Monthly Archives: May 2013

On Animal Communication

Well, Samhain-kitty isn’t speaking to me or anyone else right now. (And, yes, I *do* think one keyboard disaster is reason enough for a permanent lap ban whenever her human is on the computer.)  So I figured it would be a good time to talk a bit about animal communication.  As someone who has owned a variety of animals over the years, one thing that amuses, amazes and sometimes puzzles me is watching the species interact.

My cats had already established rule of the house when I brought home a wolf puppy.  They wasted no time letting him know his place in the world, and even when he grew to outweigh them nearly ten times over, the kitties retained their dominion.  Which meant I had to come to the rescue when Morgan-the-cat entertained himself on rainy days by hanging out in Seamus’s crate (his den, his sacred hidey-hole) and played with his toys. Not that dog toys held any particular interest for Morgan.  He just liked to torment the wolf.

Sometimes Seamus would try to appease this superior being with tribute, offering Morgan his very-best soup bone.  Since he was wary of the wrath of his feline god, he picked up the bone in his jaws and tossed it to Morgan from a distance.  This worked out for him about as well as you might imagine.

My stallion, by contrast, seemed to accept Seamus as more-or-less and equal. Which meant that Celeborn wanted to demonstrate fellowship by grooming Seamus with his teeth.  Seamus accepted his attentions politely, though he was clearly intimidated by this hege creature gently gnawing on the scruff of his neck.

After my divorce, my living situation changed and Seamus went to live full-time at the farm shere I kept my horse. The farm dog taught him the property boundaries and about sheep (need to be protected) and coyotes (need to be chased off).

I was riding in the indoor arena shortly after Seamus came to live at the farm when I heard Seamus and the farm dog barking in the vicinity of the mare pasture.  Celeborn instantly came alert.  He wasn’t afraid of the barking– but he wanted to know what they were barking about.  He had accepted them as partners in keeping ‘his’ mares safe.

Animal communication, and especially animal-human communication, fan be especially challenging in fiction.  My werewolves have wolf senses and, to a degree, wolf instincts, but keep their human mind.  Lacking a human mouth and throat, however, they cannot speak, and so I had to find ways for my werewolf to communicate with Inspector Jones while they are on the trail of a killer.  Of course, the possibility for miscommunication can lead to some fun situations– like when Jones isn’t quite sure of the identity of the wolf he’s talking to,  leading him to say ” . . . God, I hope you are who I think you are, not just some beggar looking for scraps, or this is the most foolish conversation I’ve ever had sober.”

The miscommunications can also prove dangerous, especially early in their association before trust is built when Jones misinterprets an absent-minded growl, intended as ‘leave me alone, can’t you see I’m tracking’ and draws his gun on the werewolf.

Still, werewolf-human communication is nothing compared to communication between an elf and a horse, as in my published novel The Stolen Luck.  Where most writers get in wrong in interspecies telepathic communication is animals differ from us un more ways than lack of speech.  They think differently than us, prioritize differently, and have different attention spans.  I was determined that Loren’s horse, Devil, remain horse-like, which meant Loren would have to communicate with him on his own level, limited though such communication must be.  Nothing makes an equestrian throw a book across the room faster than a horse that miraculously becomes intelligent enough to understand instructions to go to the next town and bring back a doctor.

The world of animal communication is wonderful, diverse, and complicated, a joy to observe for its own sake, and absolutely essential to understand if you are a writer including animals in your fiction.



Hi! Samhain-the-cat here. I’m really not allowed on my writer-person’s computer (I tell you, I spill *one* glass of fizzy brown stuff on a keyboard *one* time, and I’m banished forever. The woman is a hysterical lunatic.) Anyway, she is relaxing with a book and a glass of port after her drive back from the coast, so I thought I’d sneak on while I can.

Though I don’t know why she needs to relax. She abandoned me for two whole days to visit friends on the coast. Friends with a big, stupid, slobbery dog. And what’s so great about the coast, anyway? Bunch of gritty stuff like what’s in my litter box and a whole lot of water that *moves*.

So, while she’s ignoring me again, I thought I’d let you know what I learned while doing her bloody research for her. Since her steampunk novel-in-progress has way too much in the way of werewolves and too few cats, I thought I’d help her by looking up some information about cats in Victorian England.

It turns out that Victorians were crazy about cats. Went hand-in-hand with their interest in Egyptology. (Ancient Egypt, of course, being the only place in himan history where cats were given proper acknowledgement. In other words, worshipped as gods.) Queen Victoria was co-owned by two cats, and the first cat shows were held during her reign. Even the poorest in the slums had cats, reportedly better-fed than the people they lived with because of the abundance of rodents.

Clearly the Victorians had achieved a higher level of civilization than their counterparts in the Middle Ages, where cats were associated with Satan, often tormented, and sometimes burned to death with their owners. I must say–


Oops, Shawna here. Sorry, Samhain knows she’s not allowed on the computer. Apologies to dogs, dog lovers, and anyone else she might have offended.

On Wardrobe Malfunctions and Duct Tape

Picture the scene.  It’s the night of Book Launch, and I am getting dressed for my reading as the featured author at Authors in Pubs. have just finished with my acupuncture appointment. (I have been getting acupuncture for some soft tissue injuries, but it also leaves me all mellow and relaxed, not a bad thing going into a reading.) Since the acupuncture office and the reading are in the same city and both are quite a distance from my house, I brought with me the outfit I intended to wear.

Now I had selected this outfit some time before. Tried it on earlier in the day to make sure it still fit. Checked and double-checked that I had all the necessary components with me. (All steps learned from past wardrobe disasters.)

So I am calm, I am happy, I am dressing with confidence. Then I notice the hole in the lovely black top I have chosen to go with the black skirt. A hole that was not there before. A hole where you absolutely, positively to not want a hole if you are a woman about to go on stage. Well, unless you are about to go on stage at a very different kind of establishment than the one to which I am heading.

I contemplate my options. There is absolutely no time to go home and get another top, or to duck into a shop and buy something else. The pub is pretty casual, so if I had worn a polo or even a nice T-shirt I might get away with what I wore to the appointment. But I had worn an old, faded T-shirt. It had wolves on it, so if I had been reading one of my werewolf pieces, I might have tried to brazen it out.

The Stolen Luck, unfortunately, has no wolves, were- or otherwise.

In desperation, I appeal to the staff, but no one has a sewing kit. Plenty of needles, but not the kind that take thread. And the closest thing to thread is the yarn from someone’s crochet kit.

Someone suggests duct tape. I look at my intended outfit. All silk and ruffles, not the sort of thing you can slap a big old slash of silver tape on and pretend it’s a fashion statement.

After some brainstorming and trial-an-error, we come up with a little pach made of folded-over duct tape, colored black with a Sharpie pen and affixed to the under side of the top with more duct tape.

Not the most comfortable stuff against the skin, but invisible against the black fabric.  And it held. Long enough for me to get through the reading and get home.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is. Don’t buy a top that seems too good a bargain? Something about the practical value of creativity?

Or maybe just that duct tape really is the force that holds the universe together.

Great review for The Stolen Luck can read it here:

Blog tour for The Stolen Luck

5/7 World-building blog at
This is also my Carina Press promo day. There will be a blog on the origins of The Stolen Luck at and tidbits throughout the morning on the Carina Press Facebook page.

5/9 Meankitty interviews my cat, Samhain, on the trials of having a writer for a human. They also talk about my fiction as it pertains to cats. A lot of fun!

5/10 Blog on elements of luck in fantasy at

Life with a wolf

It took me a long time to warm up to werewolves.  A surprisingly long time, given that the wolf if my spirit animal, and I raised a high-percentage wolf hybrid and owned him until he died of old age on the winter solstice of 2002.  I guess The Howling and I Was a Teenage Werewolf pretty much ruined it for me.  It wasn’t until I started writing a werewolf story myself that I finally noticed the ‘wolf’ in werewolf, and suddenly they became a lot more interesting as characters. Continue reading

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