Oooh, Annabeth is a writer completely after my own heart ... werewolves and all. She's hosting a contest of this delish release, so make sure to leave a comment and email addy!
Many thanks to Louisa Bacio for graciously hosting me!
I'm a scientifically minded person, so when I sat down to write a werewolf story, the first thing I did was look up the locations of wolf populations in the United States, where I live. While I'm sure a werewolf could immigrate anywhere he or she pleased, I wanted a place for my werewolves to blend in with the local population of mundane creatures.
I quickly uncovered how limited my choices were going to be. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gray wolves do well in many habitats, including prairie, forest, mountains and wetlands. The continental U.S. used to be one big stomping ground — they were pretty much everywhere except for parts of California, the Southeast, and the mid-Atlantic states. But in the early part of the 20th century, they nearly died out. While they were taken off the endangered species list in the Western Great Lakes region earlier this year, outside of that area (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan), you just aren't going to find a lot of wolves in a lot of places.
Running down population figures for gray wolves in the United States, Montana caught my eye. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recorded, as of December 2010, 1,651 gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain region, of which more than 500 are in Montana. That's tiny compared to the nearly 3,000 it estimates live in Minnesota, but it's a pretty significant population for an area outside of the Western Great Lakes.
I visited Montana in the summer of 2006, and came away with a vivid impression of rolling red hills and fast highways and towns where you didn't need much in the way of entertainment because you had the view. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to put my story there.
I've lived most of my life on the East Coast with an embarrassing lack of knowledge about the names of trees or which vegetables could be local or which kinds of birds are waking me up in the morning. Montana brought me much closer to the greater reality waiting at the edge of every city — that the earth is a wild place beyond human plans or understanding. I could think of no better setting for a paranormal novella about the struggle between societal law and the beast within. This is how Not His Territory came to take place in the Northwest United States, days of driving away from where I sat to write it down.
It's clear from what I've written that I don't follow environmental issues as much as I might wish. Only in researching the story did I learn about the history and current situation of gray wolves. Still, considering that for me werewolves symbolize a wild and necessary freedom, it saddens me to see how their real-life counterparts have been driven to a few corners of a land they used to own.
"Can I take off his marking? I'm glad it kept you safe, but I'm not his territory. It's not his house. I pay for it."
Raul's eyes took on a strange weight. Chandra shivered, too aware of his body. "I wish it were that simple."
"Why isn't it? I can buy spray paint and cover up his mark."
"A territory dispute must be resolved on the full moon in the ancient way."
"The ancient way?"
"A challenge. A battle for control. It's done in fully shifted form."
"Well, I'm not a werewolf. What am I supposed to do?"
"We're set up to be self-policing. Your ex shouldn't be behaving the way he is. Marriages to humans are somewhat frowned upon and are supposed to be done with full knowledge and consent on the part of the human. This obviously wasn't how he did it with you, since you know nothing of our customs. A human has good reason to be wary of marrying one of us, though. Werewolf law often resorts to the ancient way for final arbitration. A human is at a disadvantage in any dispute with one of us. It's much easier when we keep to ourselves." Both of Raul's hands gripped the tablecloth now. Chandra wondered what part of this upset him so much.
"So you're saying he shouldn't have married me."
"Not if he planned to treat you this way." Raul's voice came out as a snarl.
"I mean, because it breaks werewolf law."
"It's not that a werewolf can't be with a human," Raul said. His emphasis on the words "be with" sent a chill down her inner thighs. "It just needs to be done properly." Now Chandra grabbed her own handful of tablecloth. She needed to figure out how to get free of her ex, not become distracted wondering what Raul would consider the "proper" way to be with a human.
"Okay, well." Chandra's voice shook. She forced herself to look at a spot on the wall beyond Raul. If she looked directly at the man, she'd be off on another fantasy before she knew what hit her. "Since that's water under the bridge at this point, isn't there any way to dispute his claim on my house?"
Raul's hand brushed hers. Chandra jumped. "Another werewolf could dispute on your behalf. I could do that for you. If you wanted. I owe you my life as it is."
Chandra waited for him to move his hand away. He did not. She went on speaking anyway, despite the bolts of arousal shooting through her lower belly. "And what then? Am I—I mean, my house—is my house your territory if you win?" Her arms trembled. The idea of being his territory sounded medieval to her brain, but her body loved it. Enough that she involuntarily crossed her legs and squeezed them together, further igniting the heat between her thighs.
"In theory," Raul said slowly. "I suppose so. In practice, only if you want it to be." He smiled. "I'm a werewolf, not a caveman."
After a devastating encounter with an illegally shifted werewolf, a wounded Raul Silva slumps on Chandra Williams’s doorstep, begging for refuge. As an investigator for the legalistic Werewolf Council, Raul’s been sent to look into instability in the local pack. Chandra’s presence makes him want to succeed at his mission for personal — not professional — reasons.
The Werewolf Council disapproves. Chandra is strictly off-limits for Raul according to both the traditions and laws of the werewolves. But after a life devoted to upholding principles, Raul’s instincts and desires are boiling to the surface. Can Raul resist Chandra, or will he break with everything he stands for to pursue a woman who is not his territory?
Annabeth Leong has written romance and erotica of many flavors -- dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. In addition to Not His Territory, Breathless Press published her werewolf story, “The Arcadian Cure,” in its Ravaged anthology. She particularly enjoys playing off myth, legend, fairy tales, and fantastic history. She believes passionately in freedom of speech, rights for people of all sexual orientations, and freedom of religion. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs at annabethleong.blogspot.com, and tweets @AnnabethLeong
Thanks for reading! I'm giving away a PDF copy of Not His Territory to one reader of this post. Simply leave a comment answering the following question:
What is your favorite setting for a werewolf story?
You have until Dec. 3 to respond. Please leave your email address in the BODY of the comment, so I can contact the winner. For more chances to win, check out the other stops on my tour: http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/annabeth-leong/