Double contest…post a comment below and have a chance to win a copy of my book Worth the Risk (Bold Strokes Books). You’ll also be entered in my ongoing contest with Vic Oldham to win a copy of Women of the Dark Streets, a BSB paranormal anthology (winner to be drawn in July following Vic’s blog).
I’ve always been fascinated by our connections with the animal world. Mythological metamorphoses, legendary were-beasts, spiritual totems and animal guides. Sometimes it seems we can only truly describe ourselves – the deep and primal urges, traits, and quirks that make us who we are – by searching for symbols outside of the expectations and rules imposed by human society. So when I read about Delilah’s new shape-shifter anthology, I was excited to create a character with the ability to manifest each creature in her family’s totem. A character whose transformations define her, reveal her true personality to her lover. Her mating call is a howl, and her outward show of fur and feathers reveals the real woman beneath the flesh.
While I was researching animal symbols and the meanings behind various spirit guides, I found quite a few that resonated with me. Animals and birds that describe different aspects of my personality, my work, and my relationships. But if I had to pick one as my personal totem, it would definitely – and unsurprisingly – be the horse. I was a typical horse-obsessed child. My imaginary friend was a dapple gray pony named Puddles; I managed to fit a horse into just about every essay, poem, and report I wrote in school; and I spent most of my teen years at the barn or at horse shows. My life still revolves around horses, albeit in more adult ways (if you ignore the fact that I sleep on sheets covered with pink horseshoes). I’m more likely to be reading training manuals and equine anatomy books than children’s fiction and I spend more time teaching my riding students than competing, but I get the same enjoyment and benefits from horses as I did when I was young. Too often I seem to have an uncanny ability to say the wrong thing when I talk to actual people, but I’ve always found a simple and honest communication with horses. And my awkward and ungainly movements on the ground are magically transformed to grace and control once I’m on the back of a horse. Horses saved me when I was a teenager, giving me a sense of confidence, flow, and beauty I didn’t find anywhere else. And even now I get the same feelings when I’m riding or grooming or simply enjoying equine company. Horses give me access to my true self – the confident, compassionate, kind parts of me that few people truly see.
That’s what these werewolves and dragons and other beautiful creatures from the stories in She-Shifters give us – a way to connect with our sexuality and warmth and power, even though they sometimes seem too deeply buried beneath our work and relationship personas to be found. Shay, the character in my story “Totem,” shifts to prove she has intelligent wit, fierce loyalty to her clan and mate, and a playful and joyful connection to water (with all its feminine and sexual connotations). But are these qualities enough to convince her lover to stay?
Excerpt from “Totem”
Shay dipped her left wing and glided around the bow of the cruise ship. She flew by the next row of windows, glancing in each as she searched for Tala’s cabin. In her human form, she would have laughed at these people who were here to experience rugged Alaska. Out of one eye Shay could see the fjords carved by glaciers, and the dense forests that reached to the shores of the deep channel and provided a home for wildlife, independent settlers, and native people who still knew the old ways. Her other eye scanned the passengers who lounged in their rooms in silk pajamas and merely observed a tiny edge of the wilderness Shay called home. They would snap photos of an orca with their cell phones, eat crab legs and salmon at endless buffets, and take home a few Native American trinkets to remind them of their brief brush with nature. They would never understand what it was like to live the beauty of Alaska inside and out like Shay did. She only hoped Tala wouldn’t be one of them; that she would choose to stay.
What animal(s) best describe you?