“King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men inspires Audrey

The Howlers

I didn’t think they would follow me out here where the ice thins and I can hear the crash of the ocean. The wind is wilder here and has freed the ice of its protective layer of snow, making it slick. Slipping now would be fatal. The wind whips off my hood, but I can’t stop to fix it. Their chilling calls rise above the roar of the wind and sea, and I know the Howlers have nearly reached me. My lungs ache with each cold breathe I take, but I push myself harder. I have to.

My eyes leak frozen rivers across my cheeks. I lost my goggles when I tripped and rolled down a powdery hill before reaching the flat ice. The cold and wind burn my eyes. That, and I might be crying. A rush of heat runs up my thigh and all I hear now are Howlers. They’re breathing on me! I scream. It doesn’t help me run faster or release the fear clawing at my heart, but it excites the Howlers. I want to cover my ears to their deafening cries; they know a kill is soon.

No one will hear me out here, days from the shining citadel of Hiverfryt, but I can’t go quietly. I release another scream. It’s part fear and part anger. I was so close to finding my sister when the Howlers caught my scent. Now I never will. Suddenly, my fur boots slip. I try to correct myself by flailing my arms, but there is nothing to catch. I’m grabbing at air as I fall backwards. The Howlers are so close, one leaps over me in a giant stride before turning on me.

Squinting at the sun, he is nothing more than white wisps. Despite this, their teeth are sharper than knives. I’m nearly nose to nose with him, staring into his red eyes before I think to turn on my stomach and cover my head with my hands. Teeth try to find me through the layers of my clothes as I press my nose into the ice. I scream again as one tears off my mitten and bites my wrist. There are paws on my back and my hood pulls taut across my neck. It cuts off my scream.

continue reading …

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“Love Song to California” by Jen Hickman Inspires Julie

LoveSongtoCalifornia_JenHickman

Wer

Drop your human skin in the crease of the lightning-struck tree, and come with me. We’ll return for it at dawn. Let the fur course over your limbs like water, the rigid nails spring from your digits and the nose on your face sprout to house strong teeth and fine whiskers. You are wild now, and you’re mine.

Come, we’ll dance in the last rays of sun while the moon hangs high overhead. We’ll pump our legs and throw our shoulders forward as we gallop through the undergrowth. The tang of foliage is between our toes. You tear through a bed of ferns, and their juices streak your fur.

Push your nose into the dirt, against my side. Fold your tongue over rough bark, the trees that are our fortress. Leave bits of your coat and scent along the border.

We run the perimeter, noting where the deer raise their young, where the eagles nest after the long winter. Your tail swishes against mine, your ears swivel, tuned to forest sound. A half-smile hangs on your lips, your pink tongue falling to the right.

When the circuit’s done, press your nose behind my skull and take the flesh there, shake it gently, then release. I shoot off like a songbird from a hawk, dappling into the shadows of early night.

Follow me. Open your jaw and pant for pleasure, turn the earth beneath your nails and eat up the ground. I’ll be always a step ahead, a flash of fur, a glint of tooth. On the downslope you’ll charge against me so we roll and kick, grunting and yelping like pups. The streaming moonlight reminds us we only have so long.

When I break free, follow me up the slope. Slow your steps in reverence when I reach the top of the embankment where the trees are thin. Long for my throat as I toss my head back and pour my voice out into the night.

The blood purls in your veins and you step up beside me, your jaw opening in release. We are forest keepers, you and I, and our song is the heat of the earth, the cool of the sky, the clamoring life that pervades all.

When the last note has been swallowed by the hills, whine and pace. Nip my ear, and this time show me your throat. Raise your underbelly to the moon and me so you light up white. Graze my face with your paws and thump your tail.

If I go in for the kill, buck me off and fight me. Become the predator of legend, snarl and eyeshine at midnight. If I turn my head away and gaze into the night, kill a hare and lay it at my feet.

If I run, run with me. Follow me. Match me and push me. Shadow me until my breath steams and my muscles tremble. Then make me yours, as you are mine.

***

When the moon abates, put on your human skin.

~*~*~*~*~

A/N: This 500-word fiction is dedicated to the Blood Moon.

For more great art by Jen Hickman, please visit her website (http://umicorms.com/). Illustration © Copyright, Jen Hickman 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Stay tuned for extra content this week from Jen. Return next Monday for Audrey’s answer to this prompt.

Julie’s Book Club: Julie of the Wolves

http://mail.colonial.net/~lregis/julie.jpg

Julie of the Wolves

It had to happen at some point: This week I’m reviewing Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, a very formative book for me. I was a chapter-book reader in elementary school, so that’s probably when I picked up this series.

Craighead George’s Julie series follows a Yupik girl named Miyax/Julie, living in Alaska, who leaves an abusive relationship to try to get to a penpal in San Francisco. She doesn’t make it out of Alaska, but she does find herself in the wilderness developing bonds with a wolf pack. Julie is a survivalist with a knack for communicating with the wolves through body language. They accept her as one of their own, and ultimately she vouches for their safety and survival.

I think this book series helped me decide that I could do anything I set out to do. I would recommend it to any reader, young or old. Craighead George’s writing is nuanced, and she respects the ability of young readers to pick up on subtleties and societal criticism. In the wolf pack and in Julie’s life among humans, she faces obstacles that threaten her life, and the choices she makes effect real change on her path.

When I started reading Julie, I was already a nature appreciator with an interest in animals. These books fully converted me to a wolf lover (I still have some of the drawings on school papers to attest to it). Additionally, the lush descriptions of the tundra were educational and have made me want to visit Alaska (someday!). Craighead George’s deep understanding of wolves and how they communicate also left an impression on me. I may have employed a few of Julie’s communication techniques with the dogs I grew up with. (And who’s to say whether they did or didn’t work?)

If you’re looking for a glimpse of new terrain, a coming-of-age tale, or a quick but deep read, I highly recommend Julie of the Wolves or the entire trilogy.

Jen’s Book Club

Am I the only one who has a strategy when shopping for books? I have it down to a science. First, authors on my radar are perused and back cover blurbs are skimmed. I hold the book in both hands. I open it, careful not to crack the spine. I read. If I make it 3-5 pages in without putting it down, I carry it around for awhile just to be friendly. Lather, rinse, repeat. Then I start over, and try to put them all back. If I have trouble putting them back, I take them home.

I have trouble a lot.

I swear, they give me puppy dog eyes. It’s awful.

Because of the trouble and the puppy dog eyes, my TO READ pile is taking over my life. I think they breed and multiply while I sleep, like rabbits.

I thought I would share a few of the books I was unable to put down: the ones with puppy dog eyes and the breeding propensity of rabbits (in no certain order) (all summaries from amazon.com).

1. Black City, by Elizabeth Richards

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable–they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed–but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

2. Fell, by David Clement Davies

In this dark, thrilling fairy tale, it is the wolf who saves the girl. Fell, the dark-furred twin brother of Larka, the heroine of The Sight, must face life without his sister or the rest of his loving pack. He’s a lone wolf now, a “kerl,” an outcast from his kind who shares his sister’s fatal gift for seeing the future and the thoughts of others. This gift leads him to befriend a young girl, also an outcast from her people. They have a shared destiny: to free the land from a tyrannical ruler who would enslave man and animal alike.
 
The prequel to this book, David Clement-Davies’s bestselling animal fantasy The Sight, is set among the wolves of Transylvania.

3. Sylo, by D.J. MacHale

They came from the sky, parachuting out of military helicopters to invade Tucker Pierce’s idyllic hometown on Pemberwick Island, Maine.
 
They call themselves SYLO and they are a secret branch of the U.S. Navy. SYLO’s commander, Captain Granger, informs Pemberwick residents that the island has been hit by a lethal virus and must be quarantined. Now Pemberwick is cut off from the outside world.
 
Tucker believes there’s more to SYLO’s story. He was on the sidelines when the high school running back dropped dead with no warning. He saw the bizarre midnight explosion over the ocean, and the mysterious singing aircraft that travel like shadows through the night sky. He tasted the Ruby—and experienced the powers it gave him—for himself.
 
What all this means, SYLO isn’t saying. Only Tucker holds the clues that can solve this deadly mystery.

4. Everyday, by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

5. Let it Snow, by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson

Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

I can’t wait to read all of these before fifteen more appear! What’s on your list of books to read?

Jen’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

My “To Read” pile is starting to get out of hand, which means it looks like a skyscraper. Sitting at the top of it is the third installment of Ilsa Bick’s Ashes Trilogy, Monsters. Aptly named for the upcoming holiday, Monsters is sure to be just as addictive as the first two books, Ashes and Shadows.

The series follows Alex’s struggle to stay alive after Earth is devastated by an electromagnetic pulse that kills billions, alters the minds of thousands, and wipes out every computer system in existence. Thrown into a world that’s ending gives Alex, a terminal cancer patient, a chance for survival she didn’t have before. But the blast that may have stolen her tumor also changes kids into mindless things that eat the squishy parts of other humans, and kill to do it. Alliances form among monsters and men, and communities are born out of danger, tyranny, and the hope to stay alive long enough to rebuild the world.

Bick’s plot is thick and visceral in emotion and content so that your heart speeds up with her characters as they fight, quite literally, for their lives. She mixes survival story with horror in an unfolding apocalypse that challenges every human instinct. The fight or flight in this novel in tangible and goosebump-inducing. Fast paced, terrifyingly detailed, and just enough zombies and gore to make a surgery assistant (ie: me) unsure of her stomach, the series is perfect for a Halloween read.

Julie’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club: Webcomic Wednesday

Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell:

I’m a big webcomic reader, so I thought I would discuss one of my favorite webcomics, Gunnerkrigg Court, this week.

This award-winning comic follows the adventures of Antimony (Annie) Carver, a 13-year-old girl who has just begun attending school at Gunnerkrigg Court. The court is full of monsters (including a friendly ghost named Mort and a Minotaur) and mysteries. Annie befriends Kat, another student her age, and the two of them begin to explore the court and search for answers about its inhabitants and its purpose. Some of their adventures include infiltrating the headquarters of the court robots to retrieve a CPU, falling in love with a boy who becomes a bird, meeting creatures from Gillitie Wood (where students are forbidden to enter), and investigating the death of a woman named Jeanne.

If you’re into fantasy creatures, folklore (especially that of the British Isles), robots, science, and talking wolves, this comic is for you. Most of the chapters are episodic and can be read alone, but I recommend starting from the beginning to get the full complexity of the story arcs. Tom Siddell, the comic’s creator, does a great job of fleshing out a varied cast of characters that includes adults and children, fairies, demigods, and other magical creatures. He also sneaks in fun pop culture references here and there, and his sense of humor is understated but spot-on. (If you’re a new reader, don’t miss the comments he includes at the bottom of every comic page.)

Jump in on page 1 here. Tom’s style has evolved quite a lot over the course of the comic (it was launched in 2005). It continues to update Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.