Last month, I had the pleasure of reading an advanced review copy of Triskaidekaphilia 3: Transformed, the latest anthology from Pen and Kink Publishing. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting one of the authors, Meg Archer, here on the blog!
I absolutely loved Meg’s story in Transformed. In “Red-tail,” hawk-shifter Ruby Vogel toes the line between a mundane human life and her other, hidden self. As a fly-by-night spy for a mysterious contact, she’s often tasked with trailing people, gathering information, and above all, being discreet. In exchange, she gets paid; no questions asked, no names, no trail to follow in the cool night air. But when she unwittingly gets caught up in a dangerous game, the huntress becomes the hunted, and Ruby has to decide whether she can really keep those two halves of herself separate anymore. Is it worth the risk, to deny her shifter side? Is she a woman who becomes a hawk, or is she a hawk who becomes a woman? Is she both, or neither–or is she something else entirely?
Meg’s writing style is sassy and fun, and this particular story kept me laughing and calm during a particularly rough bout of turbulence while I was on a flight to Phoenix (so thank you, Meg!). And spoiler alert, she’s just as sassy and fun off the page.
Without further ado, here’s Meg!
In my short story, “Red-tail,” a young woman walks the boundary between her human self and the hawk who lives inside of her. Or maybe I should say she soars across the boundary. As one of the stories featured in Pen and Kink Publishing’s anthology Transformed (the third in their amazing Triskaidekaphilia series), Ruby Vogel’s story is about how much of the animal we allow to live in our human selves, and how much humanity can survive when we are at our most animalistic.
(And it’s about sex. Can’t forget the fun parts!)
Like most of the things I write, Ruby’s story came to me in a series of images. One lazy, hot afternoon, I watched a hawk spiral high over my house, seeing its head move as it scanned the ground. I pictured a red-tailed hawk, flying out across a city, heading towards the trees, and wondered how it might hunt in those two very different locales. And I imagined a scene near the end of the story, when a character at their most vulnerable would also find their strength.
From those images—both familiar and strange—the rest of the story began to bloom.
In a world like our own, where rare animal-shifters lived relatively isolated lives, trying to fit in with humans, always searching for a balance with their true selves. Ruby, a hawk-shifter, takes on a variety of semi-legal jobs for an employer who pays well and asks no questions. She spies, steals, and waits for the full moon to pull her out of her skin and into her feathers. It’s been a good-enough life, but she wonders if she’s destined to be alone.
Is she the only one of her kind? Are there others who might understand? And if there were, how would she find them?
Is her morality, her ethics, the same as ours? Does she have a duty to humanity, or to her other-self?
What is it like, being a solitary hunter and a social creature, all at the same time?
Who is she, really?
My favorite thing about speculative fiction—whether it’s about hawk-shifters or brave explorers of alien worlds or space wizards with laser swords—is how it is able to make a statement about the here and now while being set in some other world. In my story, I became fascinated by the theme of identity and humanity.
We all have a little of the feral animal within ourselves, I think. From the adrenaline-powered mama bears who lift cars to save trapped children to the sudden steady calm of a pilot bringing a plane down safely under extreme conditions like a crane gliding elegantly down to the water, there are moments when that strange other-sense grips us. Moments when we’re more than what we are.
We can do the things we think might be impossible, and when we are pushed to our extremes, we sometimes are changed by the experience. If that were always accessible to us, who would we become?
In the tilt of a dog’s curious head or the frantic pace of a mouse in a maze, we see ourselves in animals. We’re busy as bees, snakes in the grass, curious kittens…
We see animals in ourselves, too—although that wilder, less constrained nature is sometimes frightening when it stares back at us in the mirror.
In Ruby’s world, one shifter’s advantage is another one’s nightmare. And when she’s confronted by the lengths to which another shifter will go to avoid the change, her perspective shifts and expands. With a romantic encounter that twists and turns as allegiances are revealed, Ruby’s wish to meet others like herself opens up her world in ways she never could’ve predicted.
I hope you’ll check out Transformed and read all of the great, wildly different stories that are alongside “Red-tail.” It was such an honor to be chosen for an amazing collection. A few of the stories in particular moved me and took me on an incredible journey, and I was so impressed by the range of styles, topics, and approaches to this idea of shifting and transformation.
Thank you to Tiffany for allowing me to share a little corner of her blog’s space!
About Transformed: Nothing is quite so deliciously freeing as caving to your instincts. For centuries, shapeshifters have personified our impulse to bow to our animalistic nature. From lycans to skin-walkers and everything in between, shapeshifters give us a chance to connect with our inner-selves and celebrate our intriguing differences, our passions, and ultimately our humanity through their necessity of striking a balance between their human selves and supernatural selves.
About the Editor: Charlie Watson is a freelance editor ready to make her mark on the Edmonton writing community. Through her work with various writing and editing groups around YEG who deal exclusively with first time authors, Charlie is devoted to ensuring that fledgling authors have a wonderful experience publishing for the first time.
About the Series: Triskaidekaphilia is the love of the number thirteen. It’s also the name of our anthology series which explores the more shadowy corners of romance and erotica. There will be 13 volumes in total, each of which will be released on a Friday the 13th.
Buy your copy of Transformed HERE!