When I came home, I didn’t expect to be cutting down bodies. And yet, here I was with my official Frost Giant or Jotun partner, his Ragnarok wolf, and my unofficial Light Elf partner using my Hellfire blade to cut down the unfortunate victims. The perps had hanged them from every tree and lamppost along the University’s walkway. And for once, the perps weren’t Supernaturals, but Normals.
Tonight I entered “The End” on Yes, Ironspell, There is a Santa Claus. Normally, I give myself some time between editing and the first draft, but given the publication date (Christmas) and when it’s actually due on Amazon (Solstice), I’m pretty convinced I have to get it in top shape now. By the way, you can read the first chapter HERE.
This Book Surprised Me
Unsurprisingly, (see what I did there?), the ending changed from what I planned. I realized as I was writing it that the running gag was actually a major piece in the story. Since I don’t want to spoil the surprise, I’ll keep quiet about it. Order a copy, if you haven’t yet.
Frost and Fire should be out in March; You can thank Yes, Ironspell, there is a Santa Claus for that
I know, I know. I promised Frost and Fire after Hellfire, but after writing the first two chapters, I suddenly looked at the calendar and discovered it was October. So, I made up my mind to write the Christmas story first. And yeah, there is a Santa Claus in it, but this isn’t the type of bedtime story to read to your kids. Unless they’re at least teenagers. Look for Frost and Fire on Amazon. I just got the preorder up, so it might be a bit before it shows up on my series list.
If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Hanukah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or whatever you celebrate.
Since I’ve been running a bit late on Oathbreaker, I thought I’d give you a sample chapter to whet your interest. Let me know what you think! You can preorder it HERE.
Oathbreaker — Chapter One
When I met Odin again, I knew I’d need a bigger can of whup-ass. If I managed to survive the army of fallen angels or Watchers, as they called themselves.
Standing in the cavern where Fenrir, the Wolf of Ragnarok, had laid stricken with venom from the Mayan feathered serpent god, Kukulkan, made me realized how fucked up my life was. Everything had been going more or less according to plan until Sigrún, one of Odin’s Valkyries, had betrayed me. She decided to turn the Wolf of Ragnarok back over to Odin, even though I had told her and Odin that I had a plan. Apparently they didn’t trust me enough to at least listen and try it.
Now, all they did was delay Ragnarok, instead of maybe avoiding it altogether. And Kukulkan bit my werewolf girlfriend and her mother, injecting them with powerful venom. My friends, Elryn, the Light Elf and Tuzren, the demon, had transported them out of there before the Watchers could kill them.
Now, I turned in time to see the Watchers rush toward me with their flaming swords drawn. Usually, a Normal person would’ve freaked out and begged for mercy. After all, it’s not every day you get to see bat-winged, albinos with fiery swords and automatic weapons. But, I’m not a Normal, or a person without magic.
My name is Officer Robert “Bob” Ironspell-Cabas, a Denver cop, although most of my friends call me Ironspell, and that’s the name I go by. I’ve been hesitant to call myself a wizard—or a mage, as the stuck-up magic users call themselves—but I’ve been slinging around spells like a fairy grabbing doughnuts on a three-day sugar buzz. In other words, saying I’m not a wizard no longer cuts it. I’m just not the best wizard out there, and as my Dark Elf relatives like to point out, I’m not that well-trained. But, at least I’m housebroken.
So, when the Watchers came blasting into the cavern looking for Fenrir and instead got me, they were understandably upset. I recognized two of them almost immediate: Azazel and Samyaza. The two fallen angels looked both beautiful and menacing as they half flew, half ran towards me. The Watchers looked much as they had when they were part of the Heavenly Host, except they now had bat wings instead of feathers, and their furrowed brows and menacing glares told me all I needed to know. They were pissed.
Azazel’s title was commander of the Watchers, and his white hair was only outdone by his almost translucent skin. Samyaza’s black hair contrasted with the same pale skin. Both were intensely beautiful, but both held haughty and arrogant expressions which marred their faces. They wore fatigues and battle armor in the style you’d see on any GI. As they rounded the corner on me, I cast a shield, hoping to buy enough time to create a portal and get the hell out of Dodge. Except I wasn’t in Dodge.
I was in Montana, somewhere in the wilderness far away from help. So, I tore open a Gateway to Denver and dove towards it. At that moment, I saw what I would call “Dark Force Lightning”—you know, that black and purple lightning that came from Emperor Palpatine’s hands?—hit my Gateway and it snapped shut. I slammed headfirst into the cavern’s wall.
You know how in old cartoons they’d show stars or little birds flying around someone’s head? Seeing stars isn’t exactly like that, but it’s close. More like my vision went tunneled with flashes of lights. The only reason why I didn’t go unconscious was I had my hands out in front of me. And that fucking hurt. Big time.
What hurt infinitely worse was Samyaza grabbing me by the neck and hauling me to my feet, a la Darth Vader. Apparently it was a Star Wars day. I could only wish for A New Hope.
“Where is Fenrir?” the Watcher demanded.
“There are no plans. We’re on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan,” I squeaked. Yeah, witty, I know.
Another Watcher came around from the interior of the cave. I didn’t seem to recall him disappearing. “There’s no one else here. Whoever was here is gone.”
“Acknowledged.” Azazel stood beside Samyaza and leered at me. “So, where did you put the Wolf? Did you bring him to your home?”
“Errrrh…nerrrh…” I gasped for breath.
“Set him down but hold onto him. We won’t get our answers from a dead man.” Azazel looked at me with a calculating expression.
Samyaza looked askance at his leader, but lowered me down until my feet touched the ground. I breathed in as the pressure around my trachea subsided. “I don’t…have…him…” I panted.
“No? Then, kill him.” Azazel turned around to bark orders at the other Watchers.
“But, I know…where…” I began before Samyaza’s fingers tightened on my throat.
“Wait.” Azazel raised a finger. The pressure stopped. “You know where the Wolf of Ragnarok is?” I nodded. “Tell me, then.”
I stayed silent until Samyaza removed his hand from my throat. I coughed a few times. “Why should I tell you? You’ll kill me after you get the information.”
Azazel nodded. “Very shrewd. But I’ll kill you anyway because I think you’re bluffing.”
“Go ahead. Even if you figure out where he is, you’ll never be able to get to him without my help.” I shook my head.
Samyaza reached for me, but hit the shield I silently constructed after Samyaza moved back. Azazel screamed and charged me, but I threw my own version of Force lightning at him. Mentally, I decided to call it “wizard lightning” since I wasn’t working for the Dark Side.
Azazel lit up like a Fae firestorm. The lightning knocked him backwards unceremoniously on his ass and lit his wings on fire. The stench of burning bat wing was enough to make me gag.
I thought I knew what a pissed off demon looked like. I had Tuzren, who was a daemon, technically, though every wizard and mage I knew called his kind demons. Daemons are creatures from other planes of existence and not in the general Nine Worlds—or Nine Universes. The Watchers, aka the Fallen Angels, aka the Judeo-Christian demons were nothing like angry Tuzren. Tuzren, when pissed off, was scary; the Watchers, however, were positively terrifying.
“Kill him!” Azazel shouted and his skin grew red and burst into flame. All at once, the two dozen or so Watchers that assembled around me attacked.
Werewolves and other shifters have fascinated people long before Lon Cheney Jr. appeared as Larry the Wolfman on the silver screen. Just about every culture past and present, had their version of shifters, from skinwalkers to ulfhednar and beserkers to werewolves.
Whether or not you believe the old stories that many people have relegated to myth, you have to admit that the fuzzy ones with big fangs even fascinate us today. But why is that?
Shifters: The Beast Within
Part of our fascination with shifters is the exploration of the beast within us. Each of us humans have the capability of doing evil, or at least, violent acts. It is our civilization which keeps us from turning back into the animals we evolved from. It is our civilization that keeps us from being “the wolf at the door.”
Look at the story, Beauty and the Beast–and other stories along the similar theme. The Beast demands Beauty as the price for her father stealing a rose from his garden. When the father reluctantly sends Beauty (the civilizing factor in the form of a woman), the Beast is taken with her, and only Beauty’s love can free him from his beast nature.
But obviously that’s not all of it. We see shifters in the forms of other creatures like otters (selkies) and foxes (kitsune), although these creatures are often dangerous for humans to deal with. We fear more the human side of the cute and mischievous creatures, who can possibly destroy us with their magic or lead us to our doom.
A Fascination with Metamorphosis
As humans, we’re intrigued by creatures and people who aren’t what they seem to be. The change from human to animal gives the shifter power over us puny “Normals.” They can go places us humans can’t. They can do things we can’t. They can choose which life they prefer and they hold a magical attraction that is hard for us to resist.
How many of us have at one time or another wanted to be a bird and just fly away? Or maybe you imagined you were your favorite pet, who didn’t have to worry about all the things we worry about in our lives? Or maybe you just admired an animal you saw and wished people could be more like that animal? If you have, trust me, it’s normal. Animals don’t necessarily have it great in nature, but we idealize them a lot. So, the concept of changing into one is magical, in more ways than one.
Just as the act of changing from one thing to another is magical. Whether it’s a child growing up to an adult, getting a degree in college, or becoming something you weren’t even a few years ago. We’re fascinated with butterflies, who start as lowly caterpillars.
Shifters Changed in a Variety of Ways
If you’ve been a fan of Urban Fantasy for any length of time, you know that shifters can change in a variety of ways. In myths and legends, a very common way people changed to werewolves was with magic. Someone puts a wolf skin or a belt on and they shift to a wolf. Or someone drinks a potion or casts a spell and they become a wolf. Or someone is cursed and becomes a wolf. In Norse legends, the goddess Freyja could change into a hawk by wearing a cloak of hawk feathers.
Some shifters were naturally born shifters. If you were Fae, chances are you were born with your abilities. Selkies, for example, were pretty much born into being selkies and not changed by a curse or magic.
Another popular way to become a shifter was for another shifter such as a werewolf to bite or scratch you. Then, you received the curse that the shifter had. Along those lines, a full moon could change people into werewolves, possibly related to Artemis/Diana legends and the strange behavior some people seem to show around full moons (at least anecdotally).
Location, location, location. It’s all about location, which is why you may be wondering why I chose to locate The Ironspell Chroniclesin Denver, Colorado.
Denver, The Mile-High City
I spent a good portion of my youth and adult life in Denver, Colorado, which made it a prime target for a book series such as The Ironspell Chronicles. I got my degrees from the University of Denver, met my spouse, and got married there. And I spent a good portion of my town in the Front Range and the mountains nearby.
In other words, I know the area well.
But There Are Other Reasons for Choosing Denver
A lot of urban fantasy writers choose areas they’re comfortable with. Those cities include New York, Chicago, LA, Palo Alto, St. Louis, Kansas City, New Orleans, the Tri-Cities, etc. A good friend of mine, Gary Jonas, wrote his Jonathan Shade and Kelly Chan books in Denver. Although he’s enjoyed some real success with it, I wanted to place my stories in a world I was comfortable writing.
I feel that Denver isn’t used that much in Urban Fantasy–certainly it isn’t a place people think, gee, Harry Dresden has that town... In other words, I wanted to make Denver Ironspell’s home town.
That being said, yes, I know that Denver is the setting for the Kitty Norville series, but because I am writing a different type of series, I felt that Denver could be a good stomping ground for my protagonist who needed a bit more than just Denver to work in.
Lots of Plot Opportunities
Denver is just a stone’s throw away from the Rocky Mountains which gives me great places to include in my stories. I also know the history behind a lot of the places I’ve included, so it’s fun to incorporate them into my writing.
I’m beginning to plot out Wolfsbane, which will be Book 3 in the Ironspell Chronicles. Today, I decided to put together the cover. For inspiration, if nothing else. Check out the new Wolfsbane cover and tell me what you think.
Today I wrote “The End” on Elfshot! Elfshot is now completed in its first draft. And imagine that, you get a sneak peek at the ending, even though it doesn’t spoil anything in the story, so you can rest easy and look at it. (Okay, there’s a minor spoiler in it, but I won’t let on because that would, like…spoil the story.)
It sits at a comfortable 54,725 words. That will change with edits.
Anyway, my plan is for Elfshot to go live in early October. (The October 14th listing on Amazon gives me a couple of weeks of slippage in case life gets in the way…)
One thing that is always fun is learning about my characters as I write. I’ve introduced a few more characters than I had in Alchemist Rules that are likely to become a more permanent addition to the Cast of Characters. So far, the supporting characters in the series I have include:
Elryn, Light Elf Warrior
Li’alla, Dark Elf Warrior
Nana, Dark Elf Matriarch
Fluffy, Vicious Chicken
Sabine, Ironspell’s Mom
Johann Henrik, Ghost
Spaz, Werewolf Hacker
Tobias St. Claire, Vampire
Duncan, Idaho Springs Police Officer
Alaric, Alpha of the Denver Wolf Pack
Frank Winter, DWTF Wizard
Thinking About My Cast of Characters
I have other characters, but those are the ones off the top of my head. Every character, both major and minor, are unique in some fashion. It’s incredibly important, given the large cast of characters. I have to really think how to differentiate between those our hero is constantly dealing with on a day-to-day basis. They all can’t act the same or talk the same, so I have to keep that in mind when dealing with them.
Why So Many?
After looking at the list of those supporting, major, and minor characters I need to keep on hand, I gasp at the number. But then, I realize that like us, Ironspell knows a lot of people due to the nature of his work as a cop. Also, I remind myself that few people are actually hermits. We all meet plenty of people in our day-to-day lives. So, why shouldn’t Ironspell? The fun part is making them realistic and quirky.
With that, I leave you with my current word count for Elfshot: 47,122 words. Getting close to the end. Still have to write the big fight scene.
The chamber looked like it had once been a guest hall or something that housed a lot of people or things. Columns flanked its sides that led into smaller alcoves which housed statues of what I guessed were famous Dark Elves. Above them, the ceiling stretched for at least three stories in a type of dome that had no opening to the outside and yet shown with a luminescent glow that lit all the way down to the floor. We could see across the great expanse toward the single door guarded by two of Vindar’s soldiers. The Ignore Me spell seemed to work as their eyes passed by us without noticing the two apparent Drow soldiers and a demon on the other side of the hall.
Painted murals extended from floor to ceiling, worn over time by dust, heat, and earthquakes. They depicted scenes I didn’t recognize. Above us looked like the Norse god Freyr handing something to what I suspected was a Dark Elven king. The god was amazingly beautiful with long blond hair and a blond beard—even to a heterosexual man such as myself—he was attractive in a manly sort of way. A large golden boar stood before him and the Dark Elf king had one hand on its flank as if giving the boar to the god. Another god with red hair like fire and beardless, presumably Loki, was standing next to the Dark Elf king.
I had seen paintings of the gods before, mostly done in sort of Romanesque-type images, but this was not in that style. They appeared life-like and in clothing that the Northern tribes would’ve worn given the period of the design. My gaze shifted lower to the images of a battle. Dark Elves and Light Elves battling each other. The king of the Dark Elves stood in the center, fighting what appeared to be the Light Elven king. Another mural depicted Dark Elves breaking their chains with hammers. And yet another one showed a battle with newer armor and Dwarves attacking the Dark Elves. I turned and saw yet another mural showing two worlds, both lush and green, colliding in a terrible cataclysm. A chunk of one world spiraled off into space, while the two suns were caught together in a slow dance of death.