rosa_acicularis: (calvin and writing)
rosa_acicularis ([personal profile] rosa_acicularis) wrote2011-10-22 09:49 am

you're everything that a big bad wolf could want.

So I'm not going to set up a NaNo filter yet, because I don't know that I'm really going to make that many posts about it and it seems silly to set up a filter and never use it, so. If this handy introductory post catches your interest, and you say to yourself, "Self, I'd really quite enjoy the occasional post about the wacky adventures of these wacky werewolf chaps," then please let me know and I will add you to the filter that does not yet exist. If you are one of those GODDAMMIT, NOT ANOTHER NANO POST people, please let me know and I will set up a filter immediately, for fear of your mighty wrath.

So the big lesson I'm trying to learn from NaNo this year is to loosen up on my obsessive self-editing death grip as I write, which means I have to deliberately let myself be messy, which means my head will probably explode by the end of the first week. Even this summary is hard for me to post, because the writing is flatter and more utilitarian than I would usually share with you guys, but - okay, shutting up and getting to the point now. This is a rough summary of Phases, a contemporary-set novel about werewolves, fairy tales, and the world through a monster's eyes. Enjoy.

Or not. Whichever.



It was the night before the full moon, and the dogs were howling.

Regina heard the Albright’s dog first; Baxter was throwing himself against the backyard gate, baying like a foxhound on the hunt. The dogs of the neighborhood took up the cry, retrievers and terriers and the arthritic Great Dane that lived on the next block raising their voices in a single, furious chorus.

Regina pressed mute on the TV remote and listened.

It was a warning, that much was obvious. Trying to understand a dog’s bark was a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation in Pig Latin, but she knew enough to get the general idea. Do you smell that? Baxter was asking. That is a bad smell; do you smell it?

Some dogs did, and some didn’t; they all passed the word along. Bedroom lights in neighboring houses flickered on, lighting the sleeping street. Regina stood and went to the back door. After a moment’s hesitation, she opened it and stepped out onto the patio.
 
Baxter ran to her, still barking. Do you smell it? his bark asked. Do you smell the other wolf?
 
++
 
When she was twelve years old, Regina Walter was bitten by a werewolf.
 
She was asleep in bed when a stranger woke her. They spoke for a few minutes; she thought she was dreaming. The stranger was friendly, handsome, young – when he became a great white wolf before her eyes, she wasn’t frightened. She didn’t scream until he attacked.
 
Her parents slammed into the room – her father with his gun, her mother with hers. The stranger escaped through the window. Regina’s father drove her to the nearest hospital and left her there.
 
She never saw either of her parents again.
 
On her second night in the hospital, a new nurse came and sat beside Regina’s bed. Her name was Claudia Kepler, and she was a nurse in a big hospital in Portland. She was also a witch. 
 
Claudia was one of a network of supernatural and/or supernaturally-aware people who contact Dr. Peter Talbot when they believe someone has been attacked (turned or killed) by a werewolf. Dr. Talbot was a werewolf, too, and he hoped through his research to discover a cause and cure for lycanthropy. He interviewed Regina about the attack and the stranger, and arranged for Claudia to become her legal guardian. Peter told Regina that her condition didn’t have to rule her life; she never believed him.

Claudia and Regina lived together for six years in a little house outside the city. Claudia taught Regina how to control and manage her lycanthropy. When she graduated from high school she met Peter Talbot again; he’d decided to settle in Oregon to analyze the data he’d spent years accumulating, and he wanted Regina to be his assistant. She agreed, and they began to work and live out of Peter’s house in southeast Portland.

This story begins six years later, when a series of violent deaths in a rural town west of Portland are attributed to wolves. As the only true wolves in western Oregon are in the Portland zoo, this suggests to Peter that one of the area’s werewolf packs has turned to man-eating. His prime suspects is the Edgar Lake pack, a huge, cultish pack in rural Hillsboro, not far from where the bodies are found. Regina suspects that Peter has a history with the leaders of the Edgar Lake pack, but as always he’s uniformly closed-mouthed about his past.

At first Regina helps Peter in his investigation, but he quickly begins to push her out of it. Eventually it comes to the point where he fires her and kicks her out of his house. Furious, she moves into the ‘werewolf halfway house’ that Peter maintains in the city. Regina’s best friend Mae lives in what she describes as the frat house equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys - a group of packless young werewolves who together form a pitiful sort of anti-pack. With their help, Regina strikes out on her own to find the killer.

Throughout wolf and werewolf mythology, they are the outsiders - the freaks, the monsters, the exiles from healthy, normal, human society. Regina feels this exile keenly, and so she keeps herself apart even from those who could offer her comfort and complicity - a created-family to replace the one that was taken from her. She must learn to be needed, and to need - no matter how vulnerable to hurt and betrayal that will make her.
 
++

Regina Kepler:
Regina’s parents are academics who spent her childhood traveling the world, often with her in tow. Her father is German, her mother British, of Indian descent. Regina is of average height and build, with dark skin, eyes, and hair. She has a scar on her left arm from a werewolf bite when she was twelve, and other, less obvious scars from an adolescence spent learning control of her lycanthropy.

Regina is clever, but after she was bitten she became an unenthusiastic student, believing that the constraints of her condition left her with few options for a career. Despite Claud’s best efforts, Regina had no intention of going to college when Peter made his job offer. She was well and eclectically educated as a child, but because of her apathy, she only just managed to graduate from high school.

Claud is probably one of the only people Regina would admit a serious attachment to, but she also cares very deeply for Peter and Mae, and Aubrey and Madison Albright, the children she babysits.

Regina shifts into Canis lupus pallipes, commonly known as an Indian or Iranian wolf. She is considerably smaller than most werewolves, and her coloring is greyish red. When shifted she can pass rather easily as a dog, much to her chagrin. Peter calls her shifted form ‘Ginger’, but only when he’s well out of snapping range - even small wolves have sharp teeth.  

Claudia Kepler:
Claud is an ICU nurse, and her magic ability primarily concerns death and the dying. She is a short, plump, attractive African American woman in her early forties. While not a particularly maternal person, she was in many ways the perfect parent for Regina. She is exceptionally well grounded emotionally, and very intelligent. She is also unashamedly and enthusiastically nerdy and pop culture aware.

Peter Talbot:
Peter is a tall, slightly awkward-looking white man who appears to be in his mid-thirties. He is as color-blind in human form as he is as a wolf, and as a result is a firmly jumpers-and-jeans sort of man. His aura of absent-minded professor is only half an act.

Peter was born in Ireland in the 1890s. He was a priest until he was bitten by a werewolf. He believed at the time that he had been cursed because he had broken his vows by sleeping with a married parishioner. He left the Church and lived wild for years.

During that time he was often hunted by the Arcadians, a secret human society that sprang up in Victorian England to hunt, kill and study werewolves, which were seen as a threat to the Empire - particularly as they endangered its interests in India. Most werewolves believe that the Arcadians disappeared after WWII, a casualty of a changing Britain, but Peter is skeptical.

After he rejoined civilization, Peter became obsessed with finding the cause and cure of lycanthropy. He traveled widely, interviewing lone wolves, packs, the newly bitten and those who born werewolves. He studied human and wolf biology, genetics, mythology, and each new development in technology left him with more questions than answers. After the new century begins, he decides to settle in the Pacific Northwest and begin to comb through the masses of information he’s acquired in the past few decades.

His relationship with Regina is the central one in his current life, but he’s wary of relying too much on her emotionally. He has been good friends with Claud since she was very young, and he does occasionally date, though when he does it’s usually outside the werewolf community.

When Peter shifts, his wolf form shows some of his age. He is a large Eurasian wolf, and his coloring is dark with a white underbelly. Only a particularly dim human would ever confuse him for a dog.

Mae:
Mae’s past is a mystery; it seems likely that, like Regina, she was bitten as a child and rejected by her parents. She spent her teen years aligning herself with one street kid wolf pack or another, but she is very used to being on her own. She currently lives in the halfway house Peter runs for young werewolves who are otherwise homeless and packless.

Mae and Regina are best friends, in as much as either of them are capable of close friendship. Mae and Peter compete over Regina’s time and attention - not that Regina notices.  

Mae is charismatic, crude, aggressive and a little delightful. She works as a barrista or waitress when she can manage to keep a job for more than a few days at a time. Petite, pale and peroxide blonde in human form, when she shifts she’s a much larger wolf than Regina, and her coloring is rare, pure black.

Aubrey Albright:
Aubrey is nine years old, and she and her little brother Madison are in Regina’s care a few days a week. Aubrey’s parents are more interested in touring various wine countries than in spending time with their children - they’re the kind of parents who had kids because they thought children would suit their image.

Aubrey has known Regina since she was four years old, and there’s a fair bit of hero-worship going on there. She wants to be as much like Regina as possible, in every way. She’s disdainful of her parents and their good-natured superficiality, but is also desperate for their attention.

Madison Albright:
Madison is six years old, and since he was about a year old Regina has been the most important adult in his life. He is an old soul, much quieter than his sister, and a dreamer. The family beagle Baxter is really his pet more than anyone else’s, and he adores Peter’s ‘dog’ Ginger. If he’s ever noticed that Ginger and Regina are never in the same place at the same time, he has yet to mention it.   

Thomas:
Thomas is a white man in his early twenties who lives in the werewolf halfway house with Mae and, later, Regina. He was bitten when he was a boy, while on a Boy Scout camping trip. He is particularly intelligent, and has learnt to hide his rather sweet personality beneath a defensive shield of prickly assholishness. He’s fascinated by Peter’s research, and wants badly to take Regina’s place as his research assistant. He lost an eye when he was attacked as a boy.

Hana:
Hana is a Korean-American woman who lives in the werewolf halfway house with Mae and Thomas. Her age is difficult to determine - she appears to be about 18, but she is almost certainly much older. She is formal, very buttoned up, with an exact, polite manner. In her interview with Peter, she told him that she became a werewolf voluntarily - in fact, she searched out her local hairy recluse and forced him to turn her. She’s a little terrifying, and probably wouldn’t join a pack even if one would have her.

Lawrence:
Lawrence is a white, eighteen year old boy-man. He was born a werewolf - as were both his parents - and is part of the Edgar Lake pack. Like many born werewolves, he is disdainful of both mundane humans and bitten werewolves – the ungulates and the cursed. When Edgar Lake wolves turn eighteen they can choose to live outside the pack for a year, like an Amish rumspringa. Lawrence is spending his year living in the werewolf halfway house with Mae, Thomas, and Hana. He’s a terrible housemate.
 
Lucie:
Lucie is Lawrence’s twin sister. (Twins and triplets are extremely common among born werewolves.) She is relentlessly ambitious, and hopes to become the new leader of the pack when the old leader Nance dies.
 
Nance:
Nance is ancient, but only seems to be about eighty or ninety years old. She is likely of Native American descent, but isn’t the sort to volunteer that kind of information. She is the current leader of the Edgar Lake pack, but she is dying. She is wise and largely benevolent, but has little patience or care for the world beyond her pack. If the Edgar Lake pack has turned to man-eating, it’s unlikely that they did so without her knowledge and approval.
 
Milo Magnus:
Milo is Nance’s second in command in the Edgar Lake pack. He is not her mate, but if Lucie has her way, he’ll be hers when she steps into power. Milo is a charmer, and out of place in the Edgar Lake pack despite his high position within it. He is a white man who looks to be in his early thirties, but is probably much older. He is almost certainly English. He and Peter seem to have met before.
 
Elizabeth Jimenez:
Liz is an attractive Latina woman in her mid-forties. She is an Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife trooper, and she first met Peter more than a decade ago when she was on the job investigating an animal attack. Peter told her about the existence of werewolves after they’d been dating for almost a year. She dumped him, but they remain wary friends.
 
Arthur Summers:
Art is a white man in his sixties. He is Claudia’s neighbor, and they’re good friends. Art is remarkably spry for his age, and is a passionate cyclist. Despite the modest neighborhood in which he lives, Art is wealthy and well-connected. He seems to be human, but he knows a great deal more about the supernatural world than any retired bank executive should. He was around a lot when Regina was growing up, and helped her learn control over the wolf.
 
++
 
Mythology
 
In this ‘verse, there are two ways to become a werewolf: you can be bitten by one when he or she is shifted into wolf form, or you can be born a werewolf if one or both your parents are afflicted. The odds are considerably higher if both parents are wolves, but it is possible otherwise. There have been rumors of werewolf children born to two human parents, but these have never been substantiated.
 
When a werewolf is shifted, his human mind can be overwhelmed by animal instinct if he does not learn control. A werewolf in control of her own mind can shift from human to wolf form and back whenever she likes, except on the night of the full and new moons. During the full moon, a werewolf must be in wolf form; on the night of the new moon, a werewolf must remain human.
 
There’s none of this ‘bipedal wolf-monster’ nonsense in this ‘verse. A werewolf in wolf form is almost indistinguishable from a true wolf. When the human mind is in control while in wolf form, the eyes usually keep their original human color, rather than turning to yellow.
 
There are a lot of questions about how and why any of this happens, and Peter has spent decades trying to answer them. When he was first bitten, he believed he’d been punished by God – that the wolf was a physical manifestation of his sinful nature. He spent most of the second half of the 20th century convinced that the answer lay in genetics, but despite his best efforts that line of investigation has yet to yield any results. Now he’s going back to personal accounts, to folklore, to mythology and literature to find his answers.

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