To shift, or not to shift....
At some point last year, I realized I'd read quite a few shifter-stories in a short period of time. There was one common factor. I didn't care for them much. Don't get me wrong, some of them were amazing, but of all shifter-stories I've read, I've honestly liked one out of every five or so.
What's my problem with them? Well…. Let's start with the fact that as a writer, I have my own internal "universal head-canon" for shifters. Much like vampires, shifters are certain way in my mind and when another author unknowingly strays too far from that, I go "Just no."
I have too numerous pet peeves to mention them all here, but I suppose for the purpose of making this interesting I need to name a few. One is instant mates. There are whole series of books that concentrate on getting the two (or three, if it's a ménage) main characters into bed in ten pages or less. They don't always know each others' names, but it's all oh-so-perfect because they are mates who just happened to meet each other. Sometimes the "weaker" mate is seduced or just taken by the "stronger" mate before they know what's happening. And that's okay, because well, they're mates.
Second thing, the shifter packs. When did it come plausible that there were a ton of Alphas who were dedicated to keeping their race and their pack alive and well, yet not once thought of reproducing? These "gay packs" with only gay men in them, are just… stupid. Sorry, but that's my opinion. You see this kind of thing surprisingly often, and for me it takes away from the story.
What I've generally noticed is that shifter series follow a pattern. It's not even one pattern per author, it's the same effing pattern for quite a few authors. The usual thing seems to be that the "small mate" is being rescued from the "big bad" by the "larger mate". I swear I've read that same story, usually with the two pet peeves I just mentioned, at least five or six times. After that I gave up on the series, after all I pretty much knew what would happen in the rest of the books.
By now I know what I like as a reader. I also know what I like as a writer. Combining these two gets hard, probably harder than most "non-writer readers" understand. Why? Because you can't necessarily read books for entertainment anymore. There was a time I read the Twilight Saga a few times (yes, each book several times, not even ashamed to admit that) because it was entertaining as hell despite the general crappiness and the more-than-questionable message. I tried to read the first book after I began to write "seriously" and had gone through several rounds of professional editing.
I just couldn't. It's not entertainment anymore. I feel like I should take a red pen and underline every single thing I find that annoys me. Trust me, I'd need a few pens…. And it's not just Twilight, it's all fiction now. Everything.
I don't read fantasy much, because my head-canon, and because the fact that many of these books, especially series, seem so… rushed. I've seen several series that I keep thinking as recycled stories. The author takes a story, possibly realizes it sells, and then repeats it over and over and over and over again, sometimes as much as ten or even twenty times. The names are different, the "shapes" are different, but the story is just the same.
I don't have anything against a wereworm marrying his destined, star-crossed, parakeet lover who literally sweeps in from the sky to save him from the evil squirrel overlord. It's just not my cup of caffeine. If you like that sort of thing, please consider reading the sequel about the seagull and the hedgehog too, I don't care. But I don't read or write that stuff. It's not entertaining for me. I acknowledge a lot of people read those stories and that's just fine, they're just…. Not. For. Me.
This brings me to my shifters. Mine are just "cats and dogs". There are plenty of different kinds of shifters in Chuffed, the first book in my series, Finnshifters. There are wolves, a tiger, a lynx, a jaguar, a red fox…. That's not even all of them. The common factor is that they either bark or meow. That's it. There's plenty to do with "only" those kinds, trust me on this.
In Finnshifters, the story takes place in Finland. That's where I live, like some of you already know. When I began to think about writing a shifter book, I realized that I needed a series instead, just to tell the whole story of the shifter sanctuary I came up with. Not only am I trying to convey some of the weird Finnish things and customs, but I also like to think the series shows my love for where I live.
The first part, Chuffed, is the story of Mikael, who inherited the farm that's a shifter sanctuary, and the shifter he meets, Maxim. It's also part of the story of the "farm family". You'll get more in the next books—right now I think there will be four or five books total—and each of the books deals with not only the main characters, but the rest of the family too.
I hope I manage/d to dodge most of the clichés. Naturally I know not all of them are uh… dodgeable. The ones that are left are there for a reason, though. They are part of my head-canon too. But the bits that are more rare, maybe even just mine, are what truly matters, and what makes my shifters mine.
These are my shifters, exactly the way I like them.
Author Bio: Tia Fielding lives in a peaceful little town in a small country in northern Europe. She loves nature, her horses, cats, and even the yappy little thing that occasionally gets called a dog. Tia learned to read before she went to school at the age six and began writing as soon as she figured she had stories to tell around the mature age of seven. Stories about horses, adventures, and ghosts might have turned into hot GLBTQ-romance, but she still has a wicked imagination and, hopefully, more stories to tell
Tia's website http://www.tiafielding.com and FB: http://www.facebook.com/
Here's an Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Chuffed-
An ARE-link: http://www.allromanceebooks.
And Dreamspinner: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2969
Blurb: Mikael Jarvela may only be a half shifter, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be alpha of the eastern Finland farm-turned-sanctuary his father founded. Six wolves, a red fox, a black jaguar, and a lynx all think of him as the head of the family. But Mikael doesn’t have anyone to call his own until he comes across an injured Siberian tiger in the woods.
From the moment the animal recovers and Mikael and Maxim meet face to human face, the attraction between them is undeniable. They strike up a tentative relationship, but they’re both proud men, and their egos keep getting in the way. Just when it looks like their romance is doomed, an outside threat to the family—to Mikael—forces Maxim to choose between the life of solitude he knows and the love and companionship that could be his if he stays.