Hi, everyone. It’s a hot, muggy Friday morning in Charlotte, NC, and I’m grabbing a coffee at the local Caribou and getting to ready to go work an afternoon/evening shift at my day job. I made it through my first 40-hour work week since September of 2009; I got a small but much-needed paycheck; and I’m looking forward to a weekend all to myself. But, best of all, I managed to find a small amount of time to write this week, and the third Red Wolf novel, Red Wolf Rising, is beginning to take shape!
I’m announcing the overall winner of the new cover art for The Draculata Nest. My thanks to everyone who took the time to vote and express their opinions across the various electronic venues the past few weeks. And again, my apologies for not being able to get the voting gadget to work on this blog! I’m pretty happy with the selection myself, and thrilled that Ray DeLotell’s signature will grace the next cover of DN at the bottom of this…
Next, because I got such a good reaction when I posted a character profile of Nicole Deerfoot Black a month or so back, I’ve decided to make it a regular feature of my blog to elaborate on the background of some of the cool characters that live in my head almost 24/7. This is stuff you won’t get from reading the Red Wolf novels, although some of it appears between the lines I suppose. Occasionally, a character might reveal something of their past in conversation, but mostly they’re too busy dealing with the action of the present. Yet, I assure you, every bit player has a rich history and often a good bit of baggage to drag into their relationships with Clifford Crane. Today I’m going to share some of Heather Felton’s…
The little town of Troy, NC, nestled in the middle of what is now the Uwharrie National Forest, was founded largely by werewolves, and the Feltons are one of the oldest and richest families in the community. Heather’s father, Chas, was one of the original settlers in the area, one of a minority of English among the mostly Scottish immigrants to settle there in the mid-1700’s. Chas was a dominant wolf and the leader of his little band, but he wasn’t quite alpha material, and the wolves of Troy were soon approached by Two Black Feathers (who later took the name Charlie Black), alpha of the Uwharrie Pack.
Chas Felton was already well-to-do when gold was discovered nearby in 1799. He was able to profit further from the mining and related industry and continued to invest his earnings wisely, as did many of the Uwharrie wolves, over the next few hundred years. When he lost his life in a drowning accident on Badin Lake in 1982, his fourteenth human wife and their two children were left with the financial resources to do pretty much whatever they wanted. Heather Felton was only three years old at the time. Her older brother, Joseph, was twelve. The mother, Christine, was only in her mid-twenties, and soon abandoned the children to run away with a young human she’d met in Raleigh at a charity event six months later. Charlie Black and the rest of the Uwharrie werewolves took over raising the two kids.
Puberty, and the stress of losing both his father and mother, brought Joseph’s wolf out at an early age. He became one of the major dominant wolves in the pack by the time he was sixteen. It was unavoidable that Heather be immersed in the pack culture and surrounded by werewolves at all times. Naturally a free spirit, she found the werewolf way of life restrictive and stifling, especially for a female. She hated it, and she immersed herself in school and extra-curricular activities in an effort to spend as much time away from it as she could. In high school, she was both head cheerleader and student body president.
When she couldn’t find something to keep her physically away from her home, she retreated into the historical past. She became an avid student of history and ultimately fell in love with anthropology and archeology. The summer before her senior year, she qualified for a special scholarship to join a group of college students and their professor from the University of North Carolina at an archeological dig in Peru that unearthed evidence of a previously unknown pre-Incan civilization. Her work there earned her a full scholarship to UNC after her senior year in high school.
During all the manic activity in her teens, Heather lived with the constant fear that she would herself become a werewolf. The lycanthropic gene often skipped generations in a family. It had actually skipped three generations of Feltons before Joseph showed signs. But when the gene did appear, it was often shared by siblings. So most of the pack expected Heather to become one, and although she fought it tooth and nail, the other wolves prepared her for it. But when she made it through puberty and into young adulthood without changing, she was convinced she had been spared the unwanted lifestyle.
In the Fall of 1996, Heather left for college expecting never to return home except for the occasional holiday visit. But during the summer after her sophomore year, even though she had taken great care to isolate herself from both werewolves and vampires (traditionally the triggers that activate the gene) she underwent her first transformation.
She briefly considered staying in school, but she knew what would happen if she was a lone wolf. Without the pack bond she would eventually go insane, so she dropped out of college and returned to Troy broken and depressed. The pack welcomed her and did their best to help her transition into the culture she’d resisted all her life, but she didn’t respond. Luckily, Claire Deerfoot, the pack shaman, chose that time to return from almost a century of wandering to spend what she expected to be the final years of her life with her pack, and the two bonded.
Claire was able to bring Heather out of her despondency and encouraged her not to give up entirely on her vision of a purposeful life. Claire believed that a new age was coming for the wolves and instilled in Heather the hope that she wouldn’t always have to be “just a female.”
Heather held on to that hope. She began to share some of that hope and some of the ideas Claire had with her older brother, who had by then become the pack second. When Joseph ultimately fought the aging Charlie Black for the alpha position, she urged him to break with tradition and spare the old alpha’s life. She resisted the efforts of the other females to get her to choose a mate, and although genetically unable to exert dominance over the males, managed to carve out a position of respect within the pack by out-performing most of them and by providing her alpha brother with such good counsel that he began to rely on her for it. By the time Clifford Crane appears on the scene, she is one of the unspoken leaders of the pack, unheard of for a female werewolf.
To see what happens next, click on one of the links below.