Down Time

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For the first time in years, I’ve actually had some time to kick back and enjoy the coming of Christmas. Usually, I’m running around like crazy, and the season comes and goes before I even notice it’s here. I was afraid this year was going to be the same, but things worked themselves out a few days ago. It was weird going to the grocery store this morning and realizing that I could take as much time as I wanted to because I had nothing needing my attention. Not presents to wrap. No food that needed to be done ‘right now’. Off from work, projects completed. I’m grateful in a way I can’t put into words.

That being said, it’s been a crazy year this year. A lot of good things have happened, but they’ve come so quickly that I haven’t had time to process them yet. I think I’ll save that for the new year. For now, I’ve finished the first draft of The Spirits of Yule, and I’ve started on the next book in The Trials of the Young Shadow Walkers. This one focuses on Kayne Soulton rather than Ethan Grimley. I’m not sure yet where Kayne will lead, with all his hot-headedness, but I’m anxious to follow. I’m hoping 2019 will give me a little more time to write now that some things have been resolved and put to rest.

My plan at this point is to have The Spirits of Yule out for next year’s holiday season. Below is a continuation of the last two weeks, just a bit of a sneak peek, unedited.

Thank you all for your support, and have a blessed holiday.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

http://www.hiddenhollowediting.com

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Flight Through the Forest

Eleanor groaned and rolled over. She pulled the blanket up around herself and shivered. Her hip dug into hard stone, and the smell of smoke assailed her nose. Smoke? Stone? Blanket? Hadn’t she been lying in the snow? Memory flooded back, and Eleanor jumped to her feet before she realized what she was doing. The ogress had wanted her to join her, in what Eleanor had no idea.

“Glad to see you awake.”

Eleanor froze, heart lodged in her throat, and looked around. She stood in a ruined building under a partial roof. A woman with long, black hair spotted with gray sat on the other side of a small fire. A pot sat warming in the flames.

“What–? Who–?”

The woman laughed, a musical sound that spoke of mystery and magic. She was human as far as Eleanor could tell, but there was something off about her, some scent Eleanor couldn’t place. “My name is Ravyn Grimsbane. I come from Crowrest.” The woman smiled, and the room, if it could be called that, lit up. “You’re safe, for now.” Ravyn waved her hand at a spot opposite herself. “Sit down. Get warm.”

Eleanor eased herself to the floor, keeping the blanket wrapped around herself to cover her nakedness. “I don’t understand. What happened?”

Ravyn sighed and stirred the pot. “We’re nearing midwinter. It isn’t a healthy time to be out and about, for others thrive at this time.”

“What do you mean?”

Ravyn cocked her head to the side, a look of confusion on her face. “Surely, you’ve been in E’ma Thalas long enough to know that creatures walk the night, that the wilds of the forest are closer to people than they are in other places.”

Eleanor chewed on her bottom lip and nodded. Her mouth watered as the aroma of whatever was cooking reached her nose, and her stomach grumbled in response. “I’ve heard some tales, sure, but I don’t go out much.”

“Mother, the ogress has moved on. We should be fine tonight.”

Eleanor swung her head around fast enough to make herself dizzy. A woman about her own age stood just within in the light of the fire. Auburn hair hung in ringlets past her shoulders, and spectacles reflected the firelight.

“This is my daughter, Gwennyth.”

Eleanor nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m Eleanor Hestenfield.”

“You aren’t from E’ma Thalas,” Gwennyth replied. It wasn’t a question.

Eleanor shook her head and fought back tears. “No. I’m from the Xaggarene Empire.”

“And you’re a Shadow Walker. That’s what they call themselves, isn’t it?”

Again, Eleanor nodded. “How did you know that?”

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Gwennyth plopped down between Eleanor and Ravyn and stared at Eleanor without blinking. “There’s magic around you. Lots of it. But you aren’t a wizard.”

A single tear escaped Eleanor’s eye as she turned away from the women. “I’m a Lycan,” she said with trembling voice. “I had to leave the Empire.” From the corner of her eye, she saw the two women exchange a look.

“That makes sense,” Gwennyth said. “It explains the magic aura around you.”

Eleanor turned back to the two women. “What do you mean?”

Ravyn shifted position and poked at the fire. “Gwennyth sees magic.” She gave her daughter a loving look. “Most of us don’t.” She shrugged. “But she can. We don’t know how.”

Eleanor pulled her blanket more tightly around herself and wished she had thought enough to drag the clothes with her. She knew other Lycans had stashes around the forest and in the mountains, and she’d always meant to do that. But she always returned home to transform, so it had never mattered.

“I have extra clothes,” Gwennyth said after a silent moment. “I’m pretty sure they would fit you.”

“Thank you,” Eleanor replied.

“That’s the down side to changing form,” Ravyn chuckled. “Non-essentials like clothing tend to remain as they are.”

Eleanor gave her an embarrassed grin and followed Gwennyth out of the fire light. Cold bit through the blanket, and Eleanor’s teeth chattered. She considered returning to ly’kita form just to be covered with fur, but Gwennyth’s voice cut through her thoughts.

“Here. Change quickly. It’s too cold to dawdle.”

Eleanor looked over to see Gwennyth holding trousers, a shirt, and a cloak. Boots sat at her feet, and a faint smile brightened her face.

“Thank you,” Eleanor replied as she took the clothing. She dropped the blanket and quickly donned the clothes. “Why are you and your mother out here in the cold?” she asked as she pulled on the boots.

“We’re headed to Letallatos for Oberon’s celebration.”

Eleanor’s heart dropped into her gut. “Oh. Sounds like fun.”

“You could join us.”

Eleanor pulled the cloak around her and stared out at the swirling snow. “No. Abilene, my pack leader, sort of, has said we were invited, but it’s really not my thing.”

“It’s not mine, either,” Gwennyth admitted with a glance back at her mother. “There are plenty of other wizards joining us, too.” Gwennyth sighed. “Most of them just blip themselves there, but Mother prefers to travel without magic. She says connecting to the forest is important.” She shivered. “Maybe she’s right, but I’d much rather connect in spring and summer.”

Eleanor chuckled. “So would I. I usually spend most of winter in a cave in the Borderland Mountains. I should never have come this far without preparations.”

The Spirits of YuleGwennyth turned away and took a step toward the fire. “Sometimes our emotions get the best of us.” She shrugged. “It happens. There’s food if you’re hungry. We’ll leave out as soon as the light shines, but you’re welcome to share the fire tonight.”

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New Wolf Covers

Those who’ve followed for a while know that I like to play around with things, particularly my book covers. Learning new things is fun, and I’d rather enjoy the process than hire it out, even if it means sacrificing potential sales. That being said, I have a couple of new covers for Wolf in the Shadow, and I would love some opinions on which one to use (or to keep the one I have and toss these).

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

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Cover: Wolf in the Shadow
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Cover: Wolf in the Shadow

 

The Story:

Something is killing the good folks of Black Crystal. People are dying, and the remains discovered are unidentifiable. Sheriff Avery Smitherton has no idea what’s going on, so he calls on the Shadow Walkers, for they are experts in weird and expendable.

Timothy Hawkins and Eleanor Hestenfield are awakened in the middle of the night by Justin Harper, their friend and fellow Shadow Walker. After taking the overnight locomotive to Black Crystal, the trio is ready to tackle the threat. But all isn’t what it seems, for the forest holds a secret, one unknown to the citizens of Black Crystal. The Shadow Walkers must now face an undeniable truth that shakes the foundation of their purpose and their friendship, and the thing in the forest becomes the least of their worries.

Learning Experience

Well, I’ve been learning how to use the software to make my covers what I want them to be, and I think I’ve finally made one I like for Wolf in the Shadow. Now, I’ve just got to do the others. The new cover should be on all ebooks and print books in the next couple of days. It took a while, but at least I finally figured it out.

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Wolf in the Shadow

bright and shinyI’ve been working on a short story (200 more words, and it can be classified as a novella), and I think I’ve got it mostly finished.  First draft and revision are done, so I’m letting it stew for a few days, then it’ll be time for editing.

The title of this one is “Wolf in the Shadow”, and it takes place about twenty years before the ‘novel that never ends’. (I’m actually making headway on that one.  I’m shooting for having it completed by the end of summer.)  I’m still trying to make some final decisions about “Wolf in the Shadow”, but I’m planning on having it out by the end of May.  Below is a brief excerpt from the story.

Best wishes.

Constable Timothy Hawkins rolled over and snuggled down in his sleep. He reached for Eleanor and pulled her close to him without any real awareness of what he was doing. Something pricked his consciousness, an itch on his right palm, but it was a vague and distant thing, and Timothy was too lost in sleep to understand it.

Banging on the door brought Timothy awake. Eleanor moaned and rolled over, but she didn’t waken. Timothy cursed and climbed from his warm bed. The fire in the brazier had gone out, and the room was cold. His bare feet shied away from touching the chilled wooden floor, but his training as an Enforcer forced him forward regardless of his discomfort.

Timothy entered his small living room and banged his knee on the coffee table. He cursed again and rubbed his face to induce wakefulness. It didn’t help.

“Dammit, I’m coming,” he shouted at the door.

The knocking stopped.

Timothy opened the door and stood staring at the person on the other side. He was tall, well over six feet, with auburn hair and beard and a rakish grin. At any other time, Timothy would’ve been glad to see him, but at two hours past midnight, all he wanted to do was throttle Justin Harper.

“What the hell do you want?” Timothy grumbled.

Justin grinned and took in Timothy’s ragged, sleep rumbled appearance. He stepped inside and closed the door before answering, “We’ve got a good one.”

Timothy rolled his eyes and threw his hands into the air. He rubbed his itching palms on the legs of his sleep pants, flipped on the incandescent lamp, and stumbled to the Cold Box for a Fizzy Drink. He twisted off the top and downed half of it in one glug before looking back at Justin. “So? What else is new?”

Timothy plopped onto the sofa and propped his feet on the table. Justin took the chair across from him and leaned back with his ankle resting on his knee. A self-satisfied smile split Justin’s round face, and his eyes were lit up like a kid seeing Sir Klaus.

He likes this stuff way too much.

“Mel sent a beetle early this morning. It said there was a situation down in Black Crystal, so I went down there.”

“You’ve been to Black Crystal and back today?”

Justin nodded. “I took the locomotive.” He waved it off. “Ten people were killed last night, and it looked like they were mauled by a wild animal.”

Timothy blew out a tired breath. “And you saw the bodies?”

Justin nodded. “What was left of them.”

“Shit.” Timothy shifted in his seat until he mirrored Justin’s pose. The two were eye-to-eye in the darkness of the living room, just as they had been many times before. “Black Crystal sits on the edge of the forest. Are you sure it wasn’t wild animals? Are you sure you’re not just seeing what you want to see because it’s been a while since Mel’s sent you out?”

Justin gave Timothy a rueful grin. “I wish I was.” His face paled as he remembered what he had seen. “I really wish I was.” The glint in his eyes faded. “Tim, this wasn’t like the specter attacks where the person was just dead. This was…. This was…” Justin shrugged. “I don’t know.”

They lapsed into silence for a moment, then Timothy looked back up at Justin. “And Mel thinks we should check it out?”

Justin nodded. “Cooley Cray, the guy who carried the Helm of Invisibility from Hades?”

Timothy nodded to indicate he knew who Justin was referring to.

 

Werewolves

SpookyI’ve been working on a short story for the past few weeks that deals with some of my main adult Shadow Walkers about twenty or so years before the ‘story that never ends’ (I actually plan to finish mapping out what will now be book one tomorrow).  I got the idea from one of the scenes in what will become book three (when I get there) and decided to investigate what led up to that scene.  Believe me, I had no idea where this was going when I started, and I surely didn’t intend for it to end up with werewolves as part of the problem.  But it did.  So I’ve been brushing up on some of my werewolf lore.

The most popular book on werewolves is Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves, and in it he goes through a good deal of mythology somewhat based on the idea of the werewolf.  There’s a lot of other stuff in there that deals with cannibals and serial killers and whatnot, but the actual werewolf stuff is pretty interesting.  He talks about different cultures that used animal skins as part of their wardrobes in battle, etc.

However, none of that was really helping me, so I looked into some of the skinwalker legends in Native American lore.  These, too, are fascinating in the idea that someone can, through ritual, gain the ability to transform into another person or animal.  According to the legends, the person (considered evil) must make a ritual kill in order to gain the power.  However, in more modern sighting stories, the skinwalker’s behavior is more puckish – chasing cars, knocking on windows, etc.

The idea of shapeshifting into another form could go as far back as the cave painting known as ‘the Sorcerer’.  This painting shows both human and animal features, so some scholars have suggested that his position is indicative of the process of transformation.  It’s always looked to me like he was in the middle of a ritual dance of some sort.

Another story that most of us have heard at some point goes back to Ancient Greece.  Here we have the first instance of the transformation of a human into a wolf (though Zeus himself didn’t seem too picky about what form he took).  King Lycaon supposedly cooked up one of his sons and served him for dinner when Zeus was a guest.  Needless to say, Zeus wasn’t too thrilled with this and turned Lycaon into a wolf as punishment.  Most of what I’ve read points to this as the first story about werewolves and the origin of the legend.

Werewolf legends abound in just about every culture in the world, and wolves were not the only animal men transformed into.  I find the concept interesting and often wonder about its origin.  At what point did mankind get the idea of shifting into an animal shape?  And, perhaps more importantly, if ancient people truly possessed this ability, why can’t we do it today?

Best Wishes!