We've Moved!

The authors of FaE have relocated to the Beyond the Veil castle keep. BtV is now your one-stop blog for Samhain Publishing's paranormal and fantasy romance authors!

Come on over! Just be careful when you cross the moat. The mermaids are still getting settled in with the Cracken. The drawbridge might be a little slippery.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thirteen Celtic Animal Allies

Thirteen Celtic Animal Allies

The following list gives many of the animals known to the Celts and told of in their legends and myths. (Note: This is cross-posted in my blog.)

1. Adder (snake) - Associated with wisdom, reincarnation, and cunning. The Druids carried an amulet called gloine nathair (serpent glass). In the Scottish Highlands, the adder symbolized the Cailleach's power.

2. Badger - This animal is unyielding in the face of danger and is noted for its tenacity and courage. The badger will teach you to fight for your rights and defend your spiritual ideasYou drank a bottle of pop and not a soda.

3. Bear - The bear was noted for its strength and stamina. It can help you find balance and harmony in your life, and the strength to do what is necessary.

4. Wolf - The wolf is a cunning, intelligent creature, capable of out-thinking hunters. It can teach you how to read the signs of Nature in everything, how to pass by danger invisibly, how to outwit those who wish you harm, and how to fight when needed. Sometimes the world, seen on a journey, will lead you to a spiritual teacher and guide.

5. Butterfly - Many cultures cal butterflies the souls of the dead and the keepers of power. They will teach you to free yourself form self-imposed restrictions and to look at problems with greater clarity.

6. Cat - The cat is a strong protector, especially when facing a confrontational situation.

7. Crane - The crane, with its colors of black, white, and red, was a Moon bird, sacred to the Triple Goddess. Magic, shamanic travel, learning and keeping secrets, reaching deeper mysteries and truths.

8. Crow - This animal is to treated with care. Along with the raven, the crow is a symbol of conflict and death, an ill-omen associated with such Goddess as Macha, Badb, and the Morrigan. It was also considered to be skillful, cunning, single-minded, and a bringer of knowledge. It is of value when trickery is needed. It also teaches you to learn from the past, but not hold onto it.

9. Deer - THe deer represents keen scent, grace swiftness, and gentleness. There are ways of reaching your goals other than force.

10. Dragon - The dragon symbolized the power of the Elements, especially that of the Earth, but also of the treasure of the subconscious mind.

11. Hare (rabbit) - Associated with transformation, the receiving of hidden teachings, and intuitive messages.

12. Salmon - The salmon teaches you how to get in touch with ancestral knowledge and put it to practical use.

13. Wren - A sacred bird to the Druids, its musical notes were used for divination. As with many other birds, the wren was considered a messenger from the deities.

Source: Joelle's Sacred Grove

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
Dog's Eye View 2. Christina's Shoebox 3. Samantha Lucas 4. Amanda Young 5. Jenny's Wandering Thoughts 6. Off the Wall Thoughts 7.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Writing fantasy: A question for you.

I love writing fantasy, and I’m always looking for helpful books and links. So, I’d love for you to share with us some of your favorite research books, and site links. Do you have anything special on names, concepts, mythology, characterization…etc? A book you pick up time and again for help? An Internet link you’re constantly clicking through to do research?

Until later~

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Forgotten One

For writers, everything is fair game when it comes to research. It's been said that there are really only 12 basic plot lines, and every one's been done a bajillion times over. So, in search of that unique twist or irresistable hook, writers wait, watch, and read for that nugget of research that will set a story in motion.

For me, it's usually an obscure, nearly forgotten factoid buried in a dusty book or archived article that piques my interest. A one-liner about a faery that melts into a puddle of water should it get caught in a shaft of sunlight. An tiny reference to a minor civil war skirmish that took place on the most haunted coastline in America. A statement uttered by an angel "expert" that had me raising my eyebrow and muttering, "Oh really? But what if..."

The spark that lit the fuse for my upcoming novella "Wildish Things" came while I was reading Patricia Monaghan's "The Red Haired Girl from the Bog." She mentioned a goddess so old that no one remembers her name, or even what rituals were used to worship her. In Irish/Scottish folklore she is known simply as "The Cailleach", a word which has no real translation. She is thought to be old, the oldest of all goddesses. Possibly the mother of all goddesses. Her bones are the rocks; the plants and trees, her skin; her blood, the water.

And I got to thinking, what must life be like for this goddess? So much age, so much power - and the ability to scare the snot out of anyone. What would happen if one day she got tired of being bored and lonely, and decided to stir up a little trouble?

So, to do my little bit to make sure no one forgets her completely, I wrote "Wildish Things." Hopefully she will like my offering well enough to keep her meddling fingers out of MY life! Although, come to think of it, this old broad might be fun to lift a pint with.

WILDISH THINGS, coming in eBook and trade paperback Nov. 1 from SamhainPublishing.com

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thirteen Reasons a Man is Like a Book...and vice versa

Warning: do not read if you're offended by sexual innuendo. (ok, who laughed?! ;) )

Thirteen reasons a man is like a book...and vice versa
  1. Sometimes you have to sneak a peek at what's under the wrapping before you bring it home
  2. Some of them you'll want to introduce your family to.
  3. Some of them you'll hide under your bed :)
  4. Some of them you remember fondly
  5. Some you don't.
  6. There's one you'll go through a few times, wondering if it's as good as you remember (or as bad.)
  7. There's a special one for everyone (but you may have to try a few before you find it.)
  8. Sometimes all you want is to crawl under the sheets with one
  9. A good one will make you want to do it again.
  10. Sometimes, you'll find yourself drawn to one you'd never have imagined liking.
  11. There's always one that is nothing like you expected from its cover
  12. Some blurbs are bigger than others.
  13. Some blurbs are better

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Heroes and Villains

As writing partners, Teri Smith and I agreed on lots of things, including the deep dark secret of writing fantasy adventure--there’s a very thin separating the good guys from the bad. Where we didn’t always agree was where to draw the line.

Some things were no-brainers. For example, Alan Shore (Boston Legal): good. Jack Bauer (24): bad. But things got a little more complicated when we started writing Highway from Hell, the novel about Eurydice and Orpheus we were working on when she died.

We didn’t disagree on the villain of the piece. No question, it was Orpheus. Sure he was sex on a stick and had a voice that could make trees walk and rocks, well, rock. But he dumped his wife almost as soon as he married her to hang out with his posse. When she died after being bitten by a snake while running away from a gang of stalkers (a gang that included Orpheus’s step-brother Aristaeus, no less) Orpheus neglected to show for the funeral. Then, several weeks later, in a frenzy of grief which seems to have more to do with emo than actual emotion, he announced he was going to drag her back from her after life. Whether she wanted him to or not.

To a certain extent, it’s a good thing I had to do the heavy lifting on Highway from Hell right from the start--and not because Teri wouldn’t live to see it finished. Teri loathed Orpheus. From the myths, she knew he couldn’t keep it in his pants. He was determined to have his way at all costs--and threw major tantrums when things didn’t work out the way he wanted. He didn’t care about anyone’s needs but his own. In short, he combined the worst qualities of her first husband and every celebrity wannabe she’d ever had the misfortune to run into working for Crescent Blues.

I conceded Orpheus was all that and a bag of Doritos. But on the plus side, he never broke any laws, and he had a really messed up childhood.

When he was a little kid people thought he was the son of Apollo and the muse Calliope. In other words, they thought he was an immortal big cheese growing up and kowtowed accordingly--never a good child-rearing strategy. But the god life disappeared in an instant when Hercules killed Orpheus’s brother Linus. Suddenly Orpheus was just another bastard mortal kid of a very promiscuous muse. No one would give him the time of day…until he turned his magical voice into a force they couldn’t ignore.

That didn’t make him a good person. But I understood where how he could get bent by the circumstances. Plus, I confess a sneaking admiration for his semi-divine selfishness. I wish I could ignore other people’s needs every now and then. It would sure make it easier to be creative, and there’s a lot to be said for my husband’s belief that no one ever rose to the top without routinely indulging their inner two-year-old.

To my mind, it was Eurydice’s job to stand up for herself. At least, we’ve got no legendary evidence Orpheus physically abused her.

No, the abuser, the killer of classical mythology was the same person who murdered his music teacher for correcting his technique: Hercules. Hercules killed the teenaged Linus. It’s no good saying--as Teri did, loudly and often--Hercules didn’t know his own strength. Face it, Hercules made headlines by strangling snakes in his cradle. This was before his first birthday. By the time he hit puberty he was killing lions. He soon graduated to hydras, demon birds, amazons, friends, enemies, wives, children (repeatedly), sea monsters, giants, kings, commoners…

Which isn’t to say Teri and I disagreed about everything regarding Hercules. We agreed he was a man whose democratic principles were ahead of his time.

He’d kill anything.

That comment was guaranteed to set Teri on the warpath. Fueled by a righteous passion for all things Kevin Sorbo, she’d invariably throw something at me. “Hercules wasn’t like that. He didn’t mean to kill his wife and children. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was probably poisoned. They had mind-altering drugs back then too, you know.”

“Really?” I’d drawl. “I think O.J. Simpson said something similar on his car phone when he was driving around L.A. after his wife bought it.”

It’s a good thing I’ve always had decent reflexes. Teri wore size twelve shoes, and she wasn’t afraid to use them, especially on me. But things always settled down when she remembered I wouldn’t stand still long enough for her to hit me. Our writing compromise was equally pragmatic. She wouldn’t try to make Orpheus’s dialogue sound like something her ex would say as long as I didn’t snark on Hercules, the Legendary Journeys and Xena, Warrior Princess too much. After all, all those fans (and potential fantasy readers) think Hercules is a hero.

Romantics and rock stars think Orpheus is a hero too. But if you step back from the dust thrown up by their spin doctors and look beyond the glamour of their star turns, neither Orpheus nor Hercules come across terribly well. Not to put too fine a point on it, they acted like skunks.

They weren’t the only ones. Theseus--the same guy we can blame for convincing Hercules not to commit suicide after Linus’s death--tried to kidnap Helen of Troy and marry the goddess Persephone after she set up housekeeping with Hades. And he showed no qualms about leaving his co-conspirator behind when he lucked into a Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free pass. Bet they didn’t tell you about that when they were feeding you the standard, ahem, bull about Theseus and the Minotaur.

Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, was no prize either. He was totally cool with Medea killing her inconvenient relatives--and his--in the name of the Golden Fleece. But when the opportunity came to wed a sweet young heiress came along, suddenly he was scared of his killer wife.

I could cite a lot more examples too. The classical myths are full of bad things done by people the writers describe as good guys. Not to mention a host of bad guys whose major crime appears to be they lost a popularity contest somewhere along the line. Like Hades, for example.

Teri and I always agreed on Hades. For us, the line between good and bad in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the earliest version of the story of Persephone and Hades, is crystal clear.

Hades: good. Demeter: rotten to the Kore!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Magic of Between

A doorway.

The one thing these have in common: they are all 'betweens'. Between one space and another, one time and another. Between light and dark. These have long been associated with magic; the idea being while you're between two things, you're not in either.

If I stand in the doorway between my living room and kitchen, I'm in neither room, and both, at the same time. The idea is, if you can find the right 'between', you can straddle the line dividing two worlds, that of magic, and that of 'reality'. Able to see both, but you wouldn't truly be IN either world.

Why is it this theory has grabbed hold of me so tightly? I think because the possibilities are endless. Once you start looking for a between, they're everywhere. Once I got the concept of not being part of either room, and extrapolate it to 'not being part of either world'...the idea of being a ghost took on true terror for me. You're...un-tethered.

But it also leaves a lot of room to explore, too. What is between light and dark? Shadows? But aren't they something all their own? So what, then, would be between the shadows and light...In my stories, it tends to be a warrior-figure, someone who battles the darkness and shadows from overtaking the light. But my mind doesn't work like everyone else's, and I'm mostly okay with that ;)

See if you can come up with a between I haven't listed (there are thousands)...If you have time today, stand in a doorway, and enjoy that threshold, that feeling of being disjointed. (It's especially nice if you have family in one of the rooms you can join after this experiment :) )

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Girl Power Times Three

courtesy of Jean Marie Ward

If numbers have power, three qualifies as the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room. Everybody knows about the Three Kings and the Three Stooges--not to mention “Three strikes, you’re out”. But did you know it’s a power number for women--especially sisters? And these are women you don’t want to mess with.

  1. Three Sisters (play by Chekov)
  2. Three Graces (Greek & Roman Mythology)
  3. Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash--the three main food crops of the Native American tribes in New England, which can be grown together for the benefit of all)
  4. Three Sisters Islands (three islands in the Potomac River near Washington, DC)
  5. Three Norns (Norse mythology)
  6. The Three Sisters (three Irish rivers, all arising in the mountains of County Tipperary, which flow into the sea in the same bay southwest of Waterford)
  7. Three Fates (Greek & Roman Mythology)
  8. Drei Schwestern (a group of three mountains forming a natural boundary between Lichtenstein and Austria)
  9. Three Witches (Shakespeare’s Macbeth)
  10. Three Sisters (a single mountain with three peaks near Fernie in British Columbia)
  11. Three Furies (Greek & Roman Mythology)
  12. Three Gorgons (Greek & Roman Mythology)
  13. Tri Sestry (a volcano in the Kuril Islands in Russia)

The Dragons of Lyndaria

Who doesn't love dragons? If you're a lover of fantasy, chances are you love dragons as well. I adore dragons. In fact, I have a fantasy romance series called "The Legends of Mynos" at Samhain Publishing. The first two books are available now in eBook, and you can find out more about them here:


I love this series, and the BIG reason is because of the dragonlore. While it's true, my fantasies might not bring anything "new" to the table, I like to think my dragonlore is what makes them unique. Dragons are very complicated beings in my world. Very intelligent, very ancient, very astute magic users. I'm currently writing the third book in this series, THE WOLVERINE AND THE FLAME, and even now, the dragons of my world are still revealing things to me.

Things I've learned from the dragons of Lyndaria:

They have a heirarchy. It's not a dragon free-for-all.

They don't hoard jewels. My dragons have better things to do. lol

Depending on their color, they have different temperments.

They can shift into humans, yet they don't look quite human, still bearing the coloring of their scales on their skin and in their hair, with slits for pupils.

The fire they breathe isn't "normal" flame. It's a magical flame with special properties.

If they are consecrated after they die, the dragon's body will turn into "pure magic", becoming a gem the color of their scales. This gem is a "blank slate" to be enchanted with any power the wielder sees fit, thus becoming a powerful magical talisman.

This is just some of the things I've learned from my dragons. Their relationships are almost as complicated as the main characters. I love my dragons. In fact, Mynos is my favorite character out of all my books. He's ancient, wise, benevolent, and yet, still playful. He's the "glue" that holds my series together, and he ignited my love of dragons.

If you get a chance, I hope you get to know Mynos as well. In fact, he has a gift for you: a free read. Come and fly with him in the skies of Lyndaria. You won't be disappointed.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Creature Feature: D'Arc Royal Black Dragons

I was recently asked what makes the dragons I write about different from others and thought I'd answer the question here, in a "Creature Feature." Hope that's okay with you all. ;-)

In the Dragon Knights series, there are many varieties and hues of dragon, but the only black dragons in existence are the Royal Blacks. They are the shapeshifters - the beings of noble blood born and sworn to protect both humanity and dragonkind.

They rule with an understanding born of the fact they are both human and dragon. The founder of their line, Draneth the Wise, intended it just that way, so the dragons and humans could live in harmony and work together to protect their land and people against the forces of evil.

In my Dragon Knights series, the time has come when this partnership will be tested utterly. The last of the wizards have returned to continue their war against each other, using humans and other creatures like the venemous skiths as pawns in their deadly game. King Roland, Prince Nico, and their brothers will lead both the dragons and people of their land into battle... and beyond.

I hope that answers at least some of the questions about the Royal Blacks. I'll probably have to do another post sometime on the wild Northern Ice Dragons and some of the other creatures unique to my world. So what do you all think? :-)

Bianca D'Arc
Come over to the D'Arc side... www.biancadarc.com

Monday, May 14, 2007

A favorite genre of mine is…

ancient fantasy. This genre is an alternate history, usually with magic or some element of the fantastic or predated history. Arthurian legends fall under this concept. The myths and folklore of the ancient civilizations, such as Byzantium, the Celts, the Americas, or the Middle East make good backdrops for ancient fantasy tales.

I’m thrilled to be working on two ancient fantasy worlds.

One is a shapeshifter tale that spins an alternate history of the ancient Romy. Of course there’s the added dose of magic. I’ve forever been fascinated with this culture. And have been studying the people since I started dabbling in writing. I’m under committed deadline to Ellroa’s Cave for the first installment titled Serving the Beast. And have my fingers crossed I get to grow the series.

The other is a dragon story that I’m equally fond of. This one weaves a tale among the ancient Celts.

What is your favorite ancient culture? Or ancient fantasy romance?

Until later~

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Creature Feature: The Grugach

The name “Grugach” comes from an old Irish word which can mean hairy or long-haired, but it is also applied to goblins, enchanters, wizards and fairies. However, it is most often described as a helpful spirit similar in some ways to the brownie, both in the Highlands of Scotland and in Ulster, where it is known as the Grogan. Described as short, hairy, with broad shoulders and great strength, it is famed as a hard worker.

The Ulster Grogan generally appear as naked, hairy little men about 4 feet tall. In the Highlands, the Grugach may be well dressed and watch over cattle. Some Highland stories describe the Grugach as a fairy woman dressed in green with long golden air, who may appear as either beautiful or as worn and haggard. She would sometimes enter houses dripping wet and ask to dry herself by the fire. Male Highland Grugachs could be handsome youths, but for the most part they were described as naked and shaggy.

Elsewhere in Scottish tradition, the Grugach is a more fearsome and frightening creature, playing tricks on mortals and displaying magical powers. One Celtic legend tells of a piratical Grugach who talks a poor fisherman into giving up his son for a year and a day, promising to educate the lad and return him a wise man. The fisherman agrees, and a year later the boy is returned home. But the fisherman is tricked into letting the Grugach have the boy for another year and a day. Worse, this time he forgets to make the Grugach promise to actually return his son home. (Sound like a certain pirate we all know and love? Hmm?)

- Elemental Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews
- SacredTexts.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Shifters Through the Ages

Change is magic. Magic is change--and we can’t get enough of it. The shift can be as mundane as the sleight of hand which changes a magician’s handkerchief into a bouquet of silk flowers or as extreme as a transformation from man to dragon and back again.

Samhain Publishing’s recent open call for stories about cat shifters only reinforces the point. Voluntary shapeshifters are a staple of epic and urban fantasy. Even Dracula did his bit (pun intended), transforming on occasion from man to mist, wolf and bat.

This fascination with shapeshifters has a long literary history. In classical mythology, the gods routinely take the shape of other people to pursue their affairs. Zeus, the head of the Greek pantheon, was the pro from Dover when it came to pretending to be someone else to achieve his amorous goals. At one point he even turned himself into the goddess Artemis to get close to Callisto, the female object of his then current affections.

He wasn’t the only one. Britain’s King Arthur owes his existence to a human variation on this ploy. His mother Ygraine claimed she only slept with Uther Pendragon--while she was still married to his rival Gorlois--because she thought she was sleeping with her husband. And people bought it too.

To be fair, they also accepted it when Danae said Zeus impregnated her in the form of a shower of gold. At least the grown-ups did. I suspect her son Perseus had a lot harder time of it. Can you imagine trying to explain to your buds that your absent dad was “a golden shower”? Is it any surprise the kid grew up tough? I bet they called him “Percy” too.

More familiar--and undoubtedly more attractive--to today’s readers of shapeshifter romances are Zeus’s other guises. On various occasions, he transformed into an eagle, a swan and a bull. His brother Poseidon took the form of a horse and a ram.

Our culture’s somewhat disapproving view of these transformations is colored by modern notions of morality. The Greeks and Romans, however, didn’t apply the same standards to their gods they applied to themselves.

To a large degree, Zeus and Poseidon owed their position at the top of the divine food chain to their extraordinary potency. Their ability to sire offspring in a multitude of forms was seen as a reflection of their ability to ensure the fertility of the land and the sea. In contrast, their brother Hades, the lord of the dead, displayed no transformative power. He achieved his ends through stealth (he possessed a helmet which allowed him to turn invisible) and brute force. He also sired no children.

The animals Zeus and Poseidon chose for their transformations were significant too. Horses, cattle and sheep were the “noble” animals which formed the basis of civilization as the Greeks and Romans understood it. The horse offered mobility and a strategic advantage on ancient battlefields. Cattle drove plows, fertilized fields and provided the finest meat. Sheep provided clothing and meat.

The birds reflected Graeco-Roman political and spiritual aspirations. Eagles make their nests in the highest crags--mountains like Olympus, the gods’ supposed home. In addition, the eagle’s ferocity provided a compelling symbol of military might. Rome made the eagle its emblem, and for over four hundred years small figures of eagles topped all legionary flags. Swans were seen as symbols of personal nobility and sacrifice because they were believed to mate for life.

In contrast, the wolves and big cats beloved of urban fantasies were shunned in classical mythology. The Greek werewolf myth is a cautionary tale about Lycaon, a lawless tyrant with no respect for god or man. Lycaon attempted trick the gods into eating human flesh. Some sources said he served them his dismembered son at a banquet in their honor. Others claimed he sacrificed a child on one of Zeus’s altars. For his crimes, Zeus transformed Lycaon and his sons into wolves--the symbol of everything destructive to Greek civilization.

This curse further threatened anyone who participated in the rituals held at Lycaon’s altar. The affected person could only regain their humanity if they abstained from eating human flesh for a period of nine years--something the Greeks obviously considered beyond a wolf’s ability. No self-respecting Greek hero was ever suckled by a she-wolf, for example. That was left to the Romans, who everyone knew were just a toga (and a few thousand legions) away from being barbarians themselves.

Lycaon’s daughter escaped being transformed into a wolf, because she was a companion (or priestess) of Artemis and presumably not a party to her father’s atrocities. But that didn’t mean she got off scot-free.

Lycaon’s daughter was the same Callisto Zeus wooed in the guise of Artemis. This little adventure didn’t set well with either Artemis (who felt Callisto belonged to her) or Zeus’s wife Hera (who felt the same way about Zeus). So Zeus transformed Callisto into a bear, ostensibly for her protection. But you got to wonder about that when both Hera and Artemis immediately declared open season on bears and shot her dead.

The moral of Callisto’s story is it didn’t pay to transform into a wolf, bear, big cat or any other large predator in classical mythology. Most medieval legends cast them as villains or victims too, presumably for the same reasons the Greeks did. Wolves, bears, wild boars and lynxes were agents of chaos. They killed people and destroyed livestock. They were also the totems of the barbarian tribes--from the Picts and Scoti to Viking berserkers--who pillaged and plundered the struggling outposts of Christian civilization.

The one notable exception can be found in Marie de France’s poem Bisclavret. Bisclavret is a French nobleman who turns into a wolf three days a week. Seeking to take a lover, his unfaithful wife traps him in wolf form. But virtue (and vice) will out, and she is foiled when the wolf is befriended by the king. Bisclavret, however, is a remarkably passive hero. Other than behaving in a manner atypical of a wolf (he doesn’t humans for the most part) he takes no action on his own behalf. He’s a victim in the sense he can’t save himself. That job is left to the king and his ministers.

It took the Industrial Revolution to make heroes of predatory shapeshifters. In part this was because they posed no longer much of a threat. Wolves had been eradicated from most of civilized Europe and North America. Lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) represented a danger only if they escaped from a zoo.

The allure of Dracula probably helped. So did the folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm and others in the nineteenth century, which portrayed various wild animals as potential helpers of the hero. My personal favorite was “Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf”, in which the rather dim Ivan succeeds in winning the matched set of princess and kingdom entirely due to the cunning of the wolf, who turns out to be an enchanted prince.

I always thought the wolf prince’s bride would have a lot more fun than Ivan’s trophy wife. Certainly she’d never be bored. From the number of sexy werewolves, dragons and other predatory shifters currently occupying bookstore shelves, it appears a lot of people agree with me.

Panel discussions at several recent conventions suggest there may be other factors at work as well. Predatory shapeshifters don’t have to play by the rules of polite society. They can get away with all the Uber Alpha Male behavior most romance heroes abandoned sometime in the 1990s, simply because they can overpower any human butt-kicking chick. This makes the heroine’s ultimate victory through the power of love that much more delicious.

I agree there’s something intensely satisfying about watching “The bigger they come, the harder they fall” play out in a well-written story. Part of it is the natural desire to see right vanquish might. But I also think part of the attraction of these shifters is their comforting badness. Face it, the cities we live in and the worlds we create in our fantasies tend to be very scary places. Who would you want guarding your back when the flit hits the shan--a nice noble swan, a wolf with a trickster’s brain or a dragon who can reduce the villains to crispy critters?

Then there’s the magic of the change itself. If our heroes and heroines represent what we wish to be, what do all these shapeshifter stories say about us? Could they represent our desire to transform physically ourselves--perhaps laying the groundwork for the day when genetic manipulation becomes a real possibility? Or are they metaphors for a spiritual transformation? Or both?

I couldn’t begin to say. I’m having too much fun watching the writing magicians pull rabbits--and wolves and tigers and dragons--from their storytelling hats. And I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Creature Feature: The Gulon

OK, folks, this next one is not for the faint of heart. If nothing else, you’ll get an idea how deeply juvenile my sense of humor can be!

Today’s creature is the Gulon, a monster with rather disgusting habits found in the folklore of Sweden.

It is described as looking somewhere between a lion and a hyena with a fox’s tail and long, razor-sharp claws. It lives mainly on carrion. If that’s not disgusting enough, wait’ll you hear about its eating habits.

Its general modus operandi is to eat until it is painfully full, body swollen and distended. The only way it can, er, ease its pain is to find two trees that grow close together. It squeezes itself between the narrow gap, thus forcing out the buildup of gases from its body and enabling it to feed again.

Yeah, that’s right. It eats until it’s bloated. Then it makes itself fart in order to keep eating.

Though its flesh is never eaten (jeez, I wonder why?), its blood was said to have aphrodisiac properties and was sometimes served, mixed with honey, at weddings.


- Elemental Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John and Caitlin Matthews
- Wikipedia.com

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Beltane - The Rites of Spring!

In the wheel of the Celtic year, Beltane marks the beginning of the summer season, a time of planting and fertility. The ancient celebrants lit great bonfires and performed rituals to ensure a good harvest. Sometimes two fires were lit, and the people would pass between them (and often their herds as well) to purify themselves and bring luck for the coming year.

Picture a night in a green valley, ringed with roaring bonfires on every surrounding hill. Men leap through the flames for luck; as the fire dies down, young women with rings of flowers in their hair jump through in hopes of finding a good husband. Pregnant women as well, to ensure an easy birth. Babies are carried through the smoke in hopes of protecting them from harm. The dancing (and often, ahem, "fertility celebration", if you will) goes on all night. The people carry home embers to light their own homefires.

What can you do to celebrate this time of new, greening things?

~ Wash your face in morning dew.
~ Make a simple garland of spring flowers and cast it into a running stream.
~ Take a basket of goodies to a friend in need.
~ Light a candle and, like our ancestors, jump over it for good luck. (Be careful with this, obviously!)
~ Celebrate with a May Bowl: Take wine or punch, float some sweet woodruff flowers in it (pictured above), and share with your friends.

Here's another fun recipe, courtesy of Jaguar Moon:

Vanilla Aphrodisiac Smoothie

1 cup milk
15 whole cloves
15 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod, split
1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
honey to taste

Place milk, cloves, cardamom, and cinamon in a suacepan. Scrape in vanilla seeds from pod. Heat milk but do not boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then refrigerate until chilled. Strain milk into a blender goblet and discard spices. Add frozen yogurt and add honey to taste. Blend until smooth and frothy. Delicious!


Spring Showers Contest!!

Samhain Publishing is running a cool contest called "Spring Showers." Go here, read excerpts, and post a comment. The more excerpts you read and the more you post, the more chances you have to win!

I'm giving away a free copy of my first book, "Beaudry's Ghost", and a hand-beaded bookthong.

There are dozens of other authors and loads of other prizes, too!Have fun!