One Werewolf’s Conscience

What’s a werewolf? I mean, in most imaginations it’s that scary creature that – without any choice of its own – changes into a deadly animal during the full moon and tries to eat people roaming through the woods. Well, okay, not everyone has woods, or forests, or even a nice large park close by, but as paranormal and supernatural adventures continue to fascinate readers, werewolves are sure to show up just about anywhere …

  • In a pretty woman’s bedroom
  • In the animal rescue league kennels
  • At a back yard cookout
  • A ballgame
  • In the dirty city alleys
  • In a warehouse

Yes, a warehouse. In this case, no, it isn’t a warehouse shipping werewolves like an import/export business. This warehouse is purgatory for dead werewolves chosen for a second chance to earn a ticket through the Pearly Gates. In Book 1 of the Twice Baked Vampire Series, Cold in California, lots of dead, and in the case of vampires, double-dead supernaturals get this cool second chance to prove themselves worthy. This particular warehouse, located in West Hollywood, might be a really sweet, happy kind of place – if every character living there gave a good goddamn about getting to heaven.

Here are the facts: Survival is what matters most to these creatures. After all, survival was the focus of their lives, so why not their purgatory? Second, these are political animals, more so than humans by a long shot. The Gnomes are ambitious, demanding and extremely creative creatures. The Shape-Shifters are metro-sexual, mainly to fit into the Hollywood environment. Well hell, Shape-Shifters were always responsible for blending in, right? The Twice-Baked Vampires are volatile, no surprise there. The Fae are the resident elite while the Leprechauns are belligerent in their efforts to pay homage to no one around them. The trolls are efficient and effective managers. The Pixies, well, the Pixies are kind of like the sex symbols of the warehouse, hot, steamy, lustful and satisfying … if you can catch one that is.

The only dead supernatural creatures facing and dealing with the stark reality of the warehouse purgatory are the werewolves, and in the West Hollywood warehouse, there is only one werewolf, Pete Maloney.

Some (specifically Twice-Baked Vampire, Gabriel Strickland) call him “The Reverend”. Pete sees the whole picture, which is why he has always stood at the side of the warehouse manager to help keep peace and organization among the inmates. They’re all there to earn heaven, but they’re all pretty flawed souls who’ve spent a lifetime or two ignoring the golden rule. Pete likes the golden rule, and he generally likes his position as helper and second fiddle. He gets to watch souls come and go, see where they’re most likely heading (up or down) when final judgment arrives for them, and this is one werewolf wise enough to steer clear of controversy. He’s not a politician, he’s a brilliant trouble shooter. He’s not interested in power, he’s fascinated with the effects of the unscrupulous desires of others. “The Reverend” can laugh, enjoy some play time with a Pixie, stand at the leader’s side during a battle or storm, and still read a good mystery alone in his room. Pete Malone is an enigma among the population of the West Hollywood warehouse!

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series, Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA

What’s in a Title?

 

I went strolling through the bookstore for inspiration the other day. What struck me … even more then the vibrant covers … were the names of the books, specifically, the KEY WORDS found in so many Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance book titles.

For example …

KEY TITLE WORDS IN URBAN FANTASY BOOKS

  • Hunter
  • Huntress
  • Guardian
  • Angels (fallen, of course)
  • Faerie
  • Demon
  • Blood (blood and more blood)
  • Dark
  • Light
  • Night
  • Moon
  • Wicked

 

KEY TITLE WORDS IN VAMPIRE BOOKS

  • Secret
  • Kiss
  • Thirst
  • Blood (of course)
  • Werewolf (odd)
  • Moon
  • Beginning
  • Hell
  • Desire
  • Devil Fire

Now I walked over to the Young Adult Fantasy department and this got pretty interesting. No wonder why teenagers are so scary!

KEY TITLE WORDS IN YA FANTASY BOOKS

  • Demons
  • Shadows
  • Darkness
  • Blood
  • Witch
  • Dragon
  • Night
  • Fallen
  • Powerless
  • Evil
  • Moon (Red, Black, Dark and a few other frightening versions)
  • Guilt
  • Dead
  • Dread
  • Fire
  • Godless

Sheesh! Do you think maybe it’s our fault the Young Adults are so damn angsty?

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA

A Tree is a Tree is a Tree, or is it?

I think that I shall never see

A poem as lovely as … a supernatural tree called Stick Man.

 

Twigs, leaves, wood and muscle. He’s 12 feet of animated shrubbery that can either scare the bejebus out of a person or just leave them petrified. Stick Man is a character in Cold in California who never intended to frighten anyone. He’s the awkward dude who was too tall for anything to fit in, especially in a time when basketball wasn’t even invented yet. It’s even worse these days, as the NBA isn’t quite interested in a player who requires pruning and an occasional sap infusion. Needless to say, the guy doesn’t get out much. He’s quiet, uncomfortable, desperate to please and terrifying to look at … and he lives in a West Hollywood warehouse with all the other dead supernaturals awaiting final judgment and hoping for redemption.

In Native American legend, the Stick Man was the mediator between good and evil … thus his perfectly tailored inclusion into a story about just that. But my Stick Man had to have more than just a job, he had to be bad at it. How else could a good guy who understands the difference between heaven and hell end up in purgatory, taking one last run at the Pearly Gates? So, this is how it went down for Sticky (as he’s lovingly called among the other dead supernaturals).

His responsibility, way back when other Stick Men walked around, was to whistle. Yes whistle. (Honest to Pete, it’s the truth, look it up!) See, the legendary creatures were responsible for leading lost “good” people safely back to their village by whistling a tune – AND – guiding the bad guys over a cliff by warbling a different melody. Sticky’s problem? He simply couldn’t remember which melody did what and occasionally tweeted the wrong song. Nothing intentional, mind you, just ignorance and dumb bad luck.

After his death, an untimely charring in a few rowdy young warriors’ campfire, Sticky woke as part of the West Hollywood warehouse community of dead and double dead supernaturals. Needless to say, he only whistles when completely alone and taking a leisurely walk through Griffith Park late at night. He can whistle well, he just doesn’t trust himself to do it when it matters, poor man.

When creating the character, Stick Man, I really had to dig deep for inspiration. Being just a tad over five feet tall myself, tall isn’t familiar at all to this author. Finding insight wasn’t difficult though. I just imagined those circus performers on stilts, walking kind of wobbly, hiding the concern in their faces and trying to be entertaining in light of the eminent dangers involved. I just imagined living that way … out of sync with the world … uncomfortable in a place where everyone else was normal height or less, as in the cases of the resident trolls, leprechauns and gnomes. I imagined him wanting to contribute, but unable to find a job that was actually helpful to the community. I imagined him spending a lot of time sitting in the corner of the warehouse, knees tight against his chest so as not to trip the other inmates, and wishing he could feel more involved.

The best parts of his story (as told to me by Sticky himself) are the parts where he actually gets to play the hero. It’s so much fun to watch a character like Sticky emerge as the champion! And all I had to do was write it.

So tell me, what kind of characters have you read that really twisted your imagination and made you wonder, “How the hell did that author think of that?”  Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA

Doing the Shape-Shifter Shuffle

You put your right arm in, you take your right paw out, you put your right claws in, and you shake them all about. Think about it. If you could shape-shift into anything in the world, what would it be?

The first time I ever heard about shape-shifters I was deeply involved with the Native American culture and ceremonies. Among native and aboriginal cultures, shape-shifting is part of common conversation and mutual traditional history. Of course, not everyone can do it. It takes strong personal medicine and spirit involvement to make a mere human being able to shift into something else. It’s serious business.

But blessedly in fiction, it’s just that … fiction. We do try, even in fantasy, to base our imagined events on real world possibilities, but some authors like to take things much further and literally create a whole new mythology.

LEVEL ONE

Take fictional shape-shifters in general. Level one creative takes a human into the existing animal world, so a shape-shifter can be a dog, a cow, a chicken, an elephant … anything we have a reality base for. He can become a deer or bird or dung beetle. Level one is pure reality-based fantasy. I have shape-shifters in Cold in California, but we’re talking about the garden variety, level one type – a grizzly, an elk, even an elegant snake. In the next book, Monkey Jump, the shape-shifters fall under a different category all together!

LEVEL TWO

Level two, this gets more complicated and way more fun! How about a shape-shifter who can become an inanimate object? Say a toaster or salt shaker. Cool for a private investigator with supernatural capabilities – he can eavesdrop anywhere and raise no suspicion. He can be an umbrella and travel in a suspect’s hand through the rain while closely observing said suspect’s activities. He can become a military helmet or weapon and really do some reconnaissance in the middle east. He might be able to become a computer. Wow, wouldn’t that be a strange adventure? He could be something useful or unimportant. He could observe, spy, gain intelligence or just play nasty jokes on his friends. Hell, he could be the beer cooler at the Seven-Eleven!

LEVEL THREE

Level two is lots of fun, but level three might take some serious thought, because to me, level three fiction shape-shifter creation takes the concept of shifting outside the realm of our reality completely. In other words, the sky (and beyond) is the limit.

In level three fictitious shape-shifting a man can become :

  • A dinosaur
  • A different supernatural creature (Fae or Werewolf or Vampire or Pixie)
  • An alien from another planet
  • A dragon
  • A monster from an underworld
  • A cartoon (animated) character
  • A fetus
  • An ancient god or goddess

Can you imagine the creative ramifications? What if the shape-shifter gets stuck with some of the DNA from the obscure creature he’s shifted into? What if he retains some of the personality quirks or physical traits of the creature? It would be my luck to shift into a Tyrannosaurus Rex, only to discover after shifting back that I now have a markedly bigger butt! Or maybe I drool or breathe fire or glow in the dark! How much would that effect and reshape a story?

Okay, now it’s feeling a little Twilight Zone-y.

But seriously … If you could shape shift into anything in the world, what would it be?

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA

There’s a Troll in the House

Trolls. Norse mythology. Ugly, rarely described as helpful or friendly creatures. In Scandinavian mythology, they have something to do with lightening. Mystical, not-so-attractive, poisonous and powerful dudes.

Yeah. Right.

In truth, trolls are many things to many people. Your mother-in-law. Your ex-lover. Your boss/manager/pain-in-the-butt coworker. Your landlord. Maybe even your noisy neighbor. Have you ever thought though that trolls are just people like everyone else? Only with an attitude problem? Maybe a wart or two?

Today I’m not talking about short, smelly creatures that live under the bridges (and we do have a LOT of bridges here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). I’m talking about trolls who pop in and out of our fantasy fiction whenever they damn well please! They may come in the form of a sudden desire to change the entire plot. Maybe they appear as a new and unexplored personality glitch in your hero or heroine. But sometimes they simply show up as … trolls.

The last thing I thought I’d write into Cold in California was a troll, but Crudo Cushman pushed his stout, vertically-challenged personality in so intensely, he became a key character! See, Crudo is the manager at the West Hollywood warehouse where my hero, poor twice-baked vampire, Gabriel Strickland, is stuck living out an undetermined purgatory. Crudo is tough, he’s persnickety and never lived under a bridge in his life. Today, he’s taking charge of the blog.

When I told him to get out of my head, he snorted. “Why, what are you doing that’s so damn important?”

“I’m blogging because people love to read the blog.” I said as politely as I could.

“Move over, woman, I’ll tell you what a real blog is!”

Okay, it’s happened to all of us. Writers are especially susceptible to this particular curse. It seems the inmates have taken over the asylum again. The following is a bit of information conveyed to me from Crudo Cushman himself. Needless to say, I’m compelled to pass it on.

According to this troll, the word ‘blog’ comes from ancient troll culture. He informs me that a blog was a roughly hewn shirt upon which a troll would make markings, symbols that indicated his or her (of course there are female trolls, just look around you) position within troll society. During his troll life, Crudo had never risen beyond mucking mud, which was symbolized by a pig’s snout made with red mire found in a certain bog several miles outside his village. He’d dip the side of his clenched fist into the mud and press it firmly against his shirt. It didn’t look like a pig’s snout, but it was recognizable by all. The bog-marked blog stank to high heaven even after the mark dried. If it rained, Crudo would need to remark himself. Where he lived, it rained a lot.

He says he envied the higher ranks, those whose blogs were etched with fine smears of brilliant green grass stains or careful figures drawn with bits of soft, colored stone, but Crudo came from a proud, long line of mud muckers and until his father passed, he wore the red snout, albeit with hidden embarrassment and hate.

When Crudo met his demise six hundred years later, he found himself in the West Hollywood warehouse and has since done very well. He moved up the ranks from “inmate” to “head honcho”, traded his rough, mud-stained blog for pressed white linen and bling and vowed to never, ever get dirty again. The symbols on his shirt these days say:

I’m in charge … I’m the boss … I’m watching you … and of course, Ralph Loren blessedly stitched on the silk tag inside his collar.

 Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA

What’s a Self-Respecting Pixie to do?

Pixies. These are supposed to be mythical creatures of ancient folklore. Are they from Cornwall? Britain? Sweden? Some tell me they have Germanic or Scandinavian origin. Who knows? Are they related to the Fae? Or the tiny demon Tommynackers or Scottish Brownies? Are they related to the Leprechaun? Are they part Sprite? Or maybe they are just memories of the aboriginal spirits at the building of Stonehenge?

I’ve heard stories that Pixies love pretty things and like to steal your jewelry or hair combs, but I always thought that was just something to take the suspicion off my younger sister. My grandmother, a fine woman of Polish descent, used to tell me there was a Pixie in the house if things fell off the counter. Never mind that I didn’t put it securely on the counter, it wasn’t my fault, it was the Pixie’s. In fact, even if I did do something wrong, she always blamed the Pixies. Pixies loved to create mischief and I really loved my grandmother!

Enter … FICTION. This is what I love most about fiction because in truth, fiction writers care less about what history tells us and more about what our grandmothers said.

Between what my grandmother told me and my imagination, I see Pixies as mischievous sexual dynamos. Creatures that are so damn pretty and attractive they can get away with anything, even murder. Think Hollywood, think furs and diamonds and Elizabeth Taylor. Think Marilyn Monroe! These are gorgeous creatures that cause havoc just by walking by. When I write a Pixie into a story, he or she is oozing misbehavior. The word Tomfoolery comes from a famous Swedish Pixie named Tom Fool who was so sexy, hundreds of women in one village alone left their husbands just to get a few moments alone with him. Seriously. Well, not really, but my fictitious Pixies are that kind of powerful.

They like to cause trouble, but they also have a job to do, just like everything else in the universe. See in my books, Pixie have, throughout all time, been the creatures you want to seek out to help find lost things or people. Misplaced your queen? Find a Pixie, and if s/he isn’t currently entangled in some amorous activity, your queen will be found and returned to you … minus a few jewels, of course. Not only does a Pixie deserve payment, they also love to snarf sparkly things.  And don’t even think about accusing them of theft. You never want to come face to face with a pissed off Pixie!

Well, those are my Pixie thoughts. What are yours? Have you read something that supports or contradicts my ideas? If so, I’d LOVE to hear them!

Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California

Cold in California cover, lg

COLD IN CALIFORNIA

 

Next Age, New Wave, Sparkle Mange, Twice Baked, it’s still Vampire to me!

What’s the first supernatural book you ever read? Where the Wild Things Are? Interview with a Vampire? Twilight? Dead Until Dark? Dracula? Whether the book was written by Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, or Bram Stoker, it caught our fancy and twisted our imagination into scary, curious and challenging ideas.

The mythology of every supernatural character slips and slides from ancient fears and superstitions to current, real life roll-play games or social behavior liken to vampires, werewolves, the fae and any other supernatural creature you can think of. Today, I want to explore mythology and how it still plays a big part in our lives, whether we’re simply looking for reading or viewing entertainment, or trying to live our day to day lives.

Who willingly walks under a ladder or doesn’t change their direction when a black cat crosses their path? Who doesn’t have a lucky sock, charm, piece of rock, rabbit foot or ( insert item here )? How many times a day do we question Fate or blame her for something that happened or didn’t happen? Whether we want to admit it or not, mythology and superstition are laced through just about every element of our lives. We may not call it superstition. If you’re like me, you blame it on your OCD, because see, if I don’t do it exactly this way every single time, something bad will happen! I’ll forget something else or mix something up wrong! It’s all connected!  I can’t change ANYTHING. OCD or Superstition? Did I create a reason to be superstitious because of my OCD, or did my OCD develop out of some ridiculous superstition?

The way we relate to the supernatural and paranormal world is the same Catch 22. Guess what? There really is a supernatural and paranormal world and it really is just on the other side of the veil. You’ve seen Ghost Hunters.  You hear all the time about hauntings in the neighborhood and even though you might not be as sensitive to these events as another person, you still have to admit, it’s happening. (If you don’t, you’re in denial and probably not someone who follows Vampire Explored, LOL.)

The rules are pretty simple, at least in our human heads. A ghost either a) doesn’t know he’s dead, b) doesn’t like being dead or c) is the ghost of an evil person who sticks around and haunts us. I get that. Lots of times I’m someplace I don’t want to be too and often I act out. Can’t give a ghost a time out though, so we hire and take the advice of ghost hunters, mediums, psychics and self-proclaimed experts in the paranormal field. Or not. Some of us just shrug and move on to the next thing.

Now, let’s talk supernatural. Sometimes the ghost hunting evolves into demon or spirit hunting and that’s where the supernatural come out to play. See, some of those scary mythological creatures look a lot like the paranormal experiences no one can explain away – a really mean entity who can create a nasty smell becomes a “demon”. Strange lights that terrify corralled horses in Montana become Native American “angry spirits”. All kinds of ideas come to us on how to appease and send these entities away so they’ll bother someone else on some other astral plane, but in truth lots of those solutions are right out of our fertile imagination.

These are my theories, developed from a long string of personal experiences and creative ideas. The supernatural world just is. Leave it alone and it’ll leave you alone. You make friends, expect them to stick around a LONG time, after all, all they have is time, right? Take your deepest imaginings about the paranormal, the supernatural, the vampire, shape-shifter and fae world and write them all down. Follow and/or boldly change other writer’s ideas. Watch the mythology splinter and shatter and regroup into all new concepts for our imagination.

That’s what this blog is all about! Peeking into the Fictitious World of Supernaturals. Werewolves can be your next door neighbors. Vampires can sparkle or fly or make mistakes or gain true love … or not.  Faeries can be beautiful or hideous or crafty or just plain flighty. We imagine these creatures as we wish them to be, they grew from some myth or legend, they develop for each generation and oh, one thing I will tell you … I LOVE that this generation has a little fun with it all. I mean … seriously … even the meanest vampire has gotta have a sense of humor.

At least that’s what I imagine! You have any thoughts on all this? Comment away, I’d love to hear your ideas!


Vampire Explored is a blog by Deborah Riley-Magnus, author of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series. Book 1, Cold in California  !

Cold in California cover, lgCOLD IN CALIFORNIA