Okay, I admit my love vacillates between vamps and weres lately. Today, it’s vamps because not only am I writing a vampire story, but I also have a new vampire story on bookshelves. [Warning: self-promotion ahead.]
I fell in love with vampires reading Anne Rice, but I really learned about vampires by reading Stoker’s Dracula. I don’t recall Rice’s vampires shifting to forms other than the human shape that have (though they do turn almost to marble as they age). But Dracula, now there was a shifty vampire. He could do the bat thing and the wolf thing. He would even age if he hadn’t taken blood for a while, and then, after a nice shot of the crimson cocktail, he’d be back to a more youthful appearance. The animal shifting he did by will; the age thing I think he had to work at.
My current release, HIS FORGOTTEN FOREVER has no shifting. Sorry. But it does involve a shift in behavior. A vampire who once enacted cruel deeds upon his fellow vampires (and a few werewolves–so see, there’s a reference to shifters in the story), suddenly develops amnesia. And as he regains memory of his violent past, he’s faced with the decision to either go back to what he once was, or shift to the new and much nicer man he’s been since he hasn’t been able to remember much. An attitude shifter, we’ll call him. 🙂
You can read the first chapter for HFF here. I’ll give away a copy of HIS FORGOTTEN FOREVER, and a handy-dandy bookmark I made myself to one commenter today. Stop back tomorrow for the winner’s name!
So how do you like your vampires? Shifty? All human? Dead, undead, or never died? And what was your first vampire read?
PS – If you can find it, I highly recommend THE ANNOTATED DRACULA by Leonard Wolf. 🙂
One thing that bothers me–this goes back to my Woody the Were-woodpecker blog–is where do we draw a line? Do we draw a line?
In the anthology Vegas Bites, Seressia Glass wrote a fantastic story where the “werewolf” is actually a djinn who can shift into any creature he chooses, including a wolf, to woo a beautiful woman who happens to be a werewolf. It’s been a while since I’ve read that book, so my memory might be failing me. Other than being a great story, I can buy into this djinn shifting into anything he wants because that was established in the worldbuilding. It’s the nature of his beast, so to speak.
If we’re talking a weretiger-mummy-vampire-zombie-mermaid heroine/hero, then I might have a problem with that. I can’t see a shapeshifter having a supernatural identity crisis on that level. Although…it would make one heck of a comical read if the right person can pull it off.
For now, I’m in heaven with Keri Arthur’s Riley Jensen series. It has just the right mix. Half vampire half werewolf. On the flip side of that, after reading Jeaniene Frost‘s Halfway to the Grave, this is one case where I can honestly say that being half supernatural is good. Very good.
I guess all of this hinges on the worldbuilding. If it’s established well enough, then I can be convinced of anything. I just might buy that warlock-pixie-werejaguar-unicorn hero who’s falling in love with the cyclops-fairy-gargoyle-demon heroine. My biggest worry is that I’ll end up focusing on the which creature we’re on now rather than the story itself. This is a good time for the sex to happen in human form.
As with everything, there will comes a time when we’ll have too much of a good thing. While I like the idea of there being multiple-shifting forms, I hope we don’t take it to the identity-crisis stage. I’d like to know the character as a person before diving into each of their multi-creatures.
Hi everyone! Deborah Cooke here again. Please welcome today’s guest, Cathy Clamp. Cathy is one half of the successful author team of C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. In addition to her post today, Cathy is sharing some beautiful new covers with us. The first four Sazi books written by this talented pair are being re-released with new covers AND they have a new pseudonym for a new stand-alone book. Here’s the cover for that February 2009 release!
And, here’s CATHY!
Incorporating animalistic traits into your characters
There are tons of shapeshifter romances out there nowadays, but the ones I like the best are those that are like the ones we write (which is probably why we write them that way. Heh… ) The traits that make a shapeshifter most appealing are those of the animal. Animals are both complex and simplistic. When they’re hungry, they eat. When they’re tired, they sleep. When the urge strikes them, they have sex. No worries about the mortgage, or whether the car needs repairs or if there will be enough money in the bank account for your kid’s next college payment.
Simple. Eat, sleep, love.
But animals have other traits too, and there are lots of quizzes that show up on the web or at places like Quizzilla about “what kind of animal would you be?” Because there are traits that are very distinct to certain species, and people who raise show dogs know that certain breeds act certain ways. Lap dogs are often more territorial than bigger dogs. Greyhounds MUST run or they’re depressed. Bulldogs are stubborn and can be a challenge to train.
And what about the other species? House cats are aloof and will destroy things when annoyed, as will their wild cousins. Bears are often grouchy and easily angered. Snakes lash out at anything that looks like a threat (or food.) In our “Tales of the Sazi” shapeshifter series, we went one step further to let the characters knowingly deal with their animal traits. The hero in one book, CAPTIVE MOON, is a cougar/lion cross in his animal form. Antoine has a bad habit of breaking furniture when he’s angry—which is often. He comes prepared to meetings with lots of cash to replace items he knows he’s going to break. But he tries not to. He does recognize it’s wrong, but it’s tough to have the human mind win when put to the test. His cat nature makes him lash out.
And let’s face it, the animal is what a shapeshifter is all about in romance. It’s what makes them attractive and sexy. It’s the loss of control that makes love edgy and dangerous.
The Sazi have a council that has one member to represent all the shifting groups—wolves, cats, snakes, raptors and bears. (Except that there are two cats on the council, but that’s a long story if you haven’t read the series. Oh, and spiders now too. Yet another long story.) They’re all territorial, and they often squabble. The snake representative, Ahmad (a werecobra) takes his frustrations out on the staff of wherever the meeting is being held. He’s snide and sarcastic. He kills innocents without reason or regret, to the frustration of the other council members. He’s hateful and nasty and there’s always a question which side he’s on. And oddly, he’s the single most requested character to have his own love story (and he’s going to be . . . in this next book!)
Now, there are plenty of snide, nasty-tempered, sarcastic humans out there. But few women find them sexy. Most often, they’re described as “jerks.” Why then is the animal counterpart different? Is it that we excuse in a shapeshifter that which he/she can’t control? Often, in books, we pair that person with someone to temper those instincts, to hold them in check and make them somehow closer to humanity. But would that really happen in the animal world?
Let’s hear your thoughts.
Psssssst – visit Cathy and Cie’s website HERE!
I thought today we’d take a look at a darker side to shapeshifting, one that has its roots in many legends, but today I’ll focus on those from the Navajo people and their tales of evil witches known as Skinwalkers or Yeenaaldlooshii–one who travels on all fours. By definition a skinwalker is one who can don the skin of any animal and become that animal, only larger with supernatural powers and strengths that make them almost invincible. By trade they are purveyors of evil, murders who curse rather than heal, who must kill a member of their family to achieve their powers. They can take over a persons mind and body and force them to perform all manner of evil. They feed off blood and fear as they destroy at whim.
Question is are they Legend or do they in fact really do exist? Though many are reluctant to speak of skinwalkers, especially those seeped in the beliefs and traditions of the Navajo–the fear of incurring the wrath of one by daring to speak of them is great–there are stories out there. In fact, too many tales of encounters and unexplained incidents by reputable people to ignore. Even one suggestion that the legendary Sasquatch or Big Foot is a skinwalker, thus explaining why this huge creature had escaped detection in today’s modern world. The phenomena of skinwalker-like incidents at an isolated ranch in Utah has sparked a study done by two respected men, scientist Colm Kelleher and journalist George Knapp, who published a book on thier findings called HUNT FOR THE SKINWALKER. Something you might want to read.
So my question this morning is: Has anyone had or does anyone know of a person who may had a real life encounter with a skinwalker? Or have you read a book with a skinwalker villian?
Jennifer st giles
I’ve been thinking this past weekend about how (as well as when and why) shapeshifters change shape, as well as the whole beastly qualities thing. This is partly because I was wrestling with the graphics in Cathy Clamp’s guest blog, which you’ll have to wait until Thursday to read.
But it seems to me that there can be three different reasons for a shapeshifter to change. Depending on the author’s worldbuilding, the shifter will change because of one of them, or maybe more than one of them. And it also seems to me that there’s a progression over the three types of changes from most animal-like to most human. I don’t have a favourite amongst them – in fact, I’ve written all three kinds.
• The first trigger that comes to mind is an external stimulus. So, when the moon is full, the man becomes a wolf. This is similar to the vampire’s inability to be touched by daylight. It’s a force the shifter has to acknowledge because of its power over him/her and a force that he/she can’t control. Because of that, this kind of trigger seems most animal to me, maybe because it’s more of a force of nature (or driven by an element of nature.)
This kind of character is less human to me and less controlled, less civilized as a result. He/she may enjoy being a beast or indulging in those beastly qualities. I think it’s because of the lack of moral choice in the shift and its repercussions. Angela Carter writes shifters like this – there is no moral judgement in their becoming jaguars and killing as jaguars do, for example. They are what they are and they do what they do, maybe to survive, maybe because it’s inconceivable that they should do anything else.
I’m going to include shifters who are compelled to shift because of a spell or miscellaneous magic in this category, because that curse is also an external force. They have more angst for me, though, because they seldom choose the shifter half of their existence – it’s something they have to endure and possibly overcome. By defeating the curse, they banish the shifter bit and become fully human again – they are healed by their choices. I wrote this kind of hero in my Harlequin Historical ENCHANTED – the hero was cursed to become a wolf for half of each day. It seriously interfered with his ability to win the heroine’s heart, but did give him the power to defend her!
• The second type of trigger is that of an internal stimulus. The Incredible Hulk makes his transformation when he gets angry – similarly, shifters that change shape due to passion or anger are of this kind. With these kinds of shifters, “controlling the beast within” is often the internal conflict, because the human side of the shifter not only wants to control the animal side but believes it’s possible to do so. It’s just a matter of controlling emotions to remain in command of the body.
I wrote this type of hero in my Harlequin Historical THE MAGICIAN’S QUEST. Yusuf changed to a panther when he was enraged or impassioned – the heroine, who was both irritating and sexy, had a predictable effect upon him. Together they learned that his shifting was part of a powerful gift – not a curse – and he was healed by accepting his own truth. (And by falling in love with a good woman too!)
• The third trigger is voluntary. The first is entirely involuntary and the second was somewhat susceptible to control, but the third type is entirely under the control of the shifter. This is like Clark Kent deciding to become Superman (where is a phone booth when you need one?) or Batman leaping for the Bat Cave to fight on the side of justice. These kinds of shifters choose to change into their alter egos, often to defend someone or fight for the good guys. There’s always a moral element to the choice – they don’t just shift to annoy someone, or if they do, it’s a lesson learned. (Remember Spiderman’s big lesson: “With great power comes great responsibility.”)
My Dragonfire shapeshifter dudes choose to shift. Their dragon form is a fighting pose, but they know that seeing them shift is dangerous for humans. They keep their beastly side restrained, but begin to shimmer when they’re angry or impassioned. Some of them can change slowly, managing the actual transformation, but there becomes a point when it’s unstoppable. Because the decision is theirs – and because they fight for justice etc. – this makes the Pyr seem noble and heroic to me. I fall in love with each and every one of them, and I suspect it might be because of that.
So, how about you? Can you think of other triggers that make shifters shift? Did I miss anything? And what kind of shifters do you like best – the ones who are in control or the ones who can’t keep their bodies from doing what they do?
Posted by Deborah Cooke
Because two wasn’t enough, they’ve decided to make a third Underworld. Is it any wonder? I have to say out of
all the paranormal movies out there, Underworld has to be one of the best. In this paranormal genre, there is the battle between the shape shifters and the vampires – its moved to the big screen.
What I love most about Underworld, besides my Kate Beckinsale fetish – is how they’ve portrayed the Lycans:
Hot men, realistic special effects, and we can’t forget the forbidden love.
Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans is set to release in the states Jan 23rd! This installment (a prequel) will trace the origins of the blood feud between the vampires and the lycans (the forbidden love between Lucian and Sonja). Because of this, I think we can expect to see more shape shifters and how they rose from slaves to a threat to the vampires.
All of us who constantly battle: Vampires or Lycans – will appreciate this entire series.
What are you looking forward to the most in the new movie?
As I write my shapeshifter series, I want to keep the stories as realistic as possible. So my werewolves won’t be located on island paradises, because if they get caught in their wolf coats, there’d be trouble. This is not to say they can’t go there on vacation when the moon isn’t out, or if they are royals (evolved from the early lines that have very little human mixing) where they are able to shift at will despite the moon’s presence, but just that living on an island where wolves don’t live, would be pretty difficult to explain if they caught like that. And the thing is, they live in secret, so it’s not something they would normally do. What about the desert? The Amazon jungle?
Authors could explain that the wolves were once someone’s pets and they ended up having a pack, if they’re located where they ought not to be. Or it could be an alternate world where the animals still exist. As I’ve done research for historical stories, I’ve learned that wolves used to live in many areas where they’re extinct now, so they would be fine in a historical setting.
In my first three stories, Heart of the Wolf, Destiny of the Wolf, and To Tempt the Wolf, the werewolves are located in Colorado and Oregon, where wolves exist. In Legend of the White Wolf, the story is set in Maine so you’ll have to read why Arctic wolves are living in the unlikely state of Maine!
In my Changeling story, the heroine shifts to a panther and the story is futuristic, so they live on another planet and can exist anywhere.
So what have you read or do you write? Are the shifters constrained to a certain setting or environment, or are they free to live where they please?
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male.”
Anyone read Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series? In the second in the series, Fool Moon, the main plot line centers on werewolves. What’s interesting to me is the different kinds of werewolves Butcher comes up with, and works into one book.
In the book there are four distinct types of werewolves–none of which interestingly enough are the “bitten” or “genetic” werewolves we see in romance. But at least one is based on a myth as old (or older) than the “bitten” one we think of. And one is based on fact. Since we do seem to stick with the “bitten” or “genetic” weres in romance, I thought it would be fun to see how an author in another genre has played with the legend.
The main (most visible) weres in the books are “transformed”–the victim of a spell–although often the spell is of their own making. With these transformed or “classic” werewolves their physical body changes, but their minds stay human. They have no “super” strengths, just those of a normal wolf, and they can change back to human at will. This is different from the weres you tend to see in romance where they take on personality traits of a wolf (dominance, territorialism, etc.) and are forced by the moon to shift.
Another type of were is the “Hexenwolf”. This is the type I mentioned earlier based on an old myth. With a “Hexenwolf” the human is give the power to shift by wearing a magical wolf-pelt belt. You yank off the belt and the wolf goes back to human form. As you could probably guess, getting the belt off isn’t all that easy. Another talisman might be used, but the belt is most popular and what I’ve read about from myth. Just like Gollum and his ring the wearer becomes addicted to the power and needs to wear it more and more. Eventually they are lost to the magic, becoming the beast (mentally) that they have been shifting into.
Third is the Lycanthrope. This were isn’t a shifter–at least not physically. This were shifts mentally–becoming a raging beast who can’t be controlled. He/she also gains great strength and becomes resistant to pain–like someone under the influence of some mind altering drug. What I like about this idea is that it’s based on the old practice of warriors dressing in the pelts of animals when they went into battle. Berserkers wore wolf pelts and worked themselves into an animal state of mind–numbing themselves to pain and pushing themselves to new limits. Butcher’s Lycanthropes just take all of this a bit further.
Finally, there is the Loup-garou. This version goes back to stories of gods cursing those who betrayed them, making the betrayers into various animals. This was a huge trend with gods and goddesses, but again not something we tend to see in romance. In Butcher’s world the Loup-garou could have been cursed by a Faerie Queen, sorcerer, or demon lord and the curse shows itself during a full moon. (So actually a combination of the gods cursing legend and the more familiar moon powered shift.) During this time they are wolves, body and soul, but crazed wolves. They are killing machines dangerous to all around them.
Those are the four werewolves shown in Fool Moon–but there is one more, or a twist on one of these–a wolf who shifts into a human. Another interesting way to look at the legend with new eyes.
So, what do you think? Do we need a bit more variety in romance? What other ways could we play with the legend?
All villains are not created equal. Some are hidden and some are out in the open. The most interesting villains for me—the ones most fun to write—are ones who are portrayed in three dimension. Even more interesting are the conflicted villains who do bad things for a “good” reason. They keep me glued to the story, wondering if there is some way he or she will be redeemed.
In WOLF MOON, I wrote two villains, both werewolves. I used Magnus, the violent, unredeemable werewolf to threaten the mortals and his wife who thought she killed him because their relationship was abusive. Hopefully the reader buys in to his being the only villain until the reveal. The main villain of the piece is a hidden villain—Valerie. But the other side of her—a victim turned without her permission, abused by the husband who turned her, now doomed to live a long, lonely life without children, without other werewolves to keep her company—is tragic. I hoped to gain the reader’s sympathy for her, not only because I wanted to fool them into thinking she was innocent, but because I thought it made her more interesting. She is a murderer, but there’s a very different side to her.
Then there is Rebecca Dumas, an open villain in THE LAST VAMPIRE. The vampire himself is a villain, but so is the voodoo priestess who restores him from his mummified state to save her brother’s life. Danton is dying of leukemia, and Rebecca has done everything in her power to save him. Nothing the doctors could do worked but voodoo did. Now that is failing him as well. Desperate to save the young man who saved her from the stepfather who sexually abused her as a teenager, Rebecca will stop at nothing. And so her good intentions lead to a hell she couldn’t have imagined.
I loved writing Rebecca’s scenes, and I’ll be anxious to see how readers respond to her when the book is released next week. In the meantime, is there a villain who really sparked your imagination? One you wanted to read about despite everything he or she did?
Marcia’s first print book is on the shelves! Big congrats to Marcia!!!! Shame I can’t get out today to go get it. 😦