case young Jimmy decided to bite his neighbor’s face off.

This opening image is a snapshot of what passes for Lucy and Xochi’s normal life, but it is already far from normal:

A group of lady speed-walkers raced by. Their leader, a fit, white-haired Beverly Hills matron sporting a leathery tan, waved to Lucy and Xochitl with great enthusiasm.

“Hi, girls!” the rail-thin lady shouted and smiled a big, perfect smile.
”Hello, Mrs. Siperstein!” Lucy returned the wave.
”My Maedel has been so good! No more counter surfing!” Mrs. Siperstein gave them a double thumbs up. “You just have to get The Werewolf Whisperer. The girls saved my life,” she instructed her gaggle of followers.

“Thanks for the endorsement!” Lucy shouted back to the passing throng. “Have a Werebeast-free day!”

“Really? Have a Werebeast-free day?” Xochitl asked, shaking her head slowly.

The beauty of the Beverly Hills setting is in direct contrast to the chaos teeming behind each pristine door. Lucy and Xochi try to help people whose loved ones have turned furry but have retained at least a bit of their original personality. Our girls’ help is appreciated by some. Not so much by others:

“My wife and I just don’t know how to thank you for today.” Mr. Stanton started walking toward the door. “We learned a lot. And we appreciate how busy you must be.” Lucy’s eyes flicked to Xochitl who gave a tiny shrug. 
”Everybody said ‘Get The Werewolf Whisperer.’ We couldn’t stand the thought of putting him down.” Frank Stanton stopped; his words hung in the air.

Apparently unable to stand the silence, Maggie Stanton cleared her throat. “Jimmy’s part of the family. Almost like he was still our son,” she said with a quiet but firm voice.

Lucy saw Frank look at his wife with unadulterated hatred. Xochitl tugged on the front of her vest, doing nothing to hide the disgusted look on her face.

“Now that we know where everybody stands,” Lucy said and returned to sit on the leather couch. “Let me give you the honest truth. We’ve seen this before in Ferals like Jimmy.”

She thought about her next words carefully and decided that giving the worst-case scenario was the only way to convince the father to give up his son.

“Mr. Stanton, keeping Jimmy would be like living with a tiger. It would be a lot of work, and it could go fine for a while. But one day, you will not be able to control his behavior. And that’s gonna be a really bad day.” Lucy stopped herself from saying more.

“Why don’t you send him to our camp?” Xochitl tried to sound cheerful about the prospect. “That’s only a couple of hours from here. It’s up in the mountains. You could visit—”

“Let me be clear,” Frank Stanton said and took a protective step forward. “My son, our son, will stay with us. We will take care of him. Here.” He looked to Maggie for support. “There’s a doctor in West Hollywood who specializes in declawing and defanging Hounds. You can’t tell me Jimmy will be dangerous to us without his claws and teeth.”

“You stupid son of a bitch!” Lucy jumped up from the couch, and stormed over to stand toe to toe with Frank Stanton. “Why don’t you amputate his fucking arms and legs while you’re at it!”

Jimmy yipped and scrabbled under the coffee table, sending the Limoges china clattering to the floor.

“I think that will be all Ms. Lowell.” Maggie Stanton’s silken voice rose in admonishment. “Ms. Magaña?”

“We take cash,” Xochitl replied, her tone unflappable. She took Lucy’s arm and pulled her partner toward the foyer. “We’re done helping you.”

Lucy walked straight to the front door, knowing she would punch Frank Stanton in the face if she as much as turned around to glance at Jimmy.

Outside the bright February sun delivered a sky so blue it seemed to mock Lucy’s dark mood. She drank in the lush, sweet exotic-flower scent that permeated Beverly Hills. Xochitl slammed the Mission-style front door, making the hinges rattle.

“Cash in hand, chica.” Xochitl waved a stack of bills in Lucy’s face. “Can’t save ’em all.”

An enormous crash sounded from inside the house. Lucy and Xochitl made no move to turn around but continued to El Gallo, their bright orange ’66 Olds Toronado.

“They’re screwed!” Xochitl said as she opened the trunk to place her shotgun next to the rest of their arsenal.

And so ends the beginning.

Like what you see? The Werewolf Whisperer  is available at Amazon http://amzn.to/12OTMIr

















Werewolf Wednesday: World Building


One of the big thrills of writing a fantasy novel is creating a world that doesn’t exist. One of the challenges is letting the reader in on the new world without bogging down the story with oodles of unnecessary details.

It’s a balancing act.

In The Werewolf Whisperer, we had to get our reader up to speed quickly. We constructed a back-and-forth of past and present day chapters (more about our structure later) to help layer the world building, but we didn’t want to be oblique about the rules our world.

In the real world — if we’re all perfectly honest —if you need to find out something quickly, you look on Wikipedia. So, we thought, would people in our urban fantasy version of California. When it came to defining the trigger of the Werebeast epidemic, the Kyon Virus, we also turned to Wikipedia:

Kyon Virus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Kyon Virus (also known as KV, Wereflu, or The Affliction) is a sudden-onset viral infectious disease that attacks the entire body, transforming the muscular and skeletal structures of the host. Typically, the first signs of KV begin with extreme muscle and joint pain and a temporary loss of equilibrium, followed by the development of canine-like features. Symptoms include excessive body hair, unnaturally vibrant colored eyes, lupine snout, sharp fang-like teeth, over-developed musculature, clawed hands and feet and preternatural strength. There may be a loss of inhibitions in the Afflicted, and in some cases, KV may cause extreme aggressive behavior.

The Kyon Virus manifests in hosts in a variety of ways, leading to the three-tiered classification of the Were: Hound, Feral and Werebeast. For further classification information see Lucy Lowell. See TheWerewolf Whisperer. See Xochitl (Socheel) Magaña (Mah-gah-nyah).

No known cure for the Kyon Virus exists, nor can the symptoms be treated. It is estimated at the initial outbreak (see K-Day) one in twenty Californians contracted the disease.

But here’s the thing to keep in mind. Information fluctuates, changes, evolves. What is known one day can blow apart the next. At the beginning of book one, The Werewolf Whisperer, this is what the world knows about the cause of the “werewolf apocalypse.” Is it true? That remains to be seen . . .

If you are intrigued, Bonita and I have a little surprise for you. We are celebrating the 2nd anniversary of book 1, so this week (until 10/21), The Werewolf Whisperer is free on Amazon. Just click the link, download and enjoy. And if you want to help us out a little leave a review.






Have your heard about National Novel Writing Month? Have you tried it?

NaNoWriMo challenges you to complete a 50,000-word novel during the month of November — pacing at around 1,666 words per day.

I’ve attempted two rounds:

Last November, I didn’t sign up on the http://nanowrimo.org website, but I kept track of my word count and tweeted out my progress. Why was I too chicken to sign up? I think I told myself that filling out even one form would take away from my writing time. And I just wanted to try finishing a story in a month — no commitment, no guilt.

I completed my story by the end of November (and edited it throughout December). I had a great time exploring this side episode in the epic fantasy universe my friend Carol and I have been working on for years (more on that later). At a little over 20,000 words, my little holiday themed tale wasn’t a word count winner, but I was very happy with the result. Still am.

In July, I tried using Camp NaNoWriMo to jump-start a YA science fiction novel I have been thinking about for a while. This time, I did sign up. The http://campnanowrimo.org site is user friendly, and I like the word count tracking. I liked the idea of “cabins,” but in reality couldn’t keep up with the chats. I stalled halfway through the month, and only completed 21,917 words of the novel — barely getting the characters out of Act I. Something wasn’t right in the story, and I couldn’t move forward until I figured out what. I’m still trying to figure it out.

There’s a big difference between the first and second experience. Last November, I didn’t meet the 50,000-word goal, but I finished something significant (for me). In July, I ended up abandoning my story. No word goal met (I had set 50,000 for myself) and nothing completed.

November felt good.

July felt pretty awful.

And to be perfectly honest, both times I was also writing other things. I have two different series that I am working on with two different writing partners. That work always comes first.

NaNoWriMo is just for me. A side job, maybe. But I’ve learned that I’m a better writing partner when I’m working on something else on my own — makes me less argumentative.

And here’s what I learned from my two NaNoWriMo experiences: I am an outliner. I am a very detailed outliner. The difference between the November story and the July story was how prepared I was going in. The July attempt stalled because I only had a detailed outline to the end of Act I, then I thought I could wing it . . . I couldn’t.

So here we are in October, and I’ve started peeking at the National Novel Writing Month website again. To my delight, I noticed a section on NaNoWriMo prep — http://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep and a free webinar run by Grant Faulkner, the executive director of NaNoWriMo, and featuring freelance editor Michael Rowley and author Darynda Jones.

Great stuff! Really worth watching. Check it out on youtube: http://bit.ly/2dUnp37

I really appreciated Grant and Michael sharing so much great information, but I found Darynda particularly inspiring. She’s described her very detailed outlining method and even offered to email a sample to any viewer who expressed interest. So generous! I contacted her right away, and she sent three outline samples back in a matter of minutes. Shout out to Darynda Jones, my NaNoWriMo prep hero! http://www.daryndajones.com

Needless to say, I’ve signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo again. But this time I am going to be as prepared as I can be. It’s only halfway through October, and I feel I have time to get my next NaNoWriMo project ready — as long as I pick my project and soon.

I am torn between returning to the science fiction story, working on a short novel in the epic fantasy world, or telling the background story of a pivotal character in The Werewolf Whisperer series. Maybe I should roll some dice.

The point is — I’m going all in. My mission: complete a 50,000 word novel by 11:59 on November 30. I appreciate the support NaNoWriMo is offering, and I will be tweeting out my word counts.

Wish me luck.

Werewolf Wednesday: The Beginning

The Vitruvian Wolf

Two years ago, my writing partner and good friend Bonita and I released our first book, The Werewolf Whisperer.

The story evolved from a web series idea, which we conceived of as a cross between Supernatural and Shaun of the Dead in goofy 5-7 minute episodes. Once we decided to write a series of novels instead, we unearthed many more layers to our story.

The Werewolf Whisperer still has a baseline of humor, gallows humor really. But now, two novels and two novellas deep into the Werewolf Whisperer world, everything has gotten far more serious for Lucy and Xochitl. Over the next few Wednesdays, I want to share a few excerpts from the books and maybe some thoughts about how it’s all coming together:


Without warning, the creature turned sharply away from Lucy and bore down on Hanna at a dead run.

“Do it!” Hanna’s voice had a hard edge.

Lucy’s finger squeezed the trigger. A single shot rang out. The creature dropped. It was over.

That’s it. That’s the prologue. Originally in the web series and in the first, second, third, fourth and probably fifth draft of the novel this scene was quite a bit longer. Still only about a page and a half, our set up scene smacked right into a reader preference trend: the loathing of  prologues.

A lot of our research seemed to confirm that readers either skip prologues or resent them.

The prologue had to go.

But it couldn’t go entirely, so we went straight to the heart of the scene. And in a bold move – it really seemed bold at the time – we cut everything else.

The prologue comes  back in the series, again and again – a nightmarish clip of memory set on repeat. Its brevity has made it more visceral for us, a tool to use to connect past sins with present dilemmas.



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Brown Dog Dreams


The little brown dog curls up tighter than a ball of yarn, her heavy lids attracted to each other with magnetic force.

She falls into a deep comatose sleep.

Groans rumble from her throat after a moment or two and echo through the den at intervals metered in puppy dreams.

Deep guttural groans rumble through her, speaking of hard labor in the gulags, distant perils on ancient whalers off the eastern coast, and hot sticky asphalt shimmering cruelly and burning soles.

Heartbreaking, incongruous sounds that cry for help.


“Are you all right, my puppy?”

Arms curl around the skinny body, kisses cover furry brow.

Her response: a long contented yawn, chewing of the air and a puzzled smile as if to say, “You woke me up and I was fast asleep.”