About today’s guest: Natale Stenzel
Natale is offering one commenter a free copy of one of the two prequels to BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HEART PLACE (Dorchester ~ March 2009), the third book in her series of funny paranormal romances. Today’s winner will have a choice of either PANDORA’S BOX (book 1) or THE DRUID MADE ME DO IT (book 2). Just leave a comment on this post to be entered. Winner will be announced at end of Full Moon promotion. Last day to enter Saturday, March 25th at midnight central U.S. time.
First, thank you to Lori for hosting me today — I’m really excited about participating in a month-long celebration of the werewolf. I’m a huge paranormal fan and the genre just is not complete without our powerful, furry shape-shifter to liven up a plot and take the conflict to such a crucially primitive level.
Next, a confession: As much as I love them, I do not write about werewolves. Instead, I write about the more light-hearted, Celtic cousin to the werewolf, called a puca.
[Natale looks around, noticing lots of blank stares.] What? You’ve never heard of a puca?
Okay, okay. A definition. The puca (which can be spelled a zillion different ways) is a half-human, half-faery, shape-shifting trickster from Celtic and British folklore. In traditional mythology, the puca preyed on travelers, preferred the shape of a black horse with yellow eyes, and liked to take unsuspecting humans (or ones who ticked him off or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time) on a puca ride. What was the significance of this? Who knows, other than that this ride supposedly changed the rider’s life forever after. I never could find any but the sketchiest of explanation. Also according to folklore, November 1 (November Day, a.k.a. the puca’s day) is the one day per year when the mischievous puca can be expected to behave civilly. He may even hand out prophecies and warnings to those who consult him.
Also interesting, if you’ve read or seen Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you might remember the trickster Puck. He’s supposed to be the bard’s vision of a puca. In some cases, the puca also answers to the name of Robin Goodfellow, which, coincidentally (or not) is also an alias for the devil. Some say the legend of Robin Hood is rooted in the puca myth, as well. Perhaps the most well-known puca — but way different from my vision of one — was the six-foot-tall invisible rabbit in the movie Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart.
So we have a shape-shifting magicky type with a mischievous bent and the ability to hand out prophecies. Tell me this doesn’t start the wheels turning in your head. Even better, given the dangerous lack of detail beyond these basics, I felt almost obligated to take wild liberties with the tradition, warping and elaborating on the myth to suit my own story purposes. I had a little fun with this, I admit.
Take, for example, my puca half-brothers, Riordan and Kane, who were born to human women but fathered by Oberon, the King of all Faery. In spite of the “sprite” classification and the puca’s traditional preference for the horse form (a bit unsexy, you know?), I decided my puca’s base form would be human in appearance and manner, if a bit larger than life. Okay, so not just a bit. We’re talking one sexy, nearly irresistible and utterly incorrigible human form. These uber-masculine brothers dominate the first two books in my series.
In Pandora’s Box, we meet Riordan, who was cursed by an angry Druid daddy (I’ll bet you can guess why!) to live in a cornerstone for 2000 years . . . unless he can break that curse with the help of his equally cursed guardian Mina. Then, in The Druid Made Me Do It, we have wickedly appealing Kane, forced to redeem himself for any number wrongs he’s committed over the centuries. Although sincere, he finds penitent to be an unfamiliar role for him and so he needs a mentor of his own: Janelle, a physician whose to-hell-with-self idealism gets her into her own brand of troubles. Especially when Druids compensate her for her mentorship with the gift of healing with just a touch . . . any touch.
With this third book, Between a Rock and a Heart Place, I twisted things even more. Without giving away secrets from the first two books, let me just say that we now have renegade puca powers suddenly finding a new host in accountant Daphne Forbes, a non-practicing Druid who wants nothing more than to start a new, seriously normal life far away from her weirdo upbringing. That’s hard to do when suddenly she’s cursed with magical powers she can’t control. One moment she’s a woman; the next she’s a cat. Even worse? She can’t shift back to human form without the magical help of enigmatic nature spirit Tremayne. His role’s a tough one, too. Fascinated by Daphne for months now — and newly convinced that she holds the key to his continued existence — Tremayne faces the monumental task of teaching her to control her new powers before they drive her (literally) insane. If he fails, he’ll have no choice but to put her down like a rabid dog. Or wolf.
So there you have it. A werewolf in Celtic clothing. The cool thing about my version of the puca is his (or her) ability to shape-shift not just into a wolf, but into nearly any living being. At one point in this last story, Tremayne asks Daphne to envision any creature in the world that she’d like to be. And then shift into that form. Given that same choice . . . what creature would you become (temporarily) and why?
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