Hibernaculum

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Hibernaculum: a shelter occupied during the winter by a dormant animal (as an insect, snake, bat, or marmot)

Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.

I took shelter in a hibernaculum of my own making this winter. An unexpected loss (see Holding Tight and Letting Go) drove me inward and rendered me dormant. I felt blank on the inside, empty. I tried to escape into my writing, but the very act of sitting alone, quietly, was painful. I recognized that I needed to lay low, so I let myself burrow in deep to hibernate and let things be.

The holidays came and went. The new year started, but I continued to linger in my hibernaculum. Almost, but not quite, ready to make a start. Almost, but not quite, ready to pick up where I’d left off. While I believe I needed time to have the fresh wounds scab over, when I wanted to get out and get on with it, I couldn’t. My hibernaculum had collapsed around me, and I was stuck.

The inability to move forward has a visceral taste to me. I think it tastes like fear, cold and bitter on my tongue. It sours in my stomach. It makes the muscles in my face feel like stones, hard, sharp, and immovable. There’s an inexplicable longing, a yearning that is in the background of everything I do and say. In conversations, I listen to its yammering more than to the person I am talking to (sorry, guys). I know this feeling so well because I lived with it for years before I really started writing. It feels like failure too. Fear and Failure: the twin harpies that glide through my mind, squawking obnoxious lies and making me feel lower than dirt. There’s a third harpy, Regret, but her I can tune out most of the time.

I realized that this was going to be a battle.

I tried setting ambitious goals. I tried being a tough coach, yelling at my sleepy, out-of-sorts self to get it together. But nothing harsh, direct, or reasonable worked. I escaped my own scolding, ditched my set goals like an exasperating teenager, and lost the fight every single day — for two months.

Then I remembered that I’ve been here before. And I had won. I went from years of being paralyzed as a writer to writing half a dozen novels in two years — no exaggeration. If I did it once, I could do it again. I also had to allow that during my hibernation, I wrote three new chapters for two different books, rewrote two chapters of a third, wrote two short scripts, a couple of little articles, and edited the first draft of a nearly completed novel.

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Had to pause for the facepalm

So, why am I flailing in the morass, doubting myself? More importantly, what do I do about it? And what “it” am I falling prey to?

Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance, that indefinable something that keeps you from doing your work. Resistance is the enemy. The enemy that lies within. And the only way to battle that enemy — no matter how many sources I consult — is to do what Nike tells us with a swoosh: JUST DO IT!

So simple, and so difficult.

So here it is, the end of January. California’s epic storms are ending. School is back in full swing. Jury duty looms.

But I’m out of excuses.

I thank the hibernaculum for keeping me safe these last few difficult months. But it’s time to go. Step by step, I have to rejoin the world. Word by word, I have to write. Sit in my chair and write.

 

Holding Tight and Letting Go

The night of November 14th we lost our cat, Roo.

My husband wrote this:

“Our boy. Our sweet little Roo.

His full name was Arcturus. He had 59 lives and twice as many nicknames.

Under the super moon he crossed the rainbow bridge.

He loved us. We loved him.

We love him still.”

I actually couldn’t write anything more or anything else. And as I am sitting here nearly two months later, I am crying “Rotz und Wasser” — which is my mother tongue’s way of saying, “I am crying my eyes out” but literally means, “I am crying snot and water.”

Can’t be any clearer about why I love the German language. It is direct. To the heart. And completely raw. If you connect to its true poetic depth. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that is for another time.

We lost Roo. And my heart broke. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus. And I felt I let my writing partners down by being a completely unreliable mess over the holidays. They were both very understanding.

Most people I know understood, by the way. Even though we always want to apologize for grieving for a pet, people get it. Because people understand loss. And if they don’t — they will.

I lost my mom in 2002. Cancer. Brutal, fast cancer. She was 61, which seemed disturbingly young at the time. Now it seems like very “The Pit and the Pendulum” — a ghost in my mind chanting, “Get it done. You’re gonna die.”

My dad passed in 2005, too ill to attend my wedding (I never thought I’d be a bride) only three months before. My dad was 81. Seemed like a ripe old age at the time. But guess what — now, not so much.

We learn that death is a reality when it keeps happening around us. My Homeric Imagination professor at university, Kathryn Hohlwein, a lovely lady and astounding scholar, taught a rebellious and impatient twenty-year-old me that at some point we all learn that we are going to die. And then we learn that we are going to live.

What she couldn’t teach me then is that the lesson circles back again and again.

After losing my parents, I thought I knew the depths of grief and regret. But I didn’t know that grief and regret reside in a space in our minds that we return to over and over with each loss, as if it were a country we travel to, getting our passport stamped each time we cross its border.

You are never prepared, whether you know it’s coming or not. It’s always different. And it always changes you. At first, there is the loss of the loved one, all the things you wanted to share with them and never will be able to, the finality, the not knowing, the worry, the longing, the empty space where vibrant, living love used to reside, but once you get past all of that, there is another heart-wrenching element. The thing that takes your breath. The thing that freezes your inside. The thing you just can’t allow yourself to think about: The undeniable knowledge that this will happen to all of us.

This will happen to me.

I will die.

What do you do with that? What does it mean?

I don’t have an answer. And even if I did, like all things intangible and larger-than-life, the answer would be intensely personal and wouldn’t translate to anyone else. Not really.

But sometimes, something resonates.

Ray Bradbury said, “Writing keeps death at bay. Every book I write is a triumph over death.”

And for what it’s worth, I am writing as fast as I can.

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Werewolf Wednesday: ¡Feliz Navidad!

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Anne Perry, Janet Evanovich and Kim Harrison — what do these authors have in common? They are awesome, and I love them. But also, each provides their readers with a little special treat for the holidays. Victorian detectives and Christmas? Bounty hunters and Christmas? Witches and Christmas? Too good to put down.

So, when Bonita and I finished book one of The Werewolf Whisperer, we were pretty clear on what had to happen next ’cause nothing says Christmas like Werebeasts. I can tell you that we had a blast writing this little novelette — at just slightly over 10,000 words (45 pages) it is just a wee nibble.

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For the holidays, we’d like to share the story with everyone, both in e-book and audiobook form:

THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER ¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!

For your free e-book go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble

And for your free audiobook —performed by Nicol Zanzarella, awesome narrator and genuine badass — go to SoundCloud (through Dec 31, 2016)

 

Merry Christmas and have a Werebeast-free New Year!

 

 

 

Werewolf Wednesday: In the thick of the action

At the release party for book one, The Werewolf Whisperer, my husband, actor and audiobook narrator P.J. Ochlan, gave our guests a taste of the pace and force of the series. After discussing which selection would be most appropriate, Bonita, P.J. and I chose the pit bull raid scene from chapter two. I am happy to be able to share a link to P.J. narrating that section of The Werewolf Whisperer and to discuss my approach to action writing a little more in depth:

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In his blog post “A Symphony of Adrenaline and Drama: Writing Epic Action,” author J. Edward Ritchie highlights three aspects of action writing: 1. Striking but economical details, 2. Constant focus on the main player and 3. Fluid placement of words on the page. Ritchie used concrete examples to illustrate these points, including passages from The Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones, Fall from Grace (his own book) and The Werewolf Whisperer. Bonita and I were thrilled to be included in such august company.

To me, action writing is making sense of so much chaos. We write The Werewolf Whisperer from pretty limited points of view, so when I write the action scenes from Lucy’s POV my lens is focused on the details she sees and experiences. As the raid on the dogfight ring falls apart, I go to where Lucy’s attention is:

“LAPD!” Gabe shouted as he and Lucy burst from the shadows.

Tuti, tilting a red plastic gas can, hunched over the injured pit bull.
”Down on the ground!” Gabe followed up. Tuti froze.
An incredulous roar rose from the surprised Locos as Lucy rammed her full force into Tuti, taking him down and knocking the gas can from his hands. She jumped to her feet and buried her boot in Tuti’s midsection. He gasped and curled in on himself.

The crowd of Locos reacted with indecent speed, scrambling down the alley, climbing fences, grabbing dogs and cash as they fled.

A few took in the fact that all that was threatening them were two cops — alone, and one of them was a woman. Like pack predators they closed in, toothy smiles flashing in the glow of the streetlights.

The back door of the bar flew open. A skinny teenage boy wildly waving a handgun ran toward Gabe in a straight line.

“Manny! No!” A screech Lucy barely recognized as belonging to Xochitl Magaña rang out from inside the hallway.

Gabe clotheslined Manny effortlessly and sent his gun flying through the air. Hitting the ground it went off, prompting other frenzied Los Locos to fire blindly in return. The sound of feet running from both sides of the alley, the whirring sound of helicopter blades overhead, the sudden warning shouts of police and ACTF overlapped with the howling and barking of dogs and hollers from Los Locos escaping over the fence. Bodies in flight and pursuit, knocked over cages, men crashing or being thrown into the chain-link — the chaos all around made Lucy feel a weird calm.

She noticed Flaco holding up his phone, filming the entire scene, turning his narco-pop to full blast while tears flowed freely down his scrunched up face.

Freak.

Staying on the one character also means understanding what things would mean to her — in the heat of battle. Her thoughts would be fragmented and not necessarily kind. Her ragged thought process is really just giving quick words to a visceral reaction. As adrenaline and anger carry Lucy forward, her instinct to protect drives her to actions:

Near her, Gabe scooped up the injured pit bull and bolted towards the safety of the door propped open by Xochitl Magaña.

“You idiots weren’t supposed to grab the dog!” Xochitl sounded furious.

Men came at him from all sides, shouting and flailing. Gabe barreled through them as if they were nothing.

Screeching, Flaco raised his Browning to take aim at Gabe’s back. Lucy clocked the boy in the face with her Beretta. He went straight to the ground.

“You fucking weasel!” she spat and bent down to scoop up his gun.

Someone grabbed her from behind, but she twisted out of the way, losing her grip on Flaco’s 9mm. There was nowhere to go now but to follow Gabe and the pit bull through the open back entrance to Xochitl’s Cantina. Lucy sprinted ahead, tripped over the stoop and gracelessly crashed onto the cantina floor, cutting her hands and bruising her pride.

Crap!

A shot rang out, and for a moment everything seemed to slow down. Lucy saw Gabe, who’d been in front of her and was already in the room, go to his knees on the blue linoleum. He bent forward unnaturally, releasing the pit bull who scrambled under a wooden table.

Lucy lurched forward on the floor to half push and half drag Gabe out of range of the shots that were continuing through the backdoor. From behind the bar, Lucy heard Xochitl scream, “Stop shooting, you assholes!”

The gunfire stopped.

I found J. Edward Ritchie’s assessment of “fluid placement of words on the page” a great insight into how the reader reads action. Along those same lines, I had thought of matching the speed of the action to the brevity of the lines — allowing faster reading for faster scenes. But once we reach the point where Gabe changes for the first time, I found that I had to slow things down again. The action still happens very quickly for Lucy, but the reader needs time to experience the impact of what is occurring. This is the moment everything changes:

“Lucy.” The deep rumble of Gabe’s voice took her complete focus. Something was very wrong. Gabe’s face had turned pasty white and glistened with sweat. Lucy locked onto Gabe’s eyes — normally deep chocolate brown, they now glowed a mesmerizing amber.

Before she could react, five Locos burst into the room, shouting and waving their guns. Gabe sprang up, knocking Lucy on her back, and crashed into the Locos with breathtaking force and speed.

Gabe’s already large frame now appeared monstrous, the muscles of his back and arms bulging and pulsing, his bones lengthening and cracking. Clean-shaven a moment ago, his face looked dirty with dark stubble. His hair, always cut high and tight — a remnant of his time in the service, now brushed his shoulders and rolled down his back like a messy lion’s mane.

Gabe roared like an animal in agony and ripped through one of the men’s throats with the startling long, curved claws of his bare hand.

He grabbed a gangbanger with the other hand, dangling the man off the floor and shaking him by the face like a rag doll.

Lucy started to black out as what felt like a massive shockwave rocked through her body. She fought to keep her eyes open. The small coherent part of her brain observed that Gabe’s Kevlar vest had a small rip in the back. Even if the vest had stopped a bullet from going through, it couldn’t have saved his ribs from being broken. Yet Gabe moved unencumbered, with the power of ten men.

She fixated on the shaggy black layer of fur that covered her partner’s head and arms. Just then he turned in profile; large pointed, fur-covered ears swiveled back like those of an aggressive dog. Razor-sharp teeth flashed in a tapered lupine jaw, and he bit down on the last gangbanger.

My partner’s a werewolf?

The last section is about aftermath. The action is over. The immediate danger has passed. But here’s the full force of the consequences. To me, the reality of what happens after a big blow up is far more devastating than the big blow up itself. Often adrenaline can carry a person through a particularly tough moment, but what happens after the adrenaline fades? To me, the gut punch of aftermath is a natural end to an action moment but also what carries the character forward into the rest of the story:

Lucy convulsed as hysteria shot through her like an electric shock.

“SWAT! Drop your weapons! Nobody move!” At that moment, the SWAT team burst through the front door of the cantina.

Gabe spun on the armed men, ready to attack.

“No, Gabe! Stop!” Lucy screamed the command, instinct trumping fear. Gabe hesitated and looked at her with curiosity.

Holy shit! He’s listening to me.

“SWAT! Get on the floor!” an officer roared as the team closed in.

“LAPD. Don’t shoot,” Lucy yelled out and lurched ahead to put her body between Gabe and the SWAT officers. “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.” Lucy’s voice gave out. Tears streamed down her face as she tried to squeeze sound from her throat, but her vocal chords wouldn’t obey anymore and violent coughs shook her.

She felt Gabe’s hot breath on her neck and turned to face him, slowly and deliberately.

“Down, Gabe.” She pointed to the floor. “Down.”

For a split second, everyone in the room stood still and watched Gabe. The massive man swayed briefly and then dropped to the floor like a puppet that had had its strings cut.

“Officer down. Code 33. Echo Park. North Alvarado and Clinton. Officer down. Start me additional units and medical. Code 3. Officer shot. Approach from northwest.”

“On their way.”

Lucy heard the shouting but didn’t comprehend the words. She crouched down beside her partner, holding him tight as convulsions wracked his body. She saw blood drip to the floor. Gabe had been hit despite the Kevlar.

“Don’t die. Don’t die. You can’t die.” Lucy’s words ran together in an incessant chant. She was lost in his pain, unable to focus, oblivious to the pandemonium all around her.

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

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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.

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Werewolf Wednesday: Who is Lucy Lowell?

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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

https://www.amazon.com/Werewolf-Whisperer-Book-ebook/dp/B00OAKIPX0/

Happy Halloween: The Raven

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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!

 

THE RAVEN

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

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/45484/45484-h/45484-h.htm

Notice from team Gutenberg:

“Our ebooks may be freely used in the United States because most are not protected by U.S. copyright law, usually because their copyrights have expired. They may not be free of copyright in other countries. Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright laws of their countries before downloading or redistributing our ebooks. We also have a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.”

 

Werewolf Wednesday: Introducing Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magaña

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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

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Werewolf Wednesday: World Building

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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.

https://www.amazon.com/Werewolf-Whisperer-Book-ebook/dp/B00OAKIPX0

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