Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Recently, I was cleaning out some old folders and files, re-organizing and clearing away the cruft, and I found myself looking, once again, at a story I wrote some years ago called "Human Aspect".

Its original incarnation was actually sort of a fan-fic response to a novel that Lynn was writing, a high fantasy piece in a world of her own design. At one point in it, the main character meets, for the first time, his paternal grandmother -- a feisty old woman with once-red hair and an eyepatch, who had run away from her home village to be with her lover, a non-human from a race of shapechangers that most humans considered little better than brutal beasts. (Think orcs. But with shapechanging.)

It was a tantalizing bit of world-building, and I desperately wanted to know more about this old woman and even moreso, her lover -- why had he run away to be with her, if these shapechangers considered humans to be, essentially, prey?

And so I wrote this story about a shapechanger who could turn into ("Aspect") a mountain lion and his rival cousin and the human woman he became obsessed with. I pestered Lynn about it endlessly, forcing her to invent details she hadn't even considered so I could plug them in. I invented a lot of my own, as well, and when it was done... I had one of the best stories I'd ever written, actually.

Good enough that I really wanted to see it published. Of course, since Lynn was also seeking publication for her novel, and since fanfic is generally prohibited, I had to go back and change a lot of those details that I'd pried out of her into something else of my own devising, so it would still be my story.

And even then, finding a home for it was a challenge. It's high fantasy, half coming-of-age, half-romance, but it's rather dark, and the main character is, arguably, the bad guy. At least, right up until the end, anyway. It's not short enough to put in an anthology, but it's not long enough to make into a standalone novel. Very difficult to place. So I shelved it.

But when I stumbled across it again, I recalled that Torquere had opened up their Prizm (young adult) line to allow for m/f pairings in addition to LGBTQ ones, and every genre. So I took a chance and threw it over the fence... and they're going to take it!

In celebration, I offer a glimpse and a snippet:
The humans had not ventured deep into the forest or far from their settlement; by the time Dauch caught sight of them, the scents of tilled land and crowded livestock were thick in the air. Dauch crouched in the lower limbs of a nearby tree -- humans never looked up -- and watched.

They were two, a male and a female. The female seemed nervous, almost as if she could scent Dauch, though he was upwind and humans were all but noseblind. The male intrigued him -- perhaps a few years older than Dauch himself, he was short, but his shoulders rivaled Morah's for breadth. Their garments were absurdly restrictive, though the male's sleeves had been rolled up to display bulging, rippling muscle.

He could not understand their speech, though its tone was clear enough. The female was uneasy, and the male attempted to reassure her. He wheedled, the woman resisted. Dauch wondered why he didn't just strike her into submission.

But he kissed her instead. After a moment, the female gave in, relaxing into the male's embrace. Their scents grew warm and strong with desire. The female sank to the ground, and allowed the male to loosen her clothes.

Dauch watched, fascinated. Beneath her ridiculous clothes, the female was plump and smooth. Her limbs were sleek and strong, her hips set broad. Her scent fairly begged for a child to be planted under her copper-colored mound. Dauch could not understand how the male could be so close and not obey its call.

But the male only kissed her, again and again. Dauch's hands curled and uncurled. Even without scent, could he not see that it was time to mount? Not even dumb animals were so stupid!

The male lowered his mouth to suckle at her breast like a hairless babe. Dauch nearly snorted his contempt, but the female tossed her head and cried out like no nursing mother Dauch had ever seen. What peculiar human ritual was this? Dauch crawled further out on his branch, curious.

The branch nearly gave way under him, shifting with a loud crack! Dauch froze.

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