Saturday, November 30, 2013

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 4

Hi, folks. Had enough to eat yet? Yeah, this is my favorite time of year, the Thanksgiving holiday season here in the United States. It’s all about feasting and… (Well, okay, it’s actually supposed to be about giving thanks, but…) It’s a time when we loosen our belts and eat as much as we possibly can. I love it.

Unfortunately, I just joined Weight Watchers. I know. It’s an insane time of year to start that, but my employer is supplementing a group at work in an effort to support a healthy lifestyle, so what are you gonna do? So it’s been feasting for everyone else and famine for me. Oh, well.
Thank god for my writing. I’m taking out my frustrations on my characters. Someone’s going to pay for this, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
But that’s another story.
This week’s blog wraps up Claire’s visit to the Dragon, part of the back story of Clifford and Claire that will be told in the upcoming Red Wolf Rising, slated for publication in the spring of 2014.
But first…

What I’m Currently Reading…
is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Brimstone, which was highly recommended to me by my know-it-all-friend-David. I’m enjoying the character of FBI Special Agent Pendergast as he investigates an unfolding series of murders. Or, are they murders? Because it’s beginning to look more and more like the victims maybe sold their souls and the devil is coming to claim his due?

After getting well into the book I’ve discovered this novel is approximately the midpoint of a series. That hasn’t diminished the effect, because the story definitely stands on its own. But I’m tempted to put it down and pick up the earlier novels because… well, just because.

Okay, now let’s wrap up Claire’s last visit to The Dragon.
When we left off last week, Claire had just told The Dragon she could tell Clifford was a werewolf, even though he hadn’t turned yet. The Dragon had remarked what a special talent that was and had asked her for a blood sample, which prompted her to muse upon the changes in the ancient Fae’s behavior since her last visit five hundred years prior…

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 4…
Claire shook herself. Such distractions could wait until later. “O-oh, okay, sure,” she stammered. “Um, Cliff’s wolf is different, too. I mean, I don’t know, it’s not like I can tell he’s an omega, and I certainly wouldn’t try to predict what color fur he’ll have…”

Her face screwed up into a pained expression. “You know, my reasoning sounds so tenuous now that I say it out loud. I don’t have any hard evidence, just a gut feeling. Except… look at me.” She stood and spread her arms wide. “Do I look almost a thousand years old?”
The Dragon nodded. “I see your point. You are remarkably well-preserved, and you feel that the presence of this man has simulated some super-enhanced kind of pack magic, even with his wolf ‘trapped inside,’ as you say.”
“That’s the gist of it.”
 “Well, I’d be inclined to trust your gut. I’m not sure what hard evidence we would look for in a case like this, anyway.” He tapped a talon speculatively against his jaw. “It would be nice to have something, though. When dealing with prophecy, it’s easy to fall into the trap of interpreting things the way you want them to play out.”
“Exactly,” she agreed. “That’s one reason I can’t decide what to do, and why I came to see you.”
One reason. You have others?”
“He has a family, a wife and a small boy. Relationships between our kind and normals are tough at best. In a case like this, I doubt the marriage would survive.”
The Dragon stiffened. “We’ve all made sacrifices for the good of mankind. If he is the Red Wolf of Prophecy…”
“And what if he’s not? I don’t want to be responsible for ruining his life.”
The Dragon uncoiled himself a bit and stretched his neck across the table, peering closely at her. “You have feelings for him?”
She felt herself blush. “I… uh…” Self-consciously, she glanced at Sethmus.
“I ain’t saying’ nothing,” he grinned.
She sighed. “There’s an attraction, yes.”
The Dragon pulled his head back across the table, nodding. “And you’re worried that may be clouding your judgment,” he suggested.
She nodded.
“Actually,” The Dragon continued, “your attraction to him might be another indication he’s the one. We would expect a profound element of charisma in a male omega. It would be more subtle than the sexual attraction of an alpha male, but unlike that of an alpha, an omega female, such as yourself, would not be immune to it.” He again began tapping his talon against his jaw.
The tapping increased in speed. Finally, it stopped and The Dragon straightened. “Yes,” he concluded. “Yes, I think you should do it.”
“You think he’s the one, then?”
The air rustled across the room as he shrugged his wings. “There’s only one way to find out for sure. I think it will be worth whatever risks to his present lifestyle. If his wolf is ‘screaming to get out’ like you say, he should be happier for being turned, regardless.”
“Probably so,” she agreed. The relief was evident on her face. “That makes sense. And perhaps some of that happiness will spread into his marriage.”
“Perhaps it will. But, Claire, you must not tell him about the prophecy. At least, not right away.”
 “What? Why not?”
The Dragon leaned forward. “Even if he is a red wolf, even if he is an omega, even if he has abilities unlike any other, he still might not be the one destined to unite the packs. If he thinks he is, he may try to force himself to fit the prophecy. Think how dangerous that would be.”
“Then how will we know?”
He sighed and shifted his position. “Ah, that is a conundrum. If we can rely on the prophecy, we must trust it will be revealed over time, but…
“Consider. Had he been born to you as we expected, any special abilities would have been triggered by the natural stressors of going through adolescence and young adulthood. As his abilities were revealed, a nurturing pack environment would have allowed him to hone the skills necessary to manage those abilities.
“Your middle-aged Clifford Crane won’t have any of that. There will be much he’ll have to unlearn just to function as a wolf, much less wrap his head around how to deal with powers no one can teach him how to use. I’m not even sure it would be a good idea to introduce him to a pack right away. It might be too much of a shock.
“And as far as saving the world… Well, what sort of leadership skills has he developed throughout his human life? Do you know anything of his past? What does he do for a living?”
“He does something with computers. As for his past, uh… well, the only thing I’ve learned about him is that he spent most of his adult life using drugs.” She winced at her own words. “But he’s in recovery now.”
“What? He’s a drug addict? Gods, you’re telling me the Red Wolf of Prophecy is a drug addict?”
“In recovery.”
“What does that mean?”
“Uh, it means he used to be a drug addict. He hasn’t done any drugs in ten years or more. He doesn’t even drink alcohol. He seems… pretty stable…” She trailed off uncertainly, “…to me.”
The Dragon muttered something to himself in a language she didn’t understand. She got the gist of it telepathically, however.
He shook his head slowly. “Okay, okay, all the more reason to go slowly. Turn him. See what his wolf is like. If he shows promise, stay close to him. Help him adapt to life as a wolf, but don’t go parading him in front of a pack until you’re absolutely sure what he is.”
Absolutely sure? But, how am I supposed…”
The Dragon stood and shrugged his huge wings one last time. “It will have to be up to you to decide. I have faith in you. You must have faith in yourself. Now, you will have to excuse me. There are some things I must attend to.” He looked at Sethmus. “Will you get a blood sample for me?” He turned back to her. “That is, if you don’t mind?”
“Uh, sure.” She spread her hands. “I guess.”
“It was truly good to see you again.” He turned and lumbered towards an arched exit at the back of the lab, where he stopped and turned before ducking through. “Claire,” he said, “the better you get to know Clifford Crane, the better you will be able to recognize whatever greatness is in him. Allow yourself to feel. Go ahead and fall in love with him. Better yet, allow him to fall in love with you.”
He was gone.


    What the... You mean, that’s it? This Dragon character is a bit enigmatic for my tastes. Maybe a follow-up character profile could provide us some insight. Perhaps next week? Until then… Happy Reading!
----------------

My Books
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------


Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 3


Hi, folks. I missed you guys last week while I was a bit under the weather. But, I’m back now, none the worse for wear, and ready to continue with Claire Deerfoot’s last visit to The Dragon.

But first, let’s check the old TBR list…

What I’m Currently Reading…

…is nothing. Well, not nothing. I’ve been reading over my first novel, The Draculata Nest, in preparation for a re-edit, which may include an additional story line and even a re-release under a different title. At any rate, I don’t know if that counts as reading. (I did enjoy it, though. It’s a good book. J )

I finished  Devyn Dawson’s The Legacy of Kilkenny. I’m only giving it three stars. I honestly liked the story, its characters and pace, but I can’t recommend it due to some major flaws, all of which could have been corrected with a bit of editing.


The novel is written from the first person, present tense, point of view. So (so, so, sooooo) many writers are using this POV these days. It has to be difficult to have a story unfold before the reader’s eyes as it happens while still providing background information or looking through a different character’s eyes. Dawson stumbles with it, often changing tenses, sometimes within the same sentence. She flips back and forth between the two main characters by titling each chapter with the character’s name, but since both characters have such a similar voice, I found myself regularly turning back a few pages to figure out who was doing the narration.
The author also came up with her own rules of punctuation, or often abandoned them altogether. Sentences were separated by commas or simply run together. I got used to it after a while, because the story grabbed my interest, but I had to stop regularly to puzzle out who was saying what and how.

Here’s an interesting footnote to the above criticisms. There’s a sneak peak chapter or two of the sequel at the end of the Kindle version. With the second book, the author has abandoned the present tense, although she still uses a first person POV, and the punctuation problems have been completely erased. I even found –low and behold – a semicolon in one of the first few pages!

Next up on my TBR list is Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Brimstone. It came highly recommended by my know-it-all-friend David, but I haven’t started it yet.

 
Okay, now…
When we left off last week two weeks ago, Claire Deerfoot had found the entrance to The Dragon’s lair, and Sethmus The Smith was about to lead her within…

 

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 3…

The lair was mostly as she’d remembered. A maze of tunnels connected small rooms and cavernous halls for miles under what was today Doughton Park, a favorite recreation area along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“You’re lucky,” Sethmus informed her as he led the way through enough twists and turns to thoroughly destroy her sense of direction, “since we didn’t know you were coming. Pieter’s hardly ever here these days, but it just so happens he dropped in this week to use the lab.”
“Lab?”
“Yeah, it’s new since you were here last. Really something, too. Dr. Pet… I mean, Pieter…” He stopped in mid-sentence. His expression suggested he’d said more than he should. “Uh, he probably ought to be the one to fill you in on the details. Suffice it to say, you’ll be impressed.”

And impressed she was, when she found herself there a short time later, wrapped in a too-large robe Sethmus had hastily pulled from a storeroom along the way. She sat at a long work table, surrounded by banks of computers and laboratory equipment that looked like it might be intended for some kind of medical research.
Pieter had chosen to receive her in his true form instead of the Doctor Pet-something persona Sethmus had almost let slip before. The huge green dragon sat folded comfortably on the floor across the table from her and spoke in a rich baritone. His voice made a strange echo. She heard it both in her ears and in her mind.

“This is an unexpected pleasure, Claws-On-The-Foot. I had given up hope of ever seeing you again. You look well.”
“Thanks,” she said. “You can call me Claire. It’s easier. Sorry to show up un-announced, but… well, I wouldn’t know how to go about announcing it anyway.”
The Dragon nodded. “It’s not a problem. You seem to have chosen a serendipitous time, what with the moon and stars aligned correctly to reveal the trail and myself having dropped by on a whim. Perhaps,” he spread his wings in an odd shrugging gesture, “it was meant to be.”
“Like, part of the Prophecy?”
Again the shrug. “Whatever the reasons, it is good to see you. Ah, he’s back.”

Sethmus entered the room carrying a small tray, from which he took a steaming cup of soup and placed it in front of her. She wrapped her still-cold fingers around it gratefully. “Thanks,” she said. Sethmus nodded and took a seat at the far end of the table with a cup of his own.

“So you believe you’ve found the Red Wolf of Prophecy,” said The Dragon, raising a scaly brow ridge.
She nodded, taking a sip of the soup and sighing appreciatively. “You sound skeptical,” she said.
“It is a bit of a surprise, at this late date.” He sighed. “I want to believe you. But, I’m afraid to get my hopes up.”
“Then we’re kind of on the same page. It’s why I came here.”
The Dragon slowly nodded his huge head. “Please, go on.”

“I left here last time, after you gave me the prophecy, assuming the white omega was me, that Swifter-Than-Deer and I would bring a son into the world who would be the male omega. That’s what you led me to believe.” She looked to him for confirmation.

The Dragon shifted his position, took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly through his nostrils. The temperature of the room rose slightly, and Claire detected an odor of sulfur. “That’s how I interpreted the Prophecy, too… at the time.”

Claire waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t. “Okay,” she continued. “Uh… so I knew the two boys I already had weren’t omega wolves. I expected to get pregnant again soon, but I… never got the chance… after…” Unexpected emotion closed her throat. She tried to dismiss it with a wave of her hand. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” said The Dragon. “Our tears are the purest eulogy.”

His kind, gentle tone invited a flood. But she blinked back the tears and cleared her throat. “When I lost my husband and sons, I believed, in time, I would find another mate.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough? Anyway, it never happened, and eventually I figured I wasn’t the one, after all. I accepted it, but I thought… maybe one of my descendants?”

The Dragon nodded. “Yes, I followed that same line of thought. And when other omega females were born I wondered if the chosen one was not to be Uwharrie after all. Then I wondered if the white part in the prophecy referred to purity instead of color. To this day, after a thousand years, you are still the only omega with white fur.”

“And the only Uwharrie omega,” she added. “But I have a niece - or, rather, a great-great-great grand niece – who I suspect may be omega. She’s only sixteen, and her wolf has not yet emerged. At least I don’t think so. She ran away from home a few years ago. I was trying to find her when I ran across Clifford Crane.
“It was completely by accident. I was out hunting along a greenway in Charlotte, just before dawn. He was out jogging. I was drawn to him…”

A snigger came from the end of the table.

“It wasn’t like that, Sethmus,” she glared. “I thought I explained that before. Why do you assume I have the hots for this guy?”
“Whoa, easy now.” Sethmus threw his huge hands up like a shield, chuckling. He grinned at The Dragon. “Pieter, me thinks she doth protest too much!”

The Dragon’s expression might have been one of amusement. It was hard to tell. Nevertheless, he admonished his companion, “Sethmus, please. Let her tell us what she’s found.”

Sethmus gave a what-did-I-do shrug. He started to say something, thought better of it, clamped his mouth shut, and folded his arms across his massive chest.

Claire cleared her throat. “Anyway,” she continued, “once I met him in person, it was obvious he was a wolf.”
“Ah,” interjected The Dragon, “you are able to see that in someone before the wolf comes out? That’s a rare gift, isn’t it?”
“It’s unusual,” she confirmed. “I do know a few others who have the talent.”
“Are you a hundred percent accurate?”
“Noooo… not always. I mean, I don’t always see it. It’s more obvious in some than others. When I see it, I’m never wrong. With Cliff, it’s very obvious, like his wolf is trapped and screaming to come out.”

“Hmm,” he rumbled, “interesting. Remind me to get a blood sample from you before you leave. I’d love to run some tests. But… go on.”
Claire frowned. Blood sample? Tests? The way he said it was incongruent for a dragon, such a quintessential creature of magic. She glanced around at all the modern laboratory equipment, and a thousand questions popped into her head.

 
      Okay, that's all for now. More to come next week in part 4, the final part of this chapter. Until then… Happy Reading!
----------------

My Books
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------


Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 2

Monday, 11/18/13
        My apologies to those of you who visited this weekend, only to find nothing new. I've been a bit under the weather and was unable to post on my blog this past week. I'm recovering nicely, though, and you can expect more on Friday or Saturday. In the meantime, happy reading!

Hi, folks. Wow, it’s hard to believe another week has flown by. Hope yours was as productive as mine. I’m happy to report I’m on somewhat of a roll with Red Wolf Rising. It really feels good when a character breaks from their ennui, and I had several do that this week.
Of course, the downside of that is I’ve neglected my social media presence and my blog, because work on my novel has been just too damn much fun! Oh, well. It’s a First World problem. I’m not complaining.
And I’ve planned ahead a little anyway. In the next few weeks you’ll get the rest of Claire’s meeting with The Dragon, followed by a character profile of Pieter and some history of the dragons in general. I’m going to share some stuff that won’t be revealed in the Red Wolf series until the fourth or fifth book, so don’t miss out.

But first, let’s check the old TBR list…

What I’m Currently Reading…

I finished Skye Callahan’s Fractured Legacy a few days ago. I found it a good start to a promising paranormal series. I liked the female protagonist, the pace was great, with plenty of action, and the understated sexual tension between Kaylyn and her boss made me hunger for the next in the series. I gave it four-out-of-five stars, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the second Darkness Bound book.
 
Unfortunately, I’m finding Devyn Dawson’s The Legacy of Kilkenny, which rose to the top of my TBR list, a bit of a letdown. I’m a little put off with the author’s writing style, which features a first person POV, primarily in present tense, but with enough random tense changes to make you wonder. Incorrect use of words and punctuation suggest the work was never edited, which I find irritating. However…
 
The story shows a great deal of promise. It’s about werewolves-as-protectors-of-mankind and has an element of prophecy. I have a weakness for such things… obviously. J

Okay, now…

Claire Deerfoot, known then as Claws-On-The-Foot, was given the prophecy of the red wolf, the male omega, long ago. Five hundred years later, she has again sought out the secret lair of The Dragon, looking for answers. She finds herself out on a limb… literally.

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 2…

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said. “Claws-On-The-Foot! Is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Hi, Sethmus.”
“Gods, woman, what have you gotten yourself into?”
“I was trying to get to the damn door, but…” She spread her arms and shrugged. The pine trunk wobbled. “Oh, shit,” she muttered, grabbing it again to steady herself.
Sethmus held out a cautionary hand. “Whoa. Careful, now. Just hang on a sec. Let me get some rope. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared.

He returned a few minutes later with a thick coil of rope over one shoulder and dragging an elaborate tangle of pulleys. “Hold still,” he called. He uncoiled half the rope and slung the remainder towards her. It followed a graceful arc through the air and landed on the tree trunk within easy reach. “Tie that end around you. Make sure it’s good and tight. I’ll have you out of there in no time.”

He disappeared again, and she could hear the metal pulleys clacking together while she engaged herself in making a noose, slipping it over her shoulders, and tightening it up under her arms. Sethmus reappeared at the ledge holding the other end of the rope. “How’s it going?” he asked.
“All secure,” she called. She held up the knot she’d made for his inspection.
He nodded his approval. He pulled in the slack on the rope. “Can you stand up?”
“Maybe.”
“Try it.”

Gingerly, she brought her feet up onto the fallen trunk and tried to stand. She’d gotten into a wobbly crouch when Sethmus called her to a halt.
“Okay,” he called, “That’s good enough. Keep those knees bent. I’ll count ‘one-two-three-jump.’ On jump, you push off hard as you can and I’ll pull on this end. Ready? One, two…”

“Wait!” she yelled. “I don’t like the angle here. I’m either gonna end up down there…” She pointed at the dangerous-looking tangle below. “… or smashed into the rock there.” She pointed at the face of the cliff.

“Really?” Sethmus screwed up his face as if he was considering this for the first time. “Nah, I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?”
“Well, I’ve never done this before, but… hey, what could happen?”
“I already told you what could happen. Weren’t you listening?”
“It’s just an expression. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. I got it all figured out. Trust me. One, two…”
“Oh, shit,” she muttered.
“…three, jump!

She pushed down with her legs as hard as she could. The pressure was too much for the already damaged tree trunk. It cracked in two.
She was falling. She looked up helplessly to see Sethmus leap off the ledge clutching the end of the rope. Suddenly she was jerked skyward. She heard him shout, “Bend your knees!” She barely managed to do so before she made a perfectly soft two-point landing on the ledge, none the worse for wear.

She exhaled a shaky breath.
“Told ya it’d be okay,” gloated Sethmus as he pulled himself up by the rope and climbed over the edge of the cliff. He unfolded himself to his full height and beamed down at her. “Wow. Claws-On-The-Foot. Ya look good for an o…” He cut himself off. Emotion clouded his face. “I heard about Swifter-Than-Deer.”
“He never got a chance to use the armor you made for him, Sethmus. I think it would have saved him.”
“I’m sorry.”
Claire shrugged. “It was a long time ago.”
Sethmus shook his head. “Doesn’t seem so long to me, but… Hey, you must be freezin’.”

As if on cue, she shivered. “Kind of,” she admitted, hugging herself.
He walked over to the face of the cliff and pressed his palm against the rock. A hidden door rose smoothly on silent hinges. He ducked through the entrance and reappeared with a bundle of furs. “Put these around you while I clean up my mess. Can’t leave any telltale signs around.”
The furs were warm and provided immediate relief. She watched him disassemble the rope-and-pulley rig, marveling at the dexterity of his huge fingers. This man, or demigod, or whatever he was, was as much of an enigma as the dragon he’d allied himself with. Not for the first time, she wished to know his story. But she doubted she ever would.

He paused in the middle of re-coiling the rope and frowned at her. “Come to think of it, five hundred years would be a long time for you. In fact, you oughta be…” He hesitated.
“…dead by now?” she finished for him.
He grinned, his blush deepening. “I was gonna put it another way. But, yeah, that’s the gist of it. You must be pushin’ a thousand by now.” He leaned closer and peered at her face. “You don’t look it.”

“Thanks… I guess,” she said, “but I did look it a few months ago. That’s one of the things I wanted to talk to The Dragon about. I met someone…”
“Ahhhh, you’re in love. That explains it.” He went back to coiling the rope. “Some of the most powerful magic in the world.”
It was her turn to blush. “No, it’s not that. I mean… I don’t know. He’s special. Not like other men.”
Sethmus rolled his eyes. “I’m sure.”
“I think he might be the one foretold in prophecy.”

Sethmus stopped. “The male omega?”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
“What do you mean, maybe? Is he a red wolf?”
“His wolf hasn’t come out yet.”
“But he was, you know, ‘born of the white omega,’ and all that? Who’s the bitch… I mean, his mother?”
She shrugged again. “I don’t know.”
“Father?”

She shook her head. “I know nothing of his parentage. He’s not one of our pack, Sethmus. In fact, he didn’t know he was a werewolf until I told him. He’s lived his whole life not even knowing we existed.”
“His whole life? How long is that?”
“He’s over fifty. Middle aged, for a human.”
“So, this is some random guy you just met? Some random, old guy?”

“There’s some powerful magic in him, Sethmus,” she said. “Look what it’s done for me, just being near him for a while.”
Sethmus muttered, half to himself, “And you figure, if you turn him…”
“It would fit the prophecy, wouldn’t it? The prophecy in ancient Uwharrie used the word, maktukt, literally sprung from the mind of, but also used as created or given birth to, just like how we use born today. I mean, it translates, right? “

Sethmus scowled. “Yeah, it translates, but…” He resumed coiling the rope. “Hey, what the hell. Prophecy’s a funny thing.” He tossed the coil of rope and the pulley assembly over his shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get inside where it’s warm. I’ll let Pieter know you’re here.”

 
         More to come next week in part 3. Until then… Happy Reading!

----------------

My Books
The Draculata Nest -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                            in Paperback     
ebook for Nook                                              in Charlotte                    
ebook for Kobo                                              Smashwords

The Dragon of Doughton Park ----------------------------------------------------------


Click on the link to order:
ebook for Kindle                                                                   in Paperback
ebook for Nook                                                                     in Charlotte
ebook for Kobo                                                                     Smashwords

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 1


Hi, folks. Got any Halloween candy left? I missed out on trick-or-treat this year. My son is fourteen and has outgrown the activity. (I mean really outgrown. He stands about 6’1” and scares the bejeesus out of me sometimes, even without a costume.)

I miss taking him out like I did when he was little. And I miss eating all the candy rejects, the stuff he didn’t particularly care for. This year he went to a party, dressed as a banana.

I wasn’t invited.

Anyway…

I’m moving into some uncharted territory on the blog the next few weeks. I’m going to continue to share the background story of Clifford and Claire, since folks started asking about it even before the first Red Wolf novel was finished. But so far, I’ve been telling it in excerpts from the upcoming Red Wolf Rising (projected for Spring, 2014 publication). The next little part of the story is still being written. It’s the first draft, and I’m not even sure it’ll end up in the book. Readers of my blog may be the only ones to ever know.

But first…

What I’m Currently Reading…

…was a hard choice after just finishing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith. I loved his writing and the whole conspiracy-theory premise behind the book (which will resurface as part of a future blog post, I’m sure). I mentally prepared myself for a letdown while perusing my TBR list. After all, not every book is such a gem.

Then the first book in Skye Callahan’s new Darkness Bound series popped up free on Amazon, so I snatched it up. A sister team of paranormal investigators? The pace seems pretty good. I read the first few pages after I downloaded it onto my Kindle and almost got sucked in, but I was running late for a meeting and had to put it down. I’ll let you know what I think later.
 

Okay, now…

A little background to the background…

An important element in the saga of the rise of the Red Wolf of Prophecy – one of the contributions to Clifford Crane’s resistance to his destiny – is discovering that his former lover knew of the prophecy all along. In fact, Claire Deerfoot was the very one to receive the prophecy from The Dragon five hundred years before. Yet, in all the time she and Clifford were together not once did she mention it to him, and she took the knowledge with her to her grave. Why?

Well, it turns out that just before she brought out his wolf she paid another visit to The Dragon. Here’s what happened…
 
Claire Visits The Dragon, Part 1…
December, 2003
Claire Deerfoot stood alone on the outcrop of rock. She was panting from the exertion of the climb. Foggy clouds rose from her snout like steam from a locomotive that had just rolled into the station.
She wasn’t sure this was the place. It looked much different than it had five hundred years before. It had been virgin forest then. And the deer path she’d followed way back when was now a recreational hiking trail.
She lowered her nose to the ground and inhaled the faint scent of scorched rock. It could just be from an old forest fire. Or, it could be dragon’s breath. No matter. She’d find out soon enough. In a few minutes the moon would rise over the trees. If this was the place, and the magic was still around, moonlight would reveal the path to the eyes of her wolf.
She sat on her haunches. She took in the scents and sounds of the forest at night. Her mind wandered, as it often did lately, to Clifford Crane.

She’d been spending a lot of time with him, almost every day since she’d revealed her dual nature. She’d let him know from the beginning he had a standing invitation to become a werewolf, but she’d tried not to appear too eager and had not mentioned it since.
In fact, she’d become conflicted about the whole idea, questioning her motivations. Cliff was a nice guy, he had enough problems already, and she didn’t want to be responsible for making things worse for him. She’d been unable to make a decision, and time was running out. Desperation had driven her here, to The Dragon, for answers.
Which is a mistake, most likely, she sighed. She’d left his lair last time with few answers and many more questions.
The first rays of moonlight peeked over the tops of the trees behind her, and a faint luminous mist was revealed, marking a hidden trail on the far side of the clearing. This is the spot, alright. She raised herself to all fours, trotted across the rock, and followed the mist into the underbrush.
The trail descended for a ways before she encountered a fork, the glowing mist leading off in two directions. She nodded to herself, remembering the lair had a number of entrances. After only a brief hesitation, she took the right fork from memory. The track began to ascend gradually at first before taking a sharp uphill turn.
The going got tough. A deadfall covered the trail, and she had to scramble and wriggle among the tangled branches and underbrush. There was no scent to follow, just the glowing mist. But it lit the way well enough, until she spent a good five minutes digging out a space under the trunk of a huge downed oak only to bump her snout against a rock wall.
Damn. The trail ended here, which meant that one of the lair’s entrances should be very nearby. Probably at the top of this cliff. But how to get there? And did this mean the entrance had been covered or damaged and was no longer used? Had the Dragon moved his lair? After all, it had been five hundred years.
She backed out from under the tree trunk and surveyed the area. Moonlight barely filtered through the tangle of branches, but she thought she could make out a ledge on the rock about thirty or forty feet above, and a faint glowing mist.
Crap. Tree climbing was not a werewolf’s forte. She’d have to change, which would mean she could no longer see the magical mist that illuminated the way. There was no other choice.
When the change was complete, she stood naked and shivering and immediately cursed herself for not taking more time to map out a route with her wolf vision through the tangle of branches. Jeez, she could barely see her hands in front of her face now.
Oh, well. She felt for a hand hold, then a foothold, and began to climb. An unseen branch wacked her in the head. Ouch. A seemingly sturdy limb gave way under foot, and suddenly she was swinging by one hand in the dark, her shin burning where the skin had been scraped away. Damn.
She wriggled back against the tree trunk, found another foothold, and managed to work her way upwards a few more feet, where she emerged from a tangle of growth into the moonlight. This is much better.
The going got a little easier by the light of the moon, and she kept the scrapes and bruises to a minimum as she made her way steadily upward. She began to perspire. Great. If I don’t keep moving it’s gonna get cold as shit. Wish I’d brought a jacket with me.
Whatever storm had brought these trees down had happened a few years back. Some had re-rooted already. There was new growth all over the deadfall. It added credence to her growing suspicion that this entrance to The Dragon’s lair might no longer be in use. If so, what then? Go back the way she had come and take the other fork? After all this work?
Eventually she’d climbed as far as she could go. She found herself standing on a bare limb jutting from a large pine that leaned at a sharp angle above the tangled vegetation. She had to wrap one arm around the trunk to keep from falling. The rock ledge loomed at least ten feet above her. Tantalizingly close, but too great a leap for her human legs.
“Oh, give me a break,” she muttered. It was a phrase she’d picked up from Clifford, and she giggled briefly at the memory of the first time she’d heard him use it. She shook herself. What now? Change back and try the jump in wolf form?
A chill wind set the pine to swaying and her teeth to chattering. Her perch wouldn’t serve as a stable launch pad for her much heavier wolf. But maybe there was enough play in the top of her little tree to get her close enough to the cliff wall to jump, grab a hold, and climb to the ledge.
She began to rock back and forth. The tree swayed in an ever-widening arc, each swing bringing her closer to the wall. This might work.
Then, at the height of her backswing, there was a loud crack as the trunk broke in half. She threw both arms around it and held on. For a split second, she and the tree hung motionless in the air before dropping like a stone. She watched wide-eyed as the mass of vegetation below rushed upwards toward her. She prepared herself for impalement on one of the sharp, broken branches. Oh, shit. This is gonna hurt.
But her descent was halted abruptly as the trunk of the pine snarled in the fork of one of its neighbors, and she found herself again dangling in the air. When the trunk settled securely into its new location, she pulled herself up slowly and sat straddling it. She looked up at the ledge.
It was impossibly far away now. She was tired from the climb, cold, scraped and bruised, and there was pine bark in her butt crack. She raised her face to the moon and howled.

It wasn’t a proper howl, since she was in human form, but it served its purpose. It vented her frustration, and she felt better immediately. She took a deep breath and let out another. Then one more, for good measure.
She was startled by a voice from above. “Ho, there!”
She turned towards the sound. A huge man, sporting green hair and a blacksmith’s apron, stood on the ledge above.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said. “Claws-On-The-Foot! Is that you?”
More to come next week in part 2. Until then… Happy Reading!
 
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