Writing werewolves in the real world.
When Lisa at The Novel Approach offered me a chance to give one of my older books a bump, I wasn’t sure which one to choose. But it turns out, I still can’t resist my first werewolf, Simon. So it had to be Unacceptable Risk.
When I wrote the original draft of Unacceptable Risk, I hadn’t yet published anything, and I hadn’t read much M/M other than my own. But I did read everything else, voraciously, and I loved fantasy and paranormal. I found, while reading mainstream paranormal books, that sometimes I was stopping to say, “Why doesn’t everyone and his brother know these creatures exist?” Because keeping a secret that big, dealing with that many people, is hard. Ben Franklin famously said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
I had a yen to write an M/M paranormal novel. But one of my goals when I write is to create, in the middle of a plot that may involve murder or magic, some aura of believability. If I was going to have werewolves, and if the modern society in which they lived was to be totally ignorant of them, then I had to figure out how to make that work. How to create my “Hidden Wolves”.
That was when Simon, my werewolf, spoke up. He told me, with a wry grin, that it’s not really that hard – the answer’s in the Franklin quote. Be ruthless enough, kill people without hesitation when you must, and it can be done. But there is a human, or werewolfian, cost to that kind of iron control. The cost comes in tyranny and innocent lives lost and a world made small in the quest for absolute secrecy. When Simon added, “The Alphas don’t like gay werewolves either,” I knew I had to write a way out of that, for him.
I found I also wanted to reflect, in my human character, the kind of reactions I would have, if someone I cared about told me, “By the way, I’m a werewolf.” And then proved it to me. I’m pretty open-minded, I think. But my reactions would be complex. And in Paul, Simon’s human lover, I got to play with those emotions—with disbelief and fear and wonder and perhaps a touch of anger. Paul is falling in love with Simon, but he isn’t ready to be a werewolf’s mate, or to drink the pack Kool-Aid.
I had fun with writing both these guys and bringing them together—finding them some love and safety against the backdrop of the Pack. And because I seem to write happy-for-now much more easily than happy-ever-after, their story continued in the free short stories and the second novel. The books in this series introduce new couples, but the world they live in is shared, and Simon and Paul still had a road to travel. So I’m going to post an excerpt below, from Unacceptable Risk, and give away an ebook copy of both Risk and the second “Hidden Wolves” book, Unexpected Demands. (Plus, of course, the free short stories, Unsettled Interlude and Unwanted Appeal.) The third “Wolves” book is almost ready for submission, and I hope that I’ll have more chances along the way to explore how werewolves and humans interact, in this modern world of cell cameras and DNA testing, and ages-old Pack in the shadows.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
Simon Conley was born a werewolf, making him one of a tiny minority in a sea of vanilla humans. The safety of the pack lies in absolute secrecy, sometimes violently enforced. In a species where pack-members are born and not made, being gay is considered a perversion. So when Simon falls in love with a human man, he’s twice damned. Even his Alpha’s grudging tolerance may not be enough to shield him from the hatred of the other top wolves. Then his lover Paul stumbles across pack secrets Simon was sworn to keep, and if the pack finds out, they may both end up dead.
The canceled appointments meant that for a change Paul had time to finish most of his work before the clinic closed. He took his new dog out for a last walk in the fenced yard, its leg splint carefully protected with a plastic bag. The dog paced beside him on three legs through the hallways, head swinging back and forth as if checking out the place. Outside, it led him along the fence, looking up.
“Don’t even think about it,” he told the dog, amused at his own fancy. “It’s seven feet, you can’t jump it, especially on three legs.”
The dog gave him a look that seemed to say, want to bet? But it made no move to try. Paul was glad, since walking this dog was a matter of mutual consent. It outweighed him by thirty pounds. And with the leash looped back around one of the dog’s shoulders, to keep pressure off the wounds on its neck, he had very little leverage. Fortunately, he had invested in good doors and fences. A friend of his had gone through the nightmare of having a patient escape and get hit by a car. That was never happening to him.
Back in the kennel he ran into a snag. The dog refused to get back into its crate. It didn’t bite, or even growl, or threaten him at all. It just put on the brakes. The crate was barely big enough anyway. Without the dog’s cooperation, Paul could wrestle one part of the creature inside, only to find that the other end was back out on the floor. After ten minutes he stopped, breathing hard.
Sarah and Elise were still up front, closing up. He could ask them to help, but he wasn’t sure even three people could make this dog do anything it didn’t want to do.
“What’s the problem?” he asked the dog. As if it’s going to answer you.
The dog looked at the crate, and paced to the other end of the room to sniff at the row of old concrete runs he hadn’t had time to replace yet. They were much bigger and roomier, of course. But the gates were old and rusty, and the curved shape left a nasty gap open at the bottom corners. A boxer had got its head stuck in that triangular space a year ago and almost choked to death. He hadn’t put a dog in one since. The stainless steel crates were much safer.
“Come on, baby,” Paul said. “I can’t leave until you’re safely locked up for the night, and I am so freaking tired. Kennel up.” He pointed to the crate, hoping the dog would obey the command. “Kennel up. Go to bed. In your crate.” What other commands might an owner have used?
The dog just stared at him, pale eyes unblinking. Then it walked over to the first concrete run, stepped in, and sat down neatly, tail curled around its feet. Paul couldn’t imagine a much clearer response. He sighed. The effort to move the dog seemed unachievable. And after all, the previous owner of the clinic had used those runs for twenty years without problems. And this dog’s broad head was never going to fit in that risky space.
“Okay,” he told his stubborn new pet. “You can stay in there. But if I come in tomorrow morning and you’ve strangled yourself on the gate, I’m going to be seriously pissed.” The dog gave him that open-mouthed smile he usually saw on golden retrievers. He would have sworn the jade eyes were amused. Paul bent to pet the dog once more. Not that he had to bend far. He had no business taking on a dog, especially a big one that would need a lot of exercise. But somehow, he couldn’t resist. Dropping to one knee he hugged the dog, rubbing his face in the soft fur of its shoulders.
“I’m really glad I found you.” He stood up straight, latched the gate securely, and put a stern look on his face. “Now no chewing off the splint, or pulling the wrap off those catheters. Or you’ll be back to the bucket head.”
The dog gave him a tiny wuff, as if in agreement, and he laughed. “Yeah, like you understand a word I’m saying. Good night, Wolf. See you in the morning.”
He was whistling as he left, despite the fatigue, and looking forward to an actual dinner and a full night’s sleep. Even the slippery, snowy drive home couldn’t dampen his mood. But it didn’t survive a call from the police about a break-in.
Paul pulled up in front of his clinic. The door was lit by the flashing blue and red lights of the police car stopped at the curb. The sound of the alarm reverberated in the still, cold air. There was more than enough light to see the gaping hole in the plate glass of the front window. The officer came toward Paul as he hurried up with the keys.
“Why don’t you let me go first and look around?” the cop offered. “In case there’s someone still in there.” Paul accepted the offer and stood shivering on the step, while the other man disappeared inside. After a few minutes the cop returned. “No sign of anyone. Why don’t you check the money and drugs, and tell me what’s missing.”
Paul followed him inside. He punched his code into the alarm box, and the cessation of the noise was a relief. He hurriedly checked the cash box, and the drug lock-box. Both were intact and untouched. Even the drugs on the shelves were in their places.
“Maybe it was just vandalism,” the cop suggested. “Someone breaking the window for fun. I just thought from the size of the hole someone must have gone through it.”
“What?” The cop hurried after Paul as he ran toward the kennels. Paul lunged into the kennel room and stopped. The place was empty. The first concrete run contained only a drift of grey fur, a few pieces of Vet-rap bandage, and a mound of cotton batting. Wolf was gone…
The “Hidden Wolves” series includes Unacceptable Risk – Book 1 and Unexpected Demands – Book 2, both available from MLR Press, and most ebook retailers, plus two free short stories – Unsettled Interlude – 1.15 and Unwanted Appeal – 2.5, available from Smashwords, All Romance ebooks, and other ebook sites.