Werewolf Wednesday: Bonita Gutierrez introduces Xochitl Maria Magaña — La Güera


I asked my writing partner Bonita to give a little background on how she developed the second protagonist in The Werewolf Whisperer, Xochi Magaña. The character I handed over to Bonita when we were still thinking of writing a web series was nowhere near to fully realized. I had a notion, but it was more about how this Xochi character related to Lucy Lowell.

When the Werewolf Whisperer idea hit me, Xochitl was there almost as soon as I envisioned Lucy. Lucy, I knew, would be misunderstood by almost everyone around her — she is tough, direct and brusque. But she has a vulnerability that only those closest to her understand. I needed Xochitl so the reader could see past Lucy’s tough and monosyllabic exterior.

The name “Xochitl” (SO-cheel) was there from the start too. Years ago, when I read Katherine Kurtz’ The Adept series I loved the character of Ximena, and I loved her name for its distinct spelling and history. When it came time to name Lucy’s best friend, I couldn’t bring myself to steal “Ximena” from Kurtz, but I happen to know two women named Xochitl — one who goes by “SO-chee” and one who goes by “SO-chuhl.” I loved the sound of the various pronunciations, and I loved the memorable spelling.

So that’s what I had, a loyal best friend with a cool name. And that’s what I handed over to Bonita. And Bonita has graciously provided the Seething Brain with some insights:

Introducing Xochitl Maria Magaña — La Güera

by Bonita Gutierrez

Being bi-racial — a child of two worlds — is a wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking life to live. And a story not often told. So when Camilla asked me to collaborate with her on The Werewolf Whisperer and expressed that she wanted to base the character of Xochitl on my experiences, I was both excited and humbled.

Right off the bat, I knew who Xochi was: a light-skinned Latina, straddling the precarious line between two cultures.

It had been hard growing up a “güera” in the barrio — a place, despite being Mexicana, Xochitl had never felt she truly belonged.

And though the moniker, “la güera” (white girl), labeled Xochitl as an outsider and had a profound effect on her growing up, it doesn’t drive her.

No. What drives Xochi is her fierce loyalty to her family and friends. It’s ingrained in her DNA. She’d do absolutely anything to protect them and give up absolutely everything to save them.

But such devotion comes with a price. And for Xochitl, that price was her dream of a life away from the neighborhood.

I was so close to getting out.

Then everything changed. Her father had a stroke. His health rapidly deteriorated. She dropped all her classes. Moved back home. Took over the bar. Took over care of Miguel.

Miguel. No one cranks up Xochi’s compulsion to protect more than her little brother. He’s her reason for every good and bad decision she’s ever made. Her desperate need to keep him safe, at times, borders on dangerous. And nothing was more dangerous for Xochi than when she’d hooked up with Memo “El Gallo” Morales — the leader of the neighborhood gang, East Los Locos.

With Memo, Xochitl had bitten off more than she could chew. At first, their relationship had been a way to protect Miguel and herself when her papa had died. But later, it had deteriorated into a quagmire of dogfights, gunrunning and increased physical abuse.

There was no way Xochitl could live with herself knowing she had let this thug take over the business her papa had worked so hard to build.

God, what would Papa think of me now? I just wanted to keep the bar going and Miguel safe.

Shame and fear pushes Xochitl to the edge. And it’s on the edge where we first meet her in the pit bull raid. She has set Memo up. Ratted him out. And if Lucy Lowell and the cops don’t show up to her cantina soon, she’s toast.

I’m gonna be in deep shit if this doesn’t go down right…And Miguel, Memo’ll…

To save her brother and herself, Xochitl has no choice but to put “El Gallo” away. For her, it’s life and death.

And it’s why she braves the dangerous cat-and-mouse game playing out between her and Memo. Over and over he advances, and over and over she retreats. But with every minute that ticks by, Memo becomes more abusive, and Xochi’s life becomes more at risk.

Memo closed the gap between them and grabbed her arm, yanking her to him. “I said go upstairs and get in that pinche slip, bitch.”

But Xochi’s no victim. At her core, she’s a fighter and can give as good as she gets.

Xochitl pulled her arm back and without thinking threw a right hook to his jaw.

Oh, fuck! What did I do?

Instinctively, she began backing up toward the bar’s front door to make her escape.

But the deadly game escalates.

Xochi heard a menacing laugh and the distinctive clicking sound of a gun being cocked.

“Not bad for a little güera bitch. Daddy teach you that?”

Xochitl grabbed for the door.

“Don’t you fucking move, puta.”

Naked fear blasted through Xochitl’s body, leaving her feet bolted to the floor. She had nowhere to go. If she moved, Memo would shoot her.

He’s gonna shoot you anyway.

In an instant, Xochitl turns a corner. She realizes a hard, cold fact: fight or die. There’s no other way.

An odd bubble of calm enveloped Xochi, and — as if locked in stasis, she stood immobile, waiting, contemplating her next move.

 Her mind kicks into high gear, and she formulates a plan.

 Xochitl stole a glance at the bar.

Behind the counter. Papa’s shotgun. If I’m quick enough…

This is Xochi’s defining moment. The moment she takes back her life. The moment that will forge her into the strong, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners woman we’re introduced to in chapter one.

This is the moment Xochitl evolves.

A strong fighter. A fierce protector. A loyal friend.

This is Xochitl Maria Magaña. La Güera.



Werewolf Wednesday: Who is Lucy Lowell?


Who is Lucy Lowell?

That is the question, isn’t it? Throughout the series, quite a few characters ask that very thing: Who is this woman who can control Weres?

I had to ask that question too: Who is my protagonist?
Some of it was there from the very start — gut instinct. I knew the core of Lucy.

I found more of her by asking myself all sorts of questions. Allan Watt has a nice collection of character exploration questions in his book the 90-day novelTM. It’s a good place to start your prewriting — really get to know your protagonist.
Lucy developed as the books and novellas developed. And because the books have a dual timeline (more on that later — I promise), Bonita and I work hard to know exactly “where the girls are at” at any given time.
The reader first meets Lucy when she and Xochi are already a team and have been helping people out for a couple of years. But who is Lucy in her very first moment of the first book? Who is Lucy during the pit bull raid?

K-Day 24 months ago

Lucy Lowell tucked into the shadows behind the white cinder block wall of Xochitl’s Cantina and listened. Coarse Spanglish curses pierced the night, accompanied by loud cheers and snatches of Tijuana narco-pop. Vicious barking and short, pained shrieks lacerated the seedy revelry.

Through holes in the camouflage canvas stretched over the parking lot’s chain- link fence, Lucy counted thirty East Los Locos gangbangers crowding around a shallow dogfight pit. Strewn around, discarded like trash, lay lumps of fur and flesh Lucy didn’t have the stomach to focus on. Through the wall of men, Lucy caught a glimpse of a blue nose pit bull turning away from its opponent, a muscular pit mastiff mix.

“Handle your dog, güey!” a paunchy man yelled from just outside the ring.

Accompanied by loud taunts, men from each side of the pit dragged their dogs back to the scratch lines. The mastiff’s handler fussed at the dog’s mouth, unfanging the dog’s lip from its teeth. Clearly dead tired and hurt, the blue nose pit bull started toward the line of cages against the opposite fence.

“Whoa, Puta.” A young man with a baseball cap turned backwards yanked the dog’s collar hard, causing the pit to drop to the ground as if taking cover.

From her hiding place, Lucy could see deep scratches on the pit bull’s face, bite wounds bleeding on the shoulder and old burn marks seared into the fur.

Lucy’s stomach cramped.

The dollar tacos she and her partner Gabe had devoured on their way to Echo Park threatened a hasty exit. Cabra Blanca, their favorite late night food truck, had been parked close to the raid at Montana and Alvarado. Eddie, the owner, always included extra mango guacamole with Lucy’s order.

Guacamole! Shouldna eaten. The dogfighting makes me sick enough. Why’d I chance it with the cabeza quesadilla on top of those goat tacos?

Lucy breathed in slowly and directed her gaze from the hurt dog to the few stars blinking in the murky L.A. sky. The lights of an airplane outshone the sliver of the waning crescent moon. She could make out the distant roar of jet engines.

So, here’s a woman who has purposefully put herself into a very dangerous situation. What kind of person does that? Someone with incredible passion to do the right thing. Someone who puts her own safety last.

Clearly, the dog fighting is making her sick, but then there are the goofy thoughts about the food. Something about this danger is routine to Lucy Lowell. We get the sense that she’s a cop, even though it hasn’t been spelled out.

“Bitch won’t fight no more, jefe.” The young man with the cap delivered a kick to the blue nose pit’s side. An ugly curse cut through the tumult as a man in a formfitting white T-shirt and dark designer jeans parted the crowd.

Memo Morales, cock of the walk. Nice of you to join us.

Teeth clenched, Lucy drew her sidearm and looked back down the alley. Officer Gabe Torres of the LAPD Animal Cruelty Task Force quietly crouched down next to Lucy, indicating with a nod that he too had spotted “El Gallo.”

Her partner for five years, Gabe was as fierce an animal rights protector as Lucy had ever met. Both she and Gabe had risked both badge and incarceration many times, as they rescued dogs from backyard dogfighting with or without departmental approval.

Tonight’s raid was another point of contention with their ACTF lieutenant. When the confidential informant had approached Lucy and Gabe about dogfighting behind her cantina, it had been just the break they’d been looking for. These East Los Locos had been brokering dogfights for years, but their slippery leader Memo Morales, a.k.a. “El Gallo,” always managed to ensconce the events with aggravating efficiency.

Distressingly the CI, Xochitl Magaña, had given Lucy and Gabe much more than they’d hoped for. El Gallo and his Los Locos were running guns. The dogfights, while generating tens of thousands of dollars on their own, were a mere front. Lucy and Gabe’s supervisor Lieutenant Heckman had turned their information over to her superior, Captain Burch. Burch had taken the lead on the raid, called in SWAT and only allowed the ACTF along as a courtesy after Lucy had begged to be involved. Lucy and Gabe had been virtually cut out of the planning despite their relentless pursuit of the East Los Locos dogfighting ring.

And now we know. Lucy is LAPD, and she’s an officer assigned to the Animal Cruelty Task Force (I learned about the ACTF on the set of my film DOG BREATH. A lot happened during that shoot).

We know her job, but we also get that Lucy is the job. She has a tremendous personal investment in saving these poor dogs (later we will find out exactly why helping the helpless is so important to her).

To set the scene, I had to research dog fighting for this chapter in particular, and it was really hard. I love animals. I love dogs. I love pit bulls. The rage I felt reading how these poor dogs are tortured went into Lucy. And this is where the crossover occurs for me. I write fantasy, but I write fantasy to understand and deal with reality.

But for the moment, Lucy’s rage is quiet and controlled. She is on the job. She is active. She is in her element.

“Get rid of it, Tuti!” El Gallo spat, prompting Lucy to inch forward. She could see El Gallo throw a fistful of cash at another man and stalk into the cantina through the backdoor.

The gangbangers laughed and joked as more money changed hands. Pushing the baseball-capped banger away, the man named Tuti threw a chain around the bloodied pit bull’s neck and dragged her clear of the wall of men. The exhausted dog cowered from Tuti as he tightened the chain around her neck. Small whimpers reached Lucy’s ears.

“Just shoot it.” A thin teenage boy in baggy jeans and an oversized white T-shirt approached Tuti with what looked like a Hi-Power Browning 9mm.

Nice gun. A detached part of Lucy’s brain noted the semi-automatic. “¡Cállate, Flaco! Let’s have some fun.” Tuti yanked the chain, smashing the pit’s chin into the asphalt. The sharp yowl caught the attention of the other attending Locos who turned to watch Tuti’s show.

Gabe’s hand settled on Lucy’s arm and held tight. She would have bruises in the morning. “Wait,” he hissed.

Lucy tilted her head to look directly into her partner’s dark brown eyes. In a split second a struggle resolved between them. Burch’s words, “You two hotheads are on thin ice,” echoed in her memory. She knew Gabe remembered it too.

“X the bitch, Tuti!” Drunken hysteria pitched the Locos’ voices higher. “¡Fuego! ¡Fuego! ¡Fuego!”

Her eyes still locked on Gabe, Lucy knew what was happening in the parking lot. Having investigated the sad aftermath of the East Los Locos games, she knew what inevitably

came next. Slowly she nodded her head, and Gabe released his grip. It wasn’t the plan. It wasn’t even smart.

Lucy rose to her full height. Her Beretta clutched firmly, Lucy shot a quick smile to Gabe. Easily on the taller side of six feet, muscled like a professional bodybuilder, Gabe Torres looked scary as hell.

Glad you’re on my side, good buddy.

Lucy felt calm wash down from her head to her toes. This was what she was made for.

And here it is — Lucy’s rash side. Her inability to wait and do nothing. She can play by the rules for a little while, but when it comes right down to it, Lucy will act on her instinct. And that’s what I love about her.

The Werewolf Whisperer is available from Amazon