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!

 

 

 

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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/

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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