Sunday, August 29, 2010

Excerpt Mondays: Kitty Goes to War by Carrie Vaughn

The winner of Carrie's book is: Pat. Congratulations, Pat. Send me your contact information and I'll send the book to you. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Excerpt: Kitty Goes to War

I sat at my desk, my monitor and microphone in front of me, maps and notebook paper spread over the whole surface. I was writing down addresses and marking points on the map as people called in.

"So you're saying it burned down and nobody could find out why?" I asked Pam from Lexington.

"That's right," she said. "My friend Stacy who's kind of a witch said it's because it was on a crossroads, and something demonic must have happened there, one of those deal-with-the-devil-type things, and the energy overflowed and incinerated it. Could she be right?"

"I don't know, Pam," I said. "That's why I'm discussing the topic, to find out if these events are all coincidence or if something spooky really is going on here. Thanks for the data point. Okay, faithful listeners, that gives me about a dozen independently verifiable stories about supernatural happenings at Speedy Mart convenience stores all over the country. This is already more than I thought we'd get, so keep them coming."

After the third person suggested that something weird was going on at Speedy Mart, I started paying attention. And wondering. And remembering a couple more stories I'd heard about intersections between the chain of stores and weirdness. Then I decided to devote an episode of my call-in radio show to the subject. It turned out that maybe something strange was going on here. That didn't explain why the Speedy Mart chain would have anything supernatural associated with it.

"My next caller is Al from San Jose. Hello, Al."

"Hi, Kitty. I'm such a big fan, thanks for taking my call."

"Well, thank you, Al. What's your story?"

"It's more of a question: is it true that Speedy Mart hires vampires to work the night shift?"

"Funny you should ask," I said. "I once got a call from a vampire who said he was working the night shift at a Speedy Mart. Now, I don't think this means that it's a matter of policy that Speedy Mart hires vampires. I think this guy just needed a job, and there's only so many places open in the middle of the night. But you can definitely see the advantages of hiring the ageless undead to work behind the counter. I imagine they don't get too freaked out about holdups."

"But there's probably not a whole lot of career advancement for vampires there," he said.

"Does anyone working the night shift at Speedy Mart have a lot of opportunities for career advancement? Although with vampires it would literally be a dead-end job." I chuckled. I really shouldn't laugh at my own jokes so much. "Right, we have Chuck from Nevada. Hi, Chuck."

"Hey, Kitty! How you doing?" He was brash, a real talker. This ought to be good.

"I'm doing just great," I said, the standard line. "Where in Nevada are you?"

"Area 51."

Deadpan, I said, "Really?"

"Okay, yeah, I'm from a little town about thirty miles up the freeway from Las Vegas. Near Area 51. And you want to talk about weird stuff going on with Speedy Mart, I've got a story for you."

"Lay it on me."


I leaned back in my chair. "Okay, now you're just making crap up."

"No, seriously, we get sightings all the time. We're one of the stops on the Southwest UFO tour. The Speedy Mart parking lot is one of the best places to see them. UFO hunters park out there with their lawn chairs and binoculars looking for them. It's, like, UFO central!"

"If you say so, but like I always say, there's weird and then there's weird. But I suppose a data point's a data point. Thanks for calling." I didn't have to tell him I wasn't actually going to mark that location on my map. We'd call it an outlier. A real far-out outlier.
Carrie is on a book tour right now, so she won't be able to stop by and answer comments, but I'll be giving away a copy of her new Kitty book, Kitty Goes to War, to one commenter here. The winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday night. Stop back by to see if you won.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Excerpt Monday: Starts 8/30 with Carrie Vaughn and The Passage

Excerpt Monday starts off with a bang! An excerpt from Carrie Vaughn's new Kitty book, Kitty Goes to War will be our first post on Monday, August 30. I hope you'll stop by and take a peek.

Also, I just finished The Passage by Justin Cronin. I almost gave up on it in the middle, but I'm glad I finished it. And, now I want to know what happens next, so I'm looking foward to the next book. Have you read it? What did you think?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Vampire Shrink at Kindle Nation Daily

The Vampire Shrink is a sponsor today at Kindle Nation Daily. I hope to introduce my series to even more new readers:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Guest Blogger: Vonna Harper

Vonna's winner is: Jeanette8042! Congratulations! Send me your contact information and I'll pass it along to Vonna. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Mt. Shasta of Northern California rises stark and challenging in the distance. No wonder ancient peoples considered the massive peak the home of their gods.

Where I stand at the Lava Beds National Monument, Mt. Shasta seems to watch over me. I've come to this remote and foreboding place to research the Modoc Indians who found shelter in the caves created during a volcanic eruption ten thousand years ago. The Modocs once had no use for the vast lava beds, prickly sagebrush, and frozen winters. But conditions at the reservation they were forced to share with their enemies the Klamaths became intolerable. With Kientpoos (who the settlers called Captain Jack) leading them, they left, intending to return to their ancestral home, but settlers had taken over their land. Pursued by soldiers, the Modocs hid in an area that became known as Captain Jack's Stronghold.

They stayed there throughout a long, cruel winter, but the estimated sixty warriors were no match for several thousand soldiers. In the end, Modoc men, women, and children were shipped to Oklahoma. On Oct. 3, 1873, Kientpoos and two others were executed.

With me on this day are three dear friends, all writers. Because we each have our own reasons for exploring the monument, we go our own ways. I head up the trail the Modocs took from their stronghold to nearby Tule Lake. Surrounded by wind and birds and watched by lizards, I try to walk in the Modocs' moccasins. What was it like for a man desperate to feed his family? How did mothers keep their children quiet and warm in those dark places beneath the ground? What were their prayers, their hopes and fears?

Suddenly I know I'm no longer alone. Looking up further along the trail to the outcropping where Modoc scouts watched for signs of attack, I see a man. He wears his black hair in a bowl cut under a small-brimed hat with an eagle feather in it. A ragged wool blanket is over his shoulders, and he carries a rifle.

This can't be! I've seen drawings and photographs of Modocs during the war. My imagination has the best of me. With my heart pounding, I continue up the steep, rocky slope. The Modoc waits for me, looking tired and wary. Then the sun escapes from the cloud that had been over it, and I see tears in the warrior's eyes.

Seconds later he's gone.

Both as Vonna Harper and under my real name, I've been writing about Native Americans for many years. My experience at the Lava Beds isn't unique. I've seen Seminole warriors in the Florida Everglades and an old Chumash woman kneeling in the Indian graveyard at a California mission.

How can I not write about Native Americans and their spiritual beliefs? What choice do I have but to explore the depths of a people's oneness with all things nature?

While Jola, my heroine in Falcon's Captive isn't Native American, she is a shape-shifter. The roots of who she is comes from Native American roots.

I believe the opening is an example: "The wind screamed, prompting the female Falcon Jola to pull her wings more tightly against her compact body and increase her speed. Alive as only a newly mature predator can be, she dove for the ground at over two hundred miles per hour. Tiny, bony tubercles in her nostrils slowed the rush of air into her lungs while her protective third eyelids lubricated her eyes and kept her vision keen."

And because I write erotica, as a Just Erotic Romance Review reported, "The sex is fabulous, inventive, and orgasmic."

Vonna will give away a copy of her book to one commenter. Her winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday evening. Stop back by to see if you won.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Guest Blogger: Louisa Kelley

The winner of Louisa's book is: Sarah Raplee. Congratulations, Sarah! Give me your contact information and I'll pass it along to Louisa. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Thank you Lynda, for inviting me to be here today!


This is a big shout out to all of your dragon lovers out there. Are you as crazy about dragons as I am?

As I am a paranormal romance author, I absolutely HAD to write a story about these myth-drenched creatures -- with my own special twist of course! As you can see from the cover of my book, Lydia and the Draca, this erotic paranormal story is about dragons; specifically, a clan of lusty shape-shifters called the Draca.

What on earth is so incredibly compelling and fascinating about the dragon mythology? Certainly I’ve asked myself that many times over the years, as my obsession with all things dragon has been with me since I started reading fantasy books in my childhood. And did dragons ever, really exist?

Here’s a quote from Wikipedia: “Statistically improbable, Dragons are the most likely impossible creature to exist, with a higher (though equally near infinite) improbability assigned to Fairies, Gnomes, Pixies, Witches, and Elves, in that order.”

Hmmm. Truly, they never existed? Sadly, probably not. However, the legendary powers and character aspects of dragons contain a powerful imagery that illuminates something deep in the human unconscious.

A dragon is a symbol of the raw, primal power of life itself. Left alone, it is dormant. Awake, it can manifest as the power of chaos and destruction. Yet, with guidance and education, the dragon's manifestation of power can be constructive, liberating, illuminating. Power of good and evil all encompassed in one entity — exactly the same for us human creatures. Human capacity for good is equal only to its capacity for evil and destruction. Both powers lay within our bodies and spirits, waiting only for the proper trigger to bring them forth.

Which do we choose? Evil or good? (Is there even a gray area anymore?) The mythology of dragons plays out our choices.

Oriental philosophies tended to portray dragons as kind, wise and in service to their enlightened masters. Occidental mythology portrays dragons as evil creatures, laying destruction where it dwells. Fire! Chaos! Death! Yet, in all cases, dragons are shown to have great power. Power that humans have difficulty taming, capturing or controlling. Don’t humans show the same difficulty taming our own destructive natures?

Tales of dragons span cultures and centuries. Almost every religion has stories involving dragons. There is a widespread belief that earlier cartographers used the Latin phrase: “hic sunt dracones” i.e., “the dragons are here, or “here be dragons,” to denote dangerous or unexplored territories on maps.

“Here be dragons” could be used in exactly the same way to denote the unexplored territories of our personal unconscious. When we really dig deep, down into our secret, hidden places, will our findings be dangerous? Exciting? Disastrous? Painful? Full of fire or full of illuminated light?

Which do we choose?

I happily took the entire dragon mythology to a different level, with the addition of the shape-shifter aspect, along with romance and sex. Was it hard to write a story like that? How about incredibly titillating, coming as it did from years of a crazy, secret, fantasy life! Dragons that can become human. Humans that become dragons. Dragons that can love in every possible way in all of their forms. Ahhh…yes!

For artistic inspiration, I use the fantastic dragon images of Ciruelo Cabral. In my opinion, he is one of the great masters of dragon art. I’ve got one of his dragons framed as my muse next to my writing desk.

Check out this site to see what I mean:

And just for fun, if you’re interested in ‘Discovering Your Inner Dragon” take the quiz found at: Discover Your Inner Dragon:

Louisa Kelley continues her obsession with dragons while she writes the second book in her series, “Tales of the Draca.” She'd love you to join her in some over-the-top erotic adventures with the Draca; dragon shape-shifters of a very different kind.

To learn more about Louisa, visit her website at:
Louisa will give away a copy of her book to one commenter. Her winner will be selected and posted on Tuesday evening. Stop back by to see if you won. (Louisa is at work all day and will check comments in the evenings.)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Kindle Author Interview, Undead in the City Giveaway and The Howling God: Mystery of the Wolves

David Wisehart interviewed me at Kindle Author:

In an effort to spread the word about my erotic paranormal novella, UNDEAD IN THE CITY, (and to celebrate my birthday by giving you a gift) I'm going to give a couple of copies away. This is an ebook, so I can purchase it for you from Amazon Kindle or

Here's how to enter:

Check out the excerpts for UNDEAD IN THE CITY on my website ( and answer these questions here as comments:

What was Malveaux's sire addicted to?

Where was Tempest standing when she first saw Malveaux?

Who is Chaz?

Also, please leave a comment for Matt about his wonderful wolf post.

(8/6, I decided to extend the giveaway til 8/22) I'll pick two winners during the evening of Sunday Aug. 22. Check back to see if you won.


THE HOWLING GOD: Mystery of the wolf

By Matt Bille

The wolf has captured humanity’s imagination in a way no other creature ever has. For as long as we’ve been on this planet, we’ve been very well aware the wolf was here first. It hunted from the steppes of Asia to the forests of North America to the mountains of Japan. It is this ubiquitousness, combined with the nature of the wolf itself – intelligent, loyal and loving to family, stealthy, and potentially deadly – which has no doubt led to our fascination with the wolf and the legends of werewolves, known in French-influenced cultures as the rou-garou or loup-garou.

It was from France that the most famous werewolf tale, one based on horrific fact, emerged. The Beast of Gevaudan was blamed for killing at least sixty people (some claim over a hundred) from 1764 to 1767. Terrified peasants told of a wolflike creature, which many thought was an evil sorcerer in wolf form, much larger than an ordinary wolf. Modern investigations indicate the Beast was a conflation of two types of predators: unusually aggressive wolves and a hyena somehow loosed from a menagerie. The hyena, whose stuffed body was recently rediscovered in a museum, was reportedly felled by one Jean Chastel, who was in fact using silver bullets in the belief he was hunting a werewolf. An air of mystery still cloaks this episode, and some still believe a creature much stranger than a hyena was at work.

This fascination with werewolves has not vanished in the age of science, as can be seen by the books and films based on the reported beast of Bray Road in Wisconsin. While documented killings of humans by wolves are exceedingly rare, the fact they are possible – as evidenced by the death of jogger Candice Berner in Alaska in March 2010 - never escapes our imaginations. The lore of the wolf is a rich one, and even the writers of werewolf fiction have yet to take full advantage of all its permutations and mysteries.

Wolves once had the widest distribution of any nonhuman mammal. On every inhabited continent and a surprising number of islands, the wolf was established as either the apex predator or an important link in the chain of predators and prey. They outcompeted or held their niche against bears, big cats, and a variety of predatory mammals that have gone extinct while the wolf has survived. The species even outlasted its larger, more powerful cousin, the dire wolf. A fascinating footnote is that some cryptozoologists are not certain the dire wolf is gone: there are scattered accounts from across the Arctic regions of the waheela, a larger, more heavily built, and more powerful “super-wolf.” Occasionally such reports emerge further south, as with a spate of frightening encounters with an unknown predator in Arkansas in 2006. Native Americans in Montana and the Dakotas spoke of the Shunka warak'in, a strange-looking wolf with a hyena-like appearance. In this case, there is actually a mounted specimen, not especially large but very strange-looking, killed in 1886 and now being tested after being lost for decades.

There are many creatures, inside and outside the genus Canis, called wolves. We all know the grey wolf, but few know of the long-legged maned wolf of South America or its extinct relation the Falklands wolf. Fewer still know of the ghostlike Andean maned wolf, also known as Hagenbeck’s mountain dog, an uncertain species described from skins that indicate a dark-furred animal with shorter legs but a larger mane and a more powerful, fearsome appearance than the “fox on stilts” look of the known maned wolf.

In North America, a relentless campaign of extermination has resulted in the demise of at least six subspecies of Canis lupus. Not surprisingly, two of the most spectacular types were among the first to depart this planet. The Newfoundland wolf, often a solid white in color and weighing well over 100 pounds, became extinct about 1911. The even larger Kenai wolf probably vanished from its Alaskan range about 1915. Today, we know very little about either species except the simple fact that we will never see them again.
The smaller red wolf, Canis rufus, almost disappeared as well. Weighing 40 to 70 pounds and clad in a tawny and cinnamon coat with black or gray markings, this species was restricted to the southeastern U.S. The Texas subspecies is extinct after having survived into the early 1970s. The Mississippi red wolf, driven into the most miserable swamps of Texas and Louisiana, was extinct in the wild by 1980. Its genetic shadow lives in a population of hybrid coyotes into which the last handful of wild red wolves - inbred, sick, and unable to find mates of their own kind - deposited their legacy. (While some experts are unsure of the red wolf’s status as a separate species, American conservation authorities continue to treat it as one.)

Fortunately, a captive population was bred from fourteen red wolves trapped between 1973 and 1979. Beginning in 1987, a few wolves were released onto government-owned land in North Carolina, and other reintroduction projects are underway. There are now over 300 red wolves in captivity or in the reintroduction areas.

As mentioned earlier, Even the island nation of Japan had its wolf – or, actually, wolves. An epidemic wiped out the already-declining population of wolves on the northern island of Hokkaido sometime before 1912. This was the Edo (or Ezo) wolf, a medium-sized, largely grey subspecies designated Canis lupus hattai. There have been a few sighting reports made since the animal’s demise, but these are not generally regarded as strong evidence for survival.

The most mysterious of all wolf tales, though, is the fate of the Honshu wolf, known in Japan as the yamainu or shamainu. The yamainu is normally listed as a wolf subspecies, Canis lupus hodophilax, although the animal was originally described as a separate species, C. hodophilax. A few modern specialists, such as Dr. Yoshinori Imaizumi, have argued this unique identity should be resurrected.

The yamainu was the smallest race of wolf that we know of from anywhere in the world. It was only about fourteen inches high at the shoulder and had disproportionately short legs for a wolf of any sort. It might be said that the nation which gave the world the subcompact car also developed the subcompact wolf.

Centuries ago, the diminutive wolf was looked on favorably in Japanese culture. Folk tales often cast the animal as a friend or guardian of humans. Despite this, the yamainu still had the air of mystery humans have always ascribed to wolves. This may have been due to the species’ vocalizations. These wolves reportedly howled for hours at a time, giving voice to a haunting wail that seemed far too loud to come from such a small animal. To the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, the yamainu was the “Howling God.”

As Western-style farming and the keeping of domestic animals increased, the yamainu took on more of the aura of a threat. By the late nineteenth century, the yamainu had, in many areas, reverted to the role of wolves everywhere – that of enemy of the human race. It was hunted for its fur, because of the alleged threat it posed to livestock, and because of the danger created by occasional rabid specimens. In areas where wolf sightings were once ignored or welcomed, villagers posted magical charms to ward off wolves or actively pursued the animals with traps, weapons, and poison. Governments placed bounties on the animals. As the species became rarer (and thus even less of a real threat), the persecution intensified – an illogical reaction which has occurred many times in many lands where wolves are concerned.

It is commonly believed that the last Japanese wolf was killed in 1905. At the site of this event, in Higashi-Yoshino Village in Nara Prefecture (one of the southernmost prefectures, or states, on the main island of Honshu), a requiem ceremony is carried out each year. The Japanese have exterminated their wolf, but not without regret.

Or have they? There is Japanese saying that “The wolf can hide behind a single reed.” There may be something to it.

Occasional sighting reports have kept the question of the Honshu wolf’s existence open for almost a century now. Brent Swancer, an American cryptozoological researcher living in Japan, unearthed a photograph of a wolf killed in 1910. In 1934, a group of farmers northwest of Hongu reported seeing five or six wolves in a pack. After World War II, sightings increased. According to forester and writer Ue Toshikatsu, this was a logical development, since conscription and war reduced the population of rural areas and produced an increase in the numbers of wild game such as boar and deer.

Sighting reports dropped off again in the late 1950s. Ue Toshikatsu noted that, in this period, forests and wildlife were again under pressure from development. He suggested the wolf survived its presumed demise and began a modest comeback during and after the war, only to meet a final end around 1960.

In 1993, Yanai Kenji published his own story of how, as a mountaineer accompanied by his son and his co-worker, he was startled by a “horrible howling” while hiking toward Ryogami Mountain in 1964. Soon after hearing the howls, the party encountered a lone wolf. The animal watched them briefly, then fled, leaving the half-eaten carcass of a hare behind.

In March 1994, wolf enthusiasts hosted a conference in Nara. Over eighty professional and amateur researchers attended. They presented and analyzed reports from seventy witnesses who had seen wolves or heard howls. An accompanying story in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun stated that a shrine in Tottori Prefecture, just northwest of Nara, was discovered in January 1994 to hold a surprisingly recent specimen of the yamainu. This animal may have been presented to the shrine as recently as 1950.

The largest number of modern sightings have come from the Kii Peninsula. This rugged, mountainous block of land projecting into the Pacific from the southeastern coast of Honshu was the last stronghold of the yamainu.

The photographic evidence, though, has come from other regions. In 1966, a wolf enthusiast named Hiroshi Yagi was driving on a forest road in the central Japanese prefecture of Saitama (well north of the Kii) when he spotted what he believed was a wolf. He stopped, and the animal let him get close while he took photographs. These pictures sparked a renewal of interest, though not all authorities accepted they showed a wolf rather than a domestic dog.

The next claim came from the southern island of Kyushu. On July 8, 2000, school principal and amateur biologist Akira Nishida was hiking on a mountain trail when a canid about three feet in length emerged from the forest and passed within a few yards of him. Nishida whipped out his camera and shot ten pictures. The aforementioned Dr. Imaizumi examined the evidence and said, “I cannot help but think that the animal is a Japanese wolf.” Other scientists were cautious about identifying the animal, but agreed the case deserved investigation. A claim that this, too, was an abandoned dog has divided expert opinion.

Recent expeditions focused on the Kii Peninsula have produced no new evidence, despite trapping efforts and the playing of recorded Canadian wolf howls (this latter tactic seems unlikely to provoke a response from such a differentiated lupine race, but anything is worth a try) . Modern sighting reports that don’t include photographs are hard to interpret: the wolf is beyond living memory in Japan, and some witnesses, at least, no doubt are misidentifying dogs.

Folklorist John Knight suggests the wolf has become a symbol, or metonym, for the place the mountain forests once held in Japanese culture. Such forests were viewed as lands of mystery and danger. In short, the continuing interest in wolves exists because people want to believe the wildness, the mystery, is still “out there,” despite the slender nature of the evidence. This may well be true, but it doesn’t answer the question: is the wolf extinct, or are there nights when, on Japan’s loneliest mountaintops, the Howling God still speaks?

Matt Bille is a science writer and cryptozoologist in Colorado Springs. See his website at
Special thanks to artist Bill Rebsamen (the photos in the post) and to cryptozoologist Angel Morant Fores for providing Japanese publications translated into English by Ishizawa Naoya.