Friday, September 7, 2018

Occasional Beasts: Tales, Story Notes #6: "The Occasional Beast That Is Her Soul"

When I was trying to figure out what to call the new collection, there were many variations of [something] Monster and [something] Beasts, and some related creatures, finally realizing I had a tale with a good name for the collection but didn’t want a tale to be designated that way. So, I simply took the part I needed…and there you go.

But that tells you nothing of the tale.

It originated as response to a blog post by writer Zoe Whitten dealing with shapeshifters. She detailed all aspects of her spin on shapeshifters, which I found utterly fascinating, and made a lot of sense to me. As I dwelled on her observations, I also realized I wanted to dip my quill into a tale dealing with shapeshifters, perhaps not in as an intense a manner, but still… Shapeshifters fascinated me already—transformation being a major theme in my work, even if not directly stated as a shapeshifter—so I thought it a good idea to explore deeper.

This inspired not one, but two tales as a response.

The first tale I wrote with this element is called, “Blood Echo Symphonies,” written as a nod to a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed, yet only I know this, and you probably cannot tell by reading the tale who the writer is. The tale is kind of word-heavy, full of poetic nips and tucks, and works as a curious, futuristic exploration of eternal love. This might not be evident until the end of the tale, as the core deals with a band, a club, and the all-around ambience of that world just around the corner, but love, yes love, is what drove the tale. 

The second tale, written right after it, was “The Occasional Beast that is Her Soul.” Also set in a future world, this was to be my attempt at something steampunk, believe it or not. I used only the trimmings, as I did not want to lose the gist of what was the tale’s heart, which was more about love (again), yet from the angle of one not understanding what happens to herself in situations of love, how her body turns on her. By the end of the tale, she realizes perhaps what she needs from love has nothing to do with one-on-one intimacy, but something much larger and profound. Have I said too much? Well, you can see for yourself when you read the tale.

Ellen Datlow does an honorary mentions listing online for tales she finds worthy each year, in accordance with her Best Horror of the Year anthologies. “The Occasional Beast that is Her Soul” was my first mention on the list.

Here’s the opening sequence:


     Tonight she wished for wings.

     Thea at the window, wishing for something more than the wayward enticements of this earth, or the fickle fantasies that roosted glumly in the minds of her potential partners.

     Tonight there will be wings…

     It was not the first time Thea had nurtured this thought.  With the malleable condition of her body as shaped by the emotional resonance within her psyche, wings would be a much better transmutation than what has transpired so far; than what she always has become: a beast of ill intent...

     Talons to tear into the meat of her lover.

     Pincers to pluck out the cooling gray matter from the bowl of the cranium she had cracked as one would an egg, red runny yolk staining the carpet.

     Wings would be her only means of escape this evening, the dizzying height demanding something different.  Always running from something, maybe flight would bring her freedom.  But wings had failed her before, bony stubs along the parchment expanse of flesh so thin the wind tore from them the ability to glide along the invisible ether byways above everything.

     They would have to be strong wings, she thought, then frowned, a shifting of flesh with which she had actual control.

     Because her control was as much driven by shock and panic as by wish-fulfillment.  Shock and panic and the wayward imagination of her lovers, as muddled by that which resided within her...

     She had rarely become something more than the occasional beast that is her soul.  


Occasional Beasts: Tales, will be published in less than two weeks! Pre-order your copy now!

(The Print will be available on Amazon and elsewhere soon; the book will be published on the 17th of this month, so by then, for sure!) 

“The Occasional Beast That Is Her Soul” was initially published in White Cat magazine, and reprinted in the anthology, Street Magick:Tales of Urban Fantasy.

Here’s the cover art for the latter.

The next Story Notes blog post will reveal what I really found in “This Darkness.”

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