So around this time last year, we had a huge ice storm in Kentucky. "Ice Storm 2009" basically paralyzed my hometown for weeks. We're talking no power, grocery/gas shortages, price gouging on generators... male neighbors shaving their heads in their driveways because they were tired of cold shampoos/showers. I spent a week camping out in my in-laws' living room, in front of their fireplace, with two children under the age of five.
We all made it out alive, but just barely.
During that time, I used being trapped by frigid, icy weather, in the dark, to get in the right frame of mind to write 20 (longhand) pages of a werewolf romance set in Alaska. My agent just sold the still-untitled werewolf book to Pocket Star. And just as I started writing the sequel, also set in Alaska... it started snowing heavily in Paducah.
My first thought: If I have to sleep in someone else's living room again, one of us isn't getting out alive.
Though it snowed heavily for two days and the temperates stayed in the 10 to 20 degree range (almost unheard of for our area), the power has stayed on.
Maybe I should take a day or two off from writing... just so I don't jinx myself into another outage.
For now, here's a little preview of Mo, my new paranormal heroine. Mo Duvall-Wenstein is the child of unapologetic hippie helicopter parents. Sick of their constant phone calls, their manipulations, their tendency to go through her fridge and throw out her lunch meat and Ho-Hos, Mo makes an impromptu move from Mississippi to Grundy, Alaska. It's as far as she can go without changing her citizenship. Despite being welcomed into the community and the position of "head chef" at the local saloon, Mo is immediately at odds with reticent field guide, Cooper Graham. And here is an example of a typical interaction between them.
When a naked man shows up on your doorstep with a bear-trap clamped around his ankle, it’s best to just do what he asks.
However, when said naked man crawled onto the front porch of my snug little cabin on the edge of the Alaskan wilderness, my first instinct was drop-kick his bare behind back into the woods.
Cooper Graham and I had an unpleasant history, as in not being able to stand the sight of each other; as in, the moment I moved to this tiny, frozen burg, he made it incredibly clear that I should turn around and head right back to Mississippi. We’d argued, sniped and been so all-around foul to one another that when I opened my door to find him naked, panting and bleeding, I thought it was some sort of practical joke.
I’ll put it this way, after I dragged him and the bear-trap into my house, pried the trap off and treated his wounds, it didn’t surprise me that he morphed into a gigantic black wolf. The man had too much general pissiness to fit into one corporeal form. But him saying thank you? That shocked the hell out of me.
Maybe the whole wolf thing happened too fast.
Cooper was lying there in front of the fireplace under my Yaya Wenstein’s quilt, passed out from the combination of pain and blood loss. Exhausted from my ER routine, I closed my eyes. And when I opened them again, Cooper was gone and a Great Dane sized wolf was lying in his place. Snoring.
OK, so I scrambled over the back of the couch and landed on my head. It was a little bit of a surprise. But I didn’t run away screaming, so overall, I think I handled it pretty well. I waited all night for the wolf to wake up and … I don’t know, huff and puff and blow my house down or something. I’m not frequently confronted with fairy tale stock characters, I didn’t know what to expect.
Around sunrise, there was a shimmer of golden light along Cooper’s fur, a ripple of air, and there sat the surly, taciturn hunting guide I’d come to loathe. I preferred the giant wolf. Sure, canine Cooper might lunge for my throat, but at least he couldn’t talk. Cooper draped the quilt over his lap, trying and failing to maintain his dignity while surrounded by a pink chintz double-wedding ring pattern. I used his moment of awkward silence to smirk and admire.
God had been in a generous mood when He created Cooper. You noticed the eyes right off the bat, wide and bottomless blue over sharp cheekbones and a slim, long nose that had obviously been broken when he was young. He had thick hair that seemed both dark brown and black; not long enough for a ponytail, but too long to keep under that faded maroon baseball cap he was always wearing. Except for now. Because he was naked.
I was definitely enjoying that part.
Cooper cleared his throat. “There is no wolf. This was all just a dream,” he said in a deep, resonant Obi Wan Kenobi voice and waved his hand in front of my face as if to project his Jedi mind trick. My eyes narrowed at him. He shrugged, a faint blush tinting his burnt honey skin. “It was worth a shot.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and arched an eyebrow at him. “You showed up, seriously wounded, on my doorstep. Naked. I didn’t call doctors or the police, even after you turned into a wolf. I’d say you owe me an explanation.”
“Er, I’m a werewolf.”
I nodded, lips pursed. “That I gathered.”
“Trust me, I didn’t want - That is, I wouldn’t have come here if I could have helped it. I was, you know, a wolf, and I stepped in that damn trap and yours was the closest house. I didn’t know what else to do.” He cleared his throat again. “So… I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell anybody about this.”
“Who would believe me?” I rolled my eyes.
“But I want you to say it,” I said, pushing up from the couch. My limbs were sore from camping there all night. And I was wearing blood-stained flannel pajamas imprinted with little purple daisies. But nothing could have stopped me from crossing the room and poking my finger dangerously near Cooper’s bare chest.
“Say what?” he asked, the friendly tone thinning into a more familiar, hostile tenor.
“I want you to admit that I saved your ass. I didn’t faint at the sight of blood, or run away screaming when you turned into a giant wolf in my living room. I stuck. I did what needed to be done. I. Saved. You,” I ground out, accentuating each of the last three words with a jab of my finger against Cooper’s sternum. I pulled my hand away fast, fingertip tingling from the contact with his warm, smooth skin.
So I think someone owes someone here an apology.”
He grimaced. “I thought I owed you an explanation.”
“The explanation was just a down payment. Say it. Say, ‘Mo, I was wrong. I’m sorry. You’re not a weak pathetic Outsider.”
“You are not a weak pathetic Outsider,” he said without any enthusiasm.
That was probably the best I was going to get.
(Content subject to change before publication. All excerpt materials are copyright material.)