What kind of animal do you want? And what kind of rules does your world obey? Shifters are popular in erotic romance these days. Werewolves undoubtedly lead the pack (pun intended), but if you read books by many different authors, you’ll find laws on what’s allowed and what not vary.
I write all sorts of urban fantasy. A lot of it revolves around my psi universe –Division P and SIS Case Files, but I’ve written some shifter stories too. I confess there are certain rules of the physical world I have a hard time violating when I spin a tale. Blame the scientist half of my brain. By day (no, actually that should be by night) I teach chemistry to college students. The first rule of the year= Conservation of Mass. You don’t get to make or break the atoms, you only get to rearrange them. Okay, okay, I’m ignoring the concept of nuclear fission and fusion but that’s a whole different semester. So how does a 160 lb guy turn into a 80 lb wolf? What? I know that we all play around with the concept of magic as component of the paranormal world, but really? What happened to the other 80 lbs of “stuff”? Is it hiding in a pocket dimension? Based on that idea, said shifter ought to be able to magic back his clothes when he turns into a man again. When I wrote “Pris de Fer”, I agonized for a while over how I wanted to play with the world building rules. I just couldn’t bring myself to violate that law, so the 160 lb man becomes a 160 lb wolf.
Now we move on to thermodynamics. In a nutshell – you can’t win, you can’t break even, you can’t get out of the game. Now let’s toss a little biochemistry in. (Yeah, I’ve got a degree in that too.) Dredge through your dim dark memories of high school biology. Remember ATP and digestion and how the food you eat eventually gets turned into the energy that powers your body? Shifting takes energy. Let’s pretend we’re obeying the laws of thermo. Shifting is an energy drain, like running a 100m dash. Yes, you could do it a second time, given a little time to catch your catch your breath. A third time, maybe, but it’s likely it more would be more of a 100m jog. Basically I put a biological limit on the number of times a shifter could do it in a given time period.
What about genetics? I’m not fond of the idea that the ability to shift is like a virus, something you get infected with. From an evolutionary point of view it makes much more sense for to be a product of a mutation. And I’m not totally sold on a species where only one gender carries and expresses the gene. It seems that would be like the horse/donkey problem where you get sterile offspring. Or you get a dwindling gene pool.
I’m probably a little unusual coming from a hard science background, which gives me a different take on the rules that I impose on the shifters I write.
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Also, come say hello! I’ll be at Coastal Magic, the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance convention held in Daytona Beach, Florida this February. Check their website for more details and participating authors. Gift Certificates now available.
Fireman Gideon Sato stumbles over a man—oddly still alive and in remarkable health—in the ashes of a warehouse fire. A strange connection runs between Gideon and the man, Vanya Stravinsky, despite Vanya’s confusion and loss of memory.
Vanya, a chef, gets mugged after work one evening. He wakes up, nude, in the ashes of a fire. He doesn’t remember much of what happened, but he can guess how he got there. He too feels that connection with his rescuer, but he’s got to decide how much to tell Gideon. Not to mention, the cops think that Vanya was up to no good in that warehouse fire.
Somehow Vanya and Gideon have figure out what’s really going on and also prove Vanya’s innocence. Life just got complicated!