The Beast Within

The Beast Within

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?


7 thoughts on “The Beast Within

    1. Hey, Deb! It’s available now 🙂 It has some awesome and original takes on the shapeshifter theme.

  1. Great post, Karis! I was one of the few girls who wasn’t into horses when I was younger, but I can really see from the way you write about them how you made a connection with them. I’d never have thought of comparing the two, but I think what you found in horseriding, I found in karate – that sense of grace, control and flow.

    As for animal alternates, I’ve always seen myself as a cat – but now I come to think about it, there’s something of a water creature about me too. Maybe that’s why my second story in She Shifters is about a selkie. Or maybe I just got it totally wrong, and I’m an otter! 😉

    1. I absolutely see the relation between karate and riding. They both require discipline and centering — they’re sports that are as much about internal connection as they are about external skills.
      I enjoyed both of your stories in this anthology. I love being near the ocean, so selkie myths have always intrigued me. And who can resist a purring kitty?

  2. I love stories with all kinds of animals but my favorites are dragons and wolves. Since I was born in the year of the dog this is where my traits came from. Dogs symbolizes loyalty and the future but as I got older and found my spirit guide animal revealed herself to me in a dream I know this is where the path has lead me. A wolf symbolizes stability, thought, loyalty, success, perseverance, and the past. Also love coyotes symbolize duality, humor, insight, sarcasm, playfulness, and the ability to see both sides of an issue. The white wolf has just shown itself to me in the past three years as my spirit guide animal and protector so I believe I’m on the right path now as my true self. I have found out I have a talent for story telling and am working on becoming a writer. I have always been drawn to shape-shifting. As I have already been exploring in the kids book and also in my lesbian erotic stories that I’m working on.

    1. How wonderful that you’re honoring your calling to be a storyteller. The wolf and coyote qualitites you mentioned really seem to resonate with the creative life. I do a little volunteer work at a wolf sanctuary, so I connect with those two animals as well. Here’s one of our residents (I thought of him when I read your post):

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