Whew! Welcome back, everybody! I don’t know about you, but this last week has been crazy! I’ve had my usual schedule of guest blogs and blog hops surrounding the release of my new book, but the reaction to Strength of the Wolf has exceeded the reaction to the first book, and I can hardly keep up with the email and PMs! If I still had my day job, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up at all!
Thanks for taking time to swing by and get updated. I’ve got a winner to announce later on, but first, pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, prop your feet up, and let’s chat.
A couple of days ago, I discussed world building and how I construct my stories and my characters. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty today. Let’s talk about werewolves; specifically, the werewolves I created for my series, The Tameness of the Wolf. Creating a world in which werewolves serve in the Marine Corps, are fully integrated with humans, fall in love, and make love, with both humans and other werewolves, was more complex and complicated than I had anticipated. It’s not difficult, but it can get tricky.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read less than a handful of paranormal romances. As a child, I loved ‘monster’ movies. In addition to the classics, I also had a fondness for the Hammer films of the 60s. Also being a history buff, I read all about the origins of the various myths and legends of my two favorite ‘monsters’; vampires and werewolves. Technology has made for some entertaining movies, and has led to the blending of shapeshifters with werewolves. I created my werewolf mythology from the most intriguing aspects of shapeshifting, anchored it in history, then used it to color my characters and my story.
There are two characteristics that separate werewolves (or any were-animal) from general shapshifters. One is that the individual is cursed, most often by receiving a bite from a werewolf. The second is the necessity of shifting into a wolf at the full moon. Full werewolves shift completely into a wolf. There has always been the existence of legends about a ‘wolfman’, which is a creature possessing the traits of both wolf and human.
As I built my world for The Tameness of the Wolf series, the concept of the curse became problematic because my werewolves are not evil, and are not villains. I chose to make the curse feature a part of the werewolves history, so it has bearing on my characters, but in an historical capacity. At this point, I can’t elaborate any further without spoilers!
The feature that is arguably, quintessentially ‘werewolf’, is the need to shift into a wolf with the full moon. This is what captured my imagination, more than anything else, so it features prominently in my mythology. My affection for wolfmen manifests itself in my werewolves being able to control their shapeshift by degrees. Unless it’s the full moon, my werewolves are able to shift some or all of their body parts at will.
When it came to the behaviors of my werewolves, both conscious and instinctive, I rooted everything in the natural world. When my werewolves become wolves, they behave just as wolves in the wild do. They have a pack hierarchy, they possess a great deal of aggression, they are able to run for nearly a day, at a steady pace. They’re stronger than they are as humans, they hunt wild prey during the full moon, and they function as a pack-like team. They retain small aspects of their humanity, but for all intents and purposes, they’re large, dangerous Dire wolves.
Conversely, when my werewolves are human, they’re fully human. Some wolf-like aspects bleed through, such as stronger senses of sight, smell and hearing. They retain the wolf’s use of scent and touch to aid in communication. They’re territorial, but they function extremely well in teams.
What this all means is, everything that happens in my stories, and all the traits and features of my characters, occur in reality. Neither human, nor wolf; have any habits, rituals or behaviors that aren’t found in the natural word. For all that my characters defy the laws of physics, and don’t exactly adhere to the law of equal mass, my werewolves – and therefore my stories – are believable. They feel realistic
Once I set up the history of my werewolves, and the rules of my universe, I began to write my story. Again, I know where I want my characters to go, and where I want them to end up. I know the same things about the plot. I design scenes to do what it is I need done at that point in the story, and I ensure every detail adheres to the rules of the world I built. Building that world, clearly defining it, and sticking to the rules is crucial, and it makes the stories compelling and enjoyable.
I took the world that I built in Strength of the Pack, and I expanded and elaborated on it in Strength of the Wolf. I continued to weave werewolves into the myths and legends of our reality. I showed what it is to be a True Alpha werewolf, and how Noah and Jeremy got there. I gave insight into how the packs work, and sometimes don’t work. I expanded on the role of the Beta, and I introduced the beloved Omega. And along the way, I showed humans and werewolves learning how to wage modern warfare, side by side.
Strength of the Wolf continues to rocket its way up the bestseller lists. Tim and Jeremy have captured hearts. If you’re curious, you can read a little bit about them:
Blurb: After a fiery exit from Afghanistan, Tim Madison is promoted to major. Jeremy Wagner is a civilian, just beginning his Transition to True Alpha. As a lone wolf, he has no one to teach him the vital principles of strong leadership. After a volatile chance encounter, Tim and Jeremy form an intimate bond.
As Jeremy prepares to someday lead his own pack, Tim struggles with military werewolves being needlessly maimed in combat, as well as specifically targeted by hostile forces. Despite Tim and Jeremy’s feelings, werewolf and human politics or family conflict could prevent their mate-bond.
The crowd of Marines backed away, forming a wide circle around Tim. To his left, Lucas dropped what he was carrying. Glass shattered on the wooden deck and dispelled the food it contained. To Tim’s right, Jeremy’s clawed hands wrapped around Terrell Hubbard’s throat. His lips pulled back in a ferocious snarl, revealing long, wickedly sharp fangs. Hubbard’s fingers were claws, as well. One gripped Jeremy’s bicep, the other was fisted in Jeremy’s shirt. Hubbard bared his fangs, barking and growling in Jeremy’s face.
Adrenaline surged into Tim’s bloodstream. His heart pounded, his mouth went dry. “Jeremy! Knock it the fuck off!” he shouted, reaching for the brat’s shoulders to pull him away from Hubbard. “Sergeant Hubbard! Stand down! Right the fuck now!” Tim’s skin tightened over his bones and his clothes were suddenly painful.
Tim hadn’t been this afraid in combat. Hubbard was inches taller and tens of pounds heavier than Jeremy. He was a trained Marine, battle hardened. Jeremy was outclassed and that scared the shit out of Tim.
“Submit, Terrell,” Noah shouted, voice rough and commanding. He sounded more wolf than human.
Just as Tim reached for Jeremy, strong hands grasped his wrists.
“Stay out of it,” Lucas said, trying to drag Tim away from the embattled werewolves. “You’ll only get hurt.”
“Jeremy’s no match for Hubbard,” Tim said angrily, trying to shake off Lucas.
“Yes, he is.” Lucas put himself between Tim and the shifters, giving a mighty shove. “Let Noah handle it.”
Tim stumbled, Lucas’ shove sending him off balance. He started back toward Jeremy, desperate to get him away from the larger, stronger Hubbard. Lucas blocked his path. Dawson was suddenly behind Lucas as silent reinforcement.
“Submit to him, Terrell,” Noah ordered again. He stood beside the two werewolves but didn’t touch. Tim wondered why the hell he didn’t break up the fight. “If you make him shift he’ll rip your throat out.”
In the blink of an eye, Hubbard gave up the fight and let himself be carried to the ground by Jeremy’s weight. Now on his back, Terrell let his arms go limp beside him. He tilted back his head so that both his throat and his belly were vulnerable to Jeremy’s attack.
A strange silence fell over the yard, save for Hubbard’s labored breathing as he struggled to get air past Jeremy’s grip on his throat. Jeremy crouched over Terrell’s supine form. He gripped Hubbard’s throat with only one clawed hand now. He leaned down until his open mouth hovered just above Terrell’s throat.
“My wolf has submitted, Jeremy,” Noah said calmly. He knelt next to the combatants, still not touching Jeremy. “You’re the victor. He submitted. Let him up.”
Jeremy continued to crouch over Hubbard. He snapped audibly at the vulnerable flesh of Terrell’s throat. Hubbard flinched. Tim clenched his jaw, silently begging Jeremy to accept Hubbard’s submission.
“You can’t filter this through any human or military standards,” Lucas said quietly. Tim had nearly forgotten he was there. “I know you think it’s too soon, but do you feel a connection to Jeremy?”
Tim swallowed hard, his throat tight. To his relief, Jeremy released Terrell, rising gracefully to his feet. “Yes,” Tim admitted, eyes following Jeremy as he stalked back and forth, glaring at the werewolves circled around them.
“Let him mark you, then,” said Lucas. “Right now, in front of the Pack.”
Tim realized everything had been leading him to this very moment, despite his efforts to deny and avoid it. “Yeah,” he sighed. He had feelings for the kid he knew weren’t mixed up with Jeremy’s, or tied to the full moon. Jeremy’s well-being mattered to Tim, but he was the reason Jeremy was angry and aggressive. Jeremy needed Tim to stop hiding.
“It’s got to be a visible mark,” Lucas reminded him. “He’s going to want to get his scent on you, too.”
None of that bothered Tim. Well, the visible marks made him apprehensive. He’d had such sympathy for Lucas, watching him struggle with werewolves making things public that humans usually kept private.
“The brat had better be worth all the drama,” Tim muttered darkly, decision made.
Lucas chuckled. “You wouldn’t like him if he wasn’t a challenge.”
Lucas and Dawson both stepped aside, leaving Tim free to approach to Jeremy. Or Jeremy to approach Tim. It wasn’t clear yet how this was going to go down. Terrell had rolled onto his side, but he still lay on the ground at Jeremy’s feet. The neck of his muscle shirt was darkened with blood. Jeremy’s claws had done some damage. Thankfully, it didn’t appear too severe.
Jeremy stopped pacing. Noah stood behind him, speaking quietly. Jeremy stood tall, shoulders squared, staring directly at Tim. His eyes were amber and those of a wolf. His chest heaved with each breath. At least his hands were no longer claws. Tim couldn’t tell if Jeremy still had fangs.
It didn’t matter if he did. Tim knew he was in no danger from Jeremy. Focusing all of his attention on Jeremy, Tim realized he should have done this before now. Jeremy’s need was a physical ache. His desire to mark Tim, and be marked in return had always been there. It lingered at the back of Tim’s mind like white noise, making it easy to ignore. Tim’s own regret poured through him, drowning out everything else. He hoped this effort would make up for his mistakes. Releasing a shaky breath, Tim silently acknowledged that he’d wanted this all along.
Tim saw the moment Jeremy sensed that their needs finally synced. He closed the distance between them in a few long strides. Tim clutched at Jeremy’s shirt as Jeremy wrapped his arms around Tim’s waist, pulling their bodies together roughly. Their open mouths collided and Tim felt the hard press of teeth. Jeremy did still have his fangs, their sharp tips drawing blood from Tim’s lips. A thrill ran down Tim’s spine, knowing Jeremy’s lethal strength was leashed, just for him.
Jeremy licked deep into Tim’s mouth, their tongues tangling wetly. Jeremy’s body was flame-hot, pressed to the length of Tim’s. His breath was scalding as it ghosted across Tim’s cheek.
Breaking the kiss, Jeremy buried his face in the join of Tim’s neck and shoulder. Tim shuddered. He pushed his hips against Jeremy’s, feeling Jeremy’s already hard cock. Tim tilted his head slightly, asking at the same time he gave consent.
Jeremy pried Tim’s fingers from his shirt. Tim gasped as Jeremy forced his arms to cross at the small of his back. The strength in Jeremy’s hand was surprising as he restrained Tim’s wrists. The arch in his back pushed Tim’s body hard against Jeremy’s. His own cock was completely hard now and he rubbed himself back and forth against Jeremy. Tim closed his eyes, letting his head fall back in silent pleading.
Jeremy kissed up the length of Tim’s throat, dragging the sharp tips of his teeth along the edge of Tim’s jaw. The slight sting sent a thrill down Tim’s spine and he wanted more. Jeremy nipped at Tim’s pulse where it throbbed just below his skin. Tim moaned when Jeremy soothed the spot with his tongue.
His body went rigid and Tim unleashed a decadent groan when Jeremy’s hot mouth latched onto the side of his neck. Tim’s blood rose to the surface as Jeremy sucked hard at the spot. Jeremy soothed the bruise with a swipe of his tongue. Tim relaxed into Jeremy’s hard body, moaning each time Jeremy sucked a bruise into his throat, or nipped sharply at his too-sensitive skin.
He wanted to touch. Tim struggled to free his hands from Jeremy’s grip. When Jeremy released his wrists, Tim buried his fingers in Jeremy’s hair, holding him close. Jeremy nosed at Tim’s ear, dragging his sharp teeth along the sensitive lobe. Tim shuddered again and moaned.
Lowering his head, Tim found Jeremy’s mouth. He chased Jeremy’s tongue with his own. Curling his fingers in Jeremy’s hair, Tim used it to tilt his head back. He skimmed his lips and nose over the pounding pulse in Jeremy’s throat. Tim pressed his open mouth to the same spot and drew heated blood to the surface. Jeremy panted. He cradled the back of Tim’s head, encouraging him. Tim sucked blood to the surface of Jeremy’s skin. He was deeply satisfied that Jeremy wore his mark. The werewolf pack that surrounded them would know that Jeremy was his, and only his.
Jeremy pulled back abruptly. “Okay, that’s enough,” he gasped. “Any more and we’re going to put on a much more revealing show than I’d planned.”
Tim blinked, struggling to understand Jeremy’s words. He watched Jeremy’s eyes roam over his throat, taking in the bruises Tim could feel darkening on his skin. Jeremy’s expression was satisfied, bordering on arrogant. Tim couldn’t help but chuckle. It was such an Alpha thing to do.
The world began to move around them. Dawson directed someone to clean up the shattered glass and spilled food. Noah tried to save the meat left forgotten on the grill. Mundane conversations swirled around them.
Tim and Jeremy stood alone, completely surrounded by Noah’s Pack, breathing heavily, looking only at one another.
“How long do we have to stay?” Desire was obvious in Jeremy’s still-amber eyes.
“It would be polite to eat something, then help clean up a little,” Tim replied, already calculating how he might maneuver them into an early departure.
“Stay with me tonight?” Jeremy asked.
Tim nodded emphatically. “Of course.” Everyone associated with a werewolf pack was excused from duty for the next two days for the full-moon run. He imagined the two of them had much to discuss over the course of the next twenty-four hours.
“Good,” Jeremy said. He turned toward the cluster of Marines who had begun to serve themselves food. “Now let’s go let them all know it’s time to keep their hands off of what’s mine.”
Jeremy’s possessive words should have angered Tim. Instead, it made him consider being rude and skipping out on food.
If anyone would understand, it would be Lucas and Noah.
In just a little bit, I’m going to show you how you can enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf. First, I have a winner to announce:
WINNER of the e-book copy of Strength of the Pack:
Penumbra! CONGRATULATIONS! (just let me know what format you need)
You’ll also want to swing by tomorrow, the 13th, and find out how to win an authentic set of Tim and Jeremy’s Dog Tags! These are just like the tags worn by U.S. armed forces personnel and are very highly coveted (and a little hard to get!).
Love and Dog Tags,