One question that comes up whenever I talk about my new M/M paranormal romance, Otter Chaos, is “Why otters?
The novel had its genesis in a sort story for a themed anthology: the stories had to be set in Colorado and be particularly Colorado related. I set a lot of my stories in the high country, but I didn’t want to return to Wapiti Creek and Rendezvous Lake and a cast of characters who’ve been wandering through each others’ stories, no matter how much I enjoy playing with Jake, Kurt, Mark, and Allan.
And then I heard an otter had been spotted in downtown Boulder, playing in the creek. Eureka!
Otters were important fur animals in the Rockies, but were trapped nearly into extinction. The populations have been increasing, fortunately, and now these playful creatures are just on the edge of being removed from the Endangered Species List. Great news!
So I had my Colorado connection for the story, and now I had to decide what to do with it. Two guys rescuing an otter? Trapper vs. conservationist? Nah. I wrote shifters in fandom.
While deciding what rules otter shifters lived by, things such as how often did they have to shift, how did they shift, how did they think while shifted, I came across a video of a couple of otters loose in someone’s home. Make that: gleefully trashing the house.
That story just about wrote itself.
Now I had an 11,000 word short with an HFN, which you can find in the Out in Colorado I anthology, or by itself (Tail Slide), and a couple of guys who love each other but haven’t worked out how to co-exist.
Lon, my otter shifter, had let drop that his lover Corey’s boss is a werewolf, and this in a world that thinks werewolves are the stuff of legend.
So in trying to fully flesh out a short story, I’d left clues to be worked into a novel.
This left me with a packaging dilemma, because I didn’t want to tromp all over the short by making it be the opening sequence for a larger work, and for those who’d read the short (which made the USA Today reviewer do a coffee snort) it would be a big repeat. But for those who hadn’t seen the short before coming upon the novel, there would be a lot of unanswered questions.
So I put it all into one big volume. Here’s a snippet:
If Corey’d known what starting from scratch would entail, he might not have promised Lon a koi pond, but once he’d promised, he wouldn’t go back, even if some of the features they wanted wouldn’t get installed until next fall. But just the suggestion had made Lon so happy, and he had done the bulk of the digging, starting an hour before Corey joined him, and matching him shovel for shovel after. No, they didn’t need to rent a Bobcat, Lon argued, not when they had shovels and strong backs, and Corey was grateful for one expense avoided. Would have been two expenses, but Corey didn’t have a gym membership to cancel. His professorship, even the assistant sort without tenure, gave him access to top notch athletic facilities on the University of Colorado campus. So what if his upper body was a little overdeveloped relative to his legs? All that shoveling worked his arms, back and core.
Worked Lon’s, too, and didn’t that just make for some dandy times in bed? Or it would, if Lon would get his ass back into the bed, which was the perfect nest on the one occupied side.
But no, no Lon, and no sleep, and no anything but wanting to find out what dragged Corey’s lover away from his side. Pumpkin mrrped sleepily when Corey slid to his feet.
Fleece athletic pants and a hoodie kept the still-nippy air off his body in his search for delectable. Corey found some in the kitchen, where coffee steamed in the carafe. He poured a cup and went searching for the maker. But Lon didn’t answer his halloo, and their three bedroom house wasn’t so big his call didn’t carry.
The ground outside glittered white in the morning sun. Snow would lure Lon outside for sure. The pristine surface of the new fall showed every critter’s passage. The delicate scratching of birds clustered around the feeder, where a solitary cedar waxwing picked at the seeds. Whatever made the big honking bird-marks wasn’t there for the millet or sunflower seed. Those tracks marched along the water’s edge. The two large, two small indentations of rabbit feet drew lines across the ground. The cloven tiptoes of deer led from the back fence to the pond. Corey tried not to call them “rats with antlers” where Lon could hear, but the damned things had no predators inside the city limits and ate the gerbera daisies and geraniums from planters like they’d been set out as a buffet. Now that he’d effectively built them a bar with deer-margaritas on tap, Corey didn’t expect to get a single apple off his tree that he didn’t scale a ladder to pick. Or that Lon didn’t climb for.
Another set of tracks marked the snow. Five clawed toes around a heart-shaped main pad made clusters with all four paws and a long tail drag between. Yup, straight from the back door to the pond. The aerator shot a circular ripple into the water’s surface, and a V of wake followed in the passage of a swimmer. A black nose broke surface and disappeared again. Orange, white and black flashes scattered, diving at the edges of the pond.
The black nose surfaced again, followed by a flat head with tiny ears, water streaming down the deep brown fur. An orange and white body thrashed, trapped by teeth of sharpness Corey knew only too well. He jammed his feet into the first pair of shoes by the back door, and hobbled outside.
An otter emerged from the pond, its sleek lines glistening. The fish stopped thrashing when the otter ripped it in two, swallowing half in two quick bites, and chomping the tail end down before Corey reached him.
“Damn it! We talked about this!” Corey stabbed his finger at the pond. “For swimming! And playing! It’s not an ‘all you can eat’ buffet!”
Except it was. To Lon.
* * * * *
P.D. Singer lives in Colorado with her slightly bemused husband, two rowdy teenage boys, and thirty pounds of cats. She’s a big believer in research, first-hand if possible, so the reader can be quite certain PD has skied down a mountain face-first, been stepped on by rodeo horses, acquired a potato burn or two, and will never, ever, write a novel that includes sky-diving.
When not writing, playing her fiddle, or skiing, she can be found with a book in hand.