The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 4

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— from Book 2 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series (THE ALPHA & OMEGA gives us a glimpse of the same moment in Gabe’s perspective)

They locked eyes, and for a moment he felt safe. He struggled to say her name.

Lucy.

Pain seared his back, but he could tell the bullet hadn’t hit anything important. It couldn’t stop him.

He moved on the gangbangers as they moved toward her. He didn’t know much, but he knew he had to protect her.

He lunged, crashing into his assailants with all the force his injured body could muster. His hand swept down, long fingers sharp and strong, and he cut through one throat with magnificent ease.

He grabbed the smaller man by the face, dangled him off the floor and shook until the spine cracked and life left. Another gangbanger backed away still holding his gun, pointing it toward her.

Protect Lucy.

The urge came to bite down, bidding him to crunch through skin and bone. His teeth violently punctured the flesh like the pressurized pointed bolts of a cattle gun. And blood madness shot through him.

This human was his food. His to eat, and it was good. This food asked to be eaten. It presented itself to him; the unspoken agreement made long ago. He was predator; it was prey. It was food.

“Stop!” Her voice told him what to do. She screamed at the crowd moving toward them. He wanted to spring up, but she blocked him from lunging.

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

Everything went very still and very cold. She wanted him to stop feeding, to stop moving. It was in her hands now. Her command. He could rest.

The pain spiked suddenly, and he dropped to the floor, all strength gone. Terror ripped at the edge of his consciousness, but her voice protected him.

“It’s okay. You’re okay.” And he believed her.

 

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The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 3

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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series

“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.

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.

“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?

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 cords 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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The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 2

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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series

Xochitl Magaña paced nervously behind the bar of her cantina, anxiously waiting for the cops to arrive.

¡Santa Maria, reza por mí!

Turning in her gangbanger boyfriend Memo was dangerous at best.

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

“No,” Xochitl hissed, squashing the sprouting thought before it could ripen. “This’ll work.”

She snatched a towel from its hook and began wiping down the individual liquor bottles that lined the shelves behind the bar.

El Gallo’s done.

Memo Morales preferred the moniker “El Gallo” and fancied himself Tony Montana.

¡Híjole! What’s with vatos and Scarface?

And like an over-glorified, self-obsessed crime lord, El Gallo had exploited his relationship with Xochi, using her bar as his headquarters — his command center for the gang’s illegal operation.

And I let him.

But El Gallo gave her protection — something Xochitl desperately needed after her papa had died. And she had to admit, just as Memo liked having the only fair- skinned, light-eyed, natural blond ruca in the neighborhood, she’d initially liked the attention he’d given her.

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

School had been her refuge, and she’d even won an academic scholarship to UCLA.

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.

Back in the hood, back in the life — with Memo.

But Memo went too far. Gun running. 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.

Xochitl hated all of it: the dogfights, the guns, the East Los Locos — Memo.

She shook off the flutter of nerves vibrating up and down her spine and noticed she’d been wiping off the same fifth of tequila. As she carefully placed the Cuervo Gold in its proper slot between the Don Julio and Patrón bottles, she caught the reflection of her cantina in the mirrored glass that backed the liquor racks lining the wall.

Wood and leather tables filled the space. A ’50s style jukebox, her papa’s pride and joy, played only vinyl from the ’60s and ’70s. “Mija, there’s no other music.” He would tell her whenever she’d begged him to update the playlist. Various paintings of matadors and bullfights attempted to lend a Spanish flavor to the rugged bar.

Xochitl’s Cantina had been Xochi’s home since she was six when her father, Carlos, had left the Marine Corps, following her mother’s death. And in its heyday, her papa’s bar had been the favorite local hangout.

The barrio Cheers.

By the time she was eleven, Xochitl had a stepmother she couldn’t stand and a new baby brother she adored.

¡Híjole! In one shot, Anita went from barfly to mother. What was Papa thinking?

But Xochitl remembered how sad and lonely her papa had been after her mom had died. He was honorable and would never have considered not marrying the mother of his child. Carlos Magaña was the finest man Xochi had ever known.

Biting back tears, Xochitl clenched her eyes. Her papa’s warm and inviting spirit echoed within every element of the cantina.

I miss you Papa.

For what seemed like the millionth time, Xochi looked up to the neon DOS EQUIS clock hanging over the bar.

2:37 A.M.? They’re late. The fights’ll be over and Memo’ll leave soon. He’s gonna wonder why I’m still here and not waiting for him upstairs.

“Where the hell are they?” she mumbled.
”Where the hell’s who?” Memo Morales asked. Startled, Xochitl whipped around, knocking over several liquor bottles. She barely registered the clamoring rattle of glass hitting glass as Memo, who had come in from the back without her noticing, stood behind her.

Shit!

Despite the frozen crush of heart-stomping anxiety, Xochi couldn’t help admire Memo’s movie star looks and how his white T-shirt and jeans emphasized his strong, lean build. His big, hazel eyes always took her breath away. Tonight was no different.

Still the best-looking guy in the neighborhood.

“Who’s late?” Memo asked again, grabbing a beer from the cooler under the bar. “Huh, what?…Uh…no one. I mean, Miguel. He’s late.”
Memo wrapped his arms around Xochi and tugged at her rose embroidered peasant blouse. “¡Ay, mamí! Let the boy be. He’s almost eighteen. A man.” He began kissing her neck. “Why don’t you go upstairs, put on that sexy slip thing I got you? I’m all wound up. You can help me relax.”

Wrinkling her nose at the smell of stale beer and dog, Xochi shrugged Memo off her. “What do you know about it? He’s not one of your boys.”

Xochitl knew she shouldn’t be flippant with Memo. He had a short temper and could be aggressive with her when he didn’t get his way. But she couldn’t help herself when it came to her little brother Miguel. She hated it when Memo thought he had any say in how Miguel was raised.

She wanted to yell in Memo’s face, “Stay away cabrón! He’s mine!” Instead she whispered, “I’m tired.”

Xochitl walked around to the front of the counter, trying to put distance between herself and Memo. She could see in his eyes he was losing his patience.

Where’s la chota already?

Undeterred, 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.”

Xochitl pulled her arm back and without thinking threw a right hook to his jaw. Instantly, she felt pain shoot from her fist straight up her arm. “¡Ay carajo!”

Shaking out the sting from her hand, Xochi looked up and saw Memo stunned, holding the left side of his face.

Oh, fuck! What did I do?

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

As she turned from Memo, 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.

Taking a chance, she slowly turned back to face Memo. He stood at close range, his gun pointed at her chest.

Oh, God.

Xochi raised her hands in the air.
”Please, Memo,” she tried to placate him. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean—” “¡Cállate!” Memo growled, pacing back and forth in front of her like a wild beast about to pounce on his prey.
An odd bubble of calm enveloped Xochi, and — as if locked in stasis, she stood immobile, waiting, contemplating her next move.
”You think you can do this to me and not pay, bitch? I’m El Gallo!”
Xochitl stole a glance at the bar.
Behind the counter. Papa’s shotgun. If I’m quick enough…
“I run this—” Memo raged on only to suddenly cut himself off.
Xochitl brought her attention back to El Gallo. He stared past her at the frosted glass window. She slowly craned her neck to follow his line of sight. A shadow moved swiftly by the front of the bar.

¡Híjole! About damn time!

She turned back to Memo. His eyes again fixed on her. Xochitl could see by the amazed and — hurt? — look on his face that he’d puzzled out she had betrayed him. Why Memo hadn’t made a move on her yet she didn’t understand. She wasn’t about to ask. Keeping him in her sights, she began inching her way to the bar.
Xochitl had almost reached the end of the counter when Manny, a fourteen-year-old boy, one of Memo’s lookouts, sprinted into the cantina from the kitchen. “¡Jefe! ¡La chota! ¡Afuera!”

Memo regained his senses. “¿Dónde?”
”Everywhere. I came from the dumpsters out back,” the boy answered. ¡Carajo! The cops didn’t find the kitchen entrance!
The side alley door was hidden by the dumpster enclosure. Xochitl’s produce vendors constantly complained about the difficult access.

If I get out of this alive, I’m gonna move those pinche dumpsters.

“Did anyone see you?” El Gallo asked the boy as he moved toward the kitchen and peeked through the swinging door.

“No, Jefe,” the boy replied, pulling out a 9mm handgun stuffed in his pants like a gangster out of a movie he’d probably watched a million times.

“The cops will find the kitchen door soon.” Memo stepped back into the bar.

Xochitl eyed El Gallo, as he searched the room for another way out, revulsion churning her guts.

How did I ever get mixed up with this monster? What am I gonna do if he gets away?

Memo glanced down the hall toward the restrooms. His mouth turned up into a sly grin, and Xochi knew he had figured out his escape.

¡Hijo de puta! Where’s pinche Xena warrior cop?

Unsure, Manny took a tentative step closer to El Gallo.

Memo put up his hand, halting the boy. “Stay here, homes. Pinche cops can’t touch you.” The gang leader beat his chest with his fist and shouted in salute, “¡Órale! East Los!”

“East Los!” The dutiful boy soldier mimicked.

Some day this kid’s gonna get himself killed by these pendejos. That will not be my Miguel.

El Gallo turned back to Xochitl, “I’ll deal with you later.” Then he ran down the hall toward the women’s restroom.

Xochi stood next to the bar, staring after Memo. There was nothing she could do now except hope the cops would nab him crawling out the bathroom window. She looked over to Manny, who appeared lost now that his leader had ditched him.

Poor kid. Doesn’t even know Memo could give a shit what happens to him.

Shouting and gunfire blasted from the back lot.

Officer Lowell.

Xochi darted behind the bar, grabbed the Smith & Wesson 12 gauge, checked it was loaded and readied herself. Looking up, she watched Manny cock his gun.

“Wait,” she hissed.
Manny smiled at her and ran for the back exit.
”Shit!” Xochitl, shotgun in hand, took off after the boy.

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The Werewolf Whisperer: The Raid — Part 1

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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series

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.

“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.

“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…

 

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The Werewolf Whisperer’s new revved up, high-octane cover!

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Ever since K-Day and the werewolf apocalypse, life has been rough for The Werewolf Whisperer team of Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magaña. But when they try to help a friend in need, team Werewolf Whisperer realizes it’s about to get a whole lot rougher. Battling personal demons born of family history and bad choices, the women struggle to make things right. But all is not as it seems. Not for Lucy. Not for Xochi. And not for an oblivious society teetering on the brink of extinction

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Art Talk: Werewolves

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guest blog by Carol E. Leever

My writing partner Camilla writes another series with our friend Bonita Gutierrez. The Werewolf Whisperer is urban fantasy about two awesome women fighting their way through the werewolf apocalypse. It is predominately set in modern day Los Angeles and other parts of California. Camilla and Bonita have lived most of their lives in California (so have I for that matter) and they write about places they know with such clarity that the setting becomes a character unto itself in the stories.

Recently they asked me to do a cover for their story No Beast So Fierce. They kicked around various ideas for what they wanted on the cover, and I made a couple of attempts at painting something. But none of it was quite right.

And then they came up with a rather ridiculous idea — why not just do a cute werewolf plushie? (Word of caution — The Werewolf Whisperer series is violent and dark, filled with dystopian brutality. And while there is humor in the story — it is not cute.)

The setting for No Beast So Fierce is the Folsom Renaissance Fair near Sacramento, California. The story actually does feature a stuffed werewolf child’s toy wearing a Renaissance costume, complete with a full Elizabethan collar.

While I was a bit skeptical of the idea, painting a child’s toy was actually on my list of things to do. I keep a list — a long list of things I want to paint. Some of them are paintings of images and scenes I want to illustrate, but many of them are things I want to paint for the learning process alone. These are what artist call ‘studies’ and often consist of painting random things, or copying the various paintings of the masters, all in an effort to improve your technique. Every beginning artist should be doing studies. (From what I gather even the professionals who have been painting for years still do studies.)

A child’s toy was on my study list specifically for the process of learning how to paint different materials — the soft fur of a toy (not the same as cat fur), as well as the different texture of clothing, and the hard surface of button or glass eyes. So the request lined up well with my planned practice, and I was happy to get started.

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The first step was coming up with a basic design. This was my initial sketch — I’m a terrible line artist, and like I’ve said before, most of my paintings start out as something a child would draw. Camilla has seen some of my horrible sketches and understand the process I go through to get to a finished piece, but poor Bonita looked at it and immediately went ‘uh oh’. (To be fair, that is also my reaction — every single painting I start makes me want to give up. They’re REALLY bad for the first 10 hours or so.)

Now while the final image was meant to be the poor little toy after the climax of the book (the toy does not fair well), I decided to do a a clean, pristine version of the toy first (image at the top of the article). The Elizabethan collar in particular was time consuming. Drawing anything that is ‘white’ is tough; you can’t really use white as a color — it isn’t a color (okay, technically it is considered a color without hue, but that wasn’t the point). White is a highlight. To paint something that is white, you have to use a different color — some sort of shade of gray (I could do a whole blog on ‘gray’ — it’s an awesome color).

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Between the collar, the tunic and the fur I got my full share of ‘materials’ to study. And I was pretty pleased with the final results. The eyes actually took me the longest time — not because they were hard to do (they’re just black ovals) but because I tried about a dozen different designs before deciding on the simplest version possible. At one point he even had googly eyes.

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Once the ‘clean’ version of the toy was done, I had to tear him apart. This also allowed for another material study as I needed to draw the stuffing coming out of the tears. That meant more white that can’t actually be white. I’m not sure the stuffing was as successful as the collar was — but in the end he looked sufficiently pathetic.

The blood splatters were the last thing I painted. The drips on the sword were just painted normally, but the splatter on the collar was done using a few red swipes of paint on an overlay layer that blended the color into the existing material nicely. Last minute, I decided to put his missing eye on the ground beside him.

You can download the book for free here: Book Funnel. And here’s the final version of the cover.

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You can find us many places:

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Camilla:

Twitter ‪@CamillaOchlan

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Tumblr: https://camillaochlan.tumblr.com

Carol:

http://caroleleever.deviantart.com

Bonita:

Twitter: @BonitzMG

Tumblr: https://bonitamg.tumblr.com

Seething about Indie Books

Indie Publishing is in transition. What used to be sneered at as a vanity press is now an acceptable option for publishing. The hardest part about being an indie author is getting your book to the right reader. And as a reader, it’s not easy finding the right book when all you have to go on is a cover and a quick description. You’re more willing to invest your time when some trusted source has vetted the book for you. But big publications and many bloggers won’t review indie authors. Understandably, they are inundated with requests from traditional sources. And there are just so many indie books available.

Ever the proactive badass, my writing partner Bonita — who reads a ton — has made it her mission to get the word out about some awesome indie books. And The Seething Brain is happy to host the new series:

Don’t Judge a Book by its . . . Indie Author Roots

Self-publishing isn’t new. Authors such as Mark Twain and Stephen King published their first works themselves. So why do the independent, self-published books of today get such a bum rap? Yes, when this new world of self-publishing first emerged (largely due to internet giant, Amazon), a great deal of indie books may have been poorly written and poorly edited (I know. I’ve been reading e-books since the first generation Kindle hit the market). But what was once true a decade ago is not necessarily true today.

When Camilla and I first entertained the idea of self-publishing, I asked a good friend (and best selling author) what we should do. Without hesitation, he told me to self-publish. Not because he’d thought we couldn’t get published, but because publishing houses were just not making the deals they once had. He told me that I’d be better off doing it for myself. And I had to agree (Besides, I’m not one to sit around and wait for someone’s approval. Nope. I’d rather get it done and get it out there).

It would seem other writers feel the same. As the book publishing industry continues to be in flux, many authors — both conventionally published and first-time novelists — are forgoing the long and arduous submission process (a process made a thousand times harder if you don’t have an agent) and uploading their e-books to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Add in the rapid development in technology and the common use of social media, and today’s authors are unshackled from the traditional publishing houses. (By the way, you don’t need a Kindle to read a Kindle e-book. Just download the FREE app to the device of your choice and you’re off to the races!)

And many self-published authors have gone on to become Best Sellers, which in turn, opened up new opportunities and propelled their careers to new heights. Lisa Genova’s Still Alice stayed on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 40 weeks and was adapted into a major motion picture, garnering both an Oscar and a Golden Globe in the Best Actress category. While Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series helped land him the coveted job of writing Star Wars: Aftermath. (One of my favorite authors writing my favorite series. Yay for me!)

Like the indie film boom of the 90’s, the independent, self-publishing industry is experiencing its own exciting renaissance. So in the spirit of this literary revival, Camilla and I will be writing an on-going blog series, highlighting exceptional indie novelists and their work.

Without further ado, here are a few books I think are well worth a read…

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FALL FROM GRACE by J. Edward Ritchie

Fantasy

Book blurb:

Heaven: a paradise of all that is pure in Creation. Led by brothers Michael and Satanail, the Angelic Host is a testament to cosmic harmony and love. When an unprecedented revelation threatens to uproot their peace, a schism splits the Host’s loyalties. Every angel has to make a choice: faith or freedom. Good or evil.

Salvation or damnation.

War consumes Heaven in the first and most destructive loss of life that Creation will ever know. As brother turns on brother, the fate of both Heaven and Earth rests in the hands of the Creator’s chosen son, Michael. How far will he go, what will he sacrifice in the name of their Father, to protect his family?

Witness the tragic downfall of a civilization as told from both sides of the bloody rebellion. More than myth, more than legend, Heaven’s war will forever stand as a harrowing warning that even the purest of souls can fall from grace.

https://www.amazon.com/Fall-Grace-J-Edward-Ritchie-ebook/dp/B00UJVMN32

Fear U

FEAR UNIVERSITY by Meg Collett

Urban Fantasy

2017 eLit Awards Gold Winner in Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Book Blurb:

I’ve always known I was a monster, and I don’t mean some teenage vampire shit either.

My mother abandoned me when I was ten years old because I have a freakish mutant disease that makes me incapable of feeling pain. I bounced from one foster family to another because too many people like to test my medical condition in a game of “Try To Make Ollie Scream.” At sixteen, I killed a man for taking that game too far.

Two years later, I’m still on the run in Kodiak, Alaska. Here, I’m the most dangerous person around, until I come face to face with a creature that should only exist in folklore. The monster is an aswang, and I, with my medical anomaly, am uniquely qualified to hunt the beast that haunts the night. At least, that’s what the two scarred, mostly crazy ’swang hunters tell me when they kidnap me and take me to Fear University, a school where young students learn to hunt and kill aswangs.

I arrive at the university a prisoner, but I stay because I finally find my freedom.

For once in my life, I belong. I’m needed. I make a home for myself inside the university masquerading as an old Alaskan prison. Something close to happiness warms my icy heart when I’m with my scarred, still mostly crazy tutor, Luke Aultstriver. For a murdering runaway like me, Fear University is a haven where I can put my skills to good use hunting monsters in the night.

But when certain truths come to light and even more lies are exposed, I fear that I, Ollie Andrews, am the worst kind of monster of all. And, maybe, they should be hunting me.

https://www.amazon.com/Fear-University-Meg-Collett-ebook/dp/B017CK0K28

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ROSETTA by Stephen Patterson

Science Fiction

Book Blurb:

The future isn’t what it used to be for Tony Calanis Palermo. He’s a man with a past.
It has been a long fall from a member of the most clandestine branch of Lunar Intelligence to a mere able spaceman first class aboard a merchant starship. But after his latest misadventure, it will be an even longer fall to working out a long term indenture on a backwater sugar plantation. In fact, it would be a death sentence.
Except that he’s just been offered a single chance at freedom: If he uses his skills to obtain the language key of the mysterious, and dead, alien Galactic race before anyone else can get it. That anyone else may include, but may not strictly be limited to, interplanetary policorps, super soldiers, genetically modified assassins, heavily armed colonial revolutionaries, and the combined military might of the Union of Man.
Enough trouble for anyone’s plate, perhaps.
But once on the ground, Tony discovers the still functioning personality daemon of a quasi-religious mutant criminal megalomaniac that had once tried to start World War Four just before Tony . . . killed her. Turns out, that’s a problem.
Only he also decides to rescue an indentured savant slave girl and her dying pet Angel.
Has he finally bitten off more than he can chew?
But the real question is: Can he stay alive long enough to succeed?

https://www.amazon.com/Rosetta-Stephen-Patterson-ebook/dp/B01M9F625F

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THE WET WOMAN by Alejandra Díaz Mattoni

Urban Crime Thriller

Book Blurb:

Magdalena, or “Magda,” Amador kills people for a living. Spending her teenage years in forced prostitution, befriending the pharmacist who lived next door to the brothel, and building up a steely facade made her the perfect candidate for the murder-for-money lifestyle. It’s not sexy, but neither is flipping burgers.

Sex slavers kidnapped Magda when she was seven and smuggled her to Barcelona, Spain. Decades later, she returns home to the Los Angeles suburbs to find a bickering blended family nose-deep in money laundering, human smuggling, and death threats. Magda wants to protect her family and their business, but what she needs is to make amends with her wrongdoings, face her past traumas, and finally find a place in the world where she can fit in.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MJ485A2

And a final seethe on what’s new in indie publishing news:

 Somewhere in the recent general news splat, I picked up on the narrative that e-book sales are down. I didn’t really know anything about it until I listened to The Creative Penn podcast #320. It seems that after the UK Publishers Association reported that e-book sales are down, some news outlets turned the Publisher’s Association’s findings into “the sky is falling.” CNN and The Guardian ran articles that made the outlook for e-book publishing’s future look pretty gloomy.

Since I came into the story a little late, I heard some facts that put things in perspective before I fully grasped what had been said and what repercussions that could have.

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn said, “Whenever you see these stories, remember they only report books with ISBNs – so most indie e-book sales are not included, and neither are Kindle Unlimited page reads.”

That information makes all the difference. Penn also linked to an article from the Digital Reader that breaks down how, without taking into consideration the non-ISBN books (like the Amazon ASIN – Amazon Standard Identification Numbers ), the Publishers Association missed about 38% of sales (indie authors). A more comprehensive look at the numbers is posted on the Author Earnings site.

So, why was the story presented as the death of the e-book when the facts support that the e-book market thriving? Was it a misinterpretation or is something more nefarious going on?

I don’t know.

But, in case you’ve heard the dirge for the e-book, there’s more to it. E-books aren’t going anywhere. Not to worry.

Check out all The Werewolf Whisperer series books on: http://www.werewolfwhisperer.com

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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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http://bit.ly/2h6zjbd

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

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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