The Last Wolf by Maria Vale – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Maria Vale to celebrate the upcoming release of The Last Wolf, the first book in her The Legend of All Wolves series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Dear (Potential) Reader,

There is so much vying for your attention, I’m grateful you’ve read even this far.

I know I’m asking a lot from you.

I’m asking you to take time with a new writer when there are so many great ones already out there.

I’m asking you to take a chance on a new direction in a well-loved genre, in which the wolf is not a vicious beast to be subjugated and feared, but rather the human form is a useful tool for protecting the wilder self.

In this reworking, werewolves fall into two categories: Pack, who must be wolves for three days out of every thirty—self-aware wolves, but not magic, any bullet can kill them. And Shifters, who don’t have to change and so remain human, the apex predator, rather than wolf, the maligned and despised outsider.

Still like any romance, its foundation is in the growing love between two characters: the worldly half-Shifter Tiberius who hates the wolf inside him as bestial and monstrous. And the unworldly Silver, who is fully Pack and believes her wild self to be sacred.

Silver is a runt with a displaced hip when she is a wolf and in a society that determines position by fighting wild, this means she is at the bottom of the hierarchy—the last wolf. Tiberius, however, discovers real strength in her perseverance and fierceness. For her part, Silver recognizes something about him: that by denying his wild, Tiberius has sown the roots of despair.

But this is not only a love story between two people, it’s also a love story about the Great North Pack, because despite our fascination with lone wolves, it is the pack that really defines this most social of all animals.

I imagined the Great North as something beyond family or community, something tight- knit and loving and brave and frightened. And intensely vulnerable. I imagined, like most embattled societies, the pack would be very conservative, with a traditional culture, a history, a language that was part of its identity. I chose to base that culture loosely (very loosely) on the world of 9th century England, partly because I love the sound of the language of Beowulf. To me, it is gruff and beautiful and haunting, like a wolf’s howl. But also because 9th century England was a place of great insecurity. One never knew when Northmen might show up and destroy everything you loved.

It was the Great North’s first Alpha, Ælfrida, who forced her pack to change. With humans decimating the forests of England, she dragged her pack from the Old World to the vast forests of northern New York, she re-wrote laws in order to allow new wolves to join their bloodlines, she forced her wolves to leave their isolated territories, so that they could learn human ways and protect the Pack using human law.

What results is a society that is both human and decidedly not, both harsh and loving, severe and tender. The way I imagined wolves fighting daily for their lives would be.

I have loved every minute of researching and writing these books. I can only hope that you will enjoy reading them.
Stay wild,
Maria

For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild.

If she returns to her Pack, the stranger will die.
But if she stays…

Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of her Pack’s social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn’t all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves…

Enjoy an Excerpt

The day of the first waxing crescent of fall is when all of the wolves who live on the Homelands traditionally run the perimeter and make sure that our land is properly marked before the ground freezes and damaged posts become hard to replace.
The entire Pack is wild. Barking and wagging tails, they lick each other and jump around each other, their ferocious jaws open and gentle. They chase mice through windrows, their hind legs scratching leaves into a brightly colored explosion high in the air, so that the pups can twist and turn and catch them in snapping teeth as they spiral down.

Not me. I have to pull on heavy muck boots over thick socks with jeans shoved inside. And I won’t mark our territory the way wolves are supposed to. I will mark it on an iPhone 6 Plus, crammed into the big pocket of a thick orange vest. All because Ti refuses to phase and John doesn’t like it.

“He tells himself he’s human,” John says. “But if he lies to himself, what makes you think he’s not going to lie to us?”
So because I am Ti’s schildere, I have to stay in skin too. Keep an eye on him.

“I mean, what were you thinking?” I ask as Ti fits the Outlast cap over his clipped skull. “When you came to a bunch of wolves asking for protection. That you’d just keep on being a human? Was that your grand plan?”

“I didn’t have a grand plan. What I had was a hole in my stomach, a vague set of directions to my mother’s pack, and a need to survive. I changed long enough to fight; I never thought you’d be asking me to give up my humanity.”

“No one’s asking you to give up your humanity, but if you refuse to admit what you are, it is going to rise up and bite you in the ass.”

“Well, how about you?”

“Me? I love changing. I—”

“I know you love changing. You do it all the time. The second Sten doesn’t need your thumbs, you evaporate, and there’s nothing left but clothes hanging from a branch. I may be a crappy wolf. But you… You’re a crappy human.”

I cringe, because he’s right. I’ve never been happy in skin, but then those stupid fire fairies burrowed into my body all those days ago, and that spark has caught fire and burns so fierce that now when I walk beside him and hear his quiet, low voice or look into those gold-flecked black eyes, my tendons strain and my muscles coil and my lungs open up and my blood beats hot and fast. The only way I know how to deal with need is to run hard and far until I collapse, unable to feel anything at all.

A brindle pup barks worriedly at my feet. All of the other wolves have disappeared, fading like a whisper in the woods.

“I know, Leelee. We’re coming.”

“She’s going with us?” Ti asks.

“We’re supposed to take her along. Help her learn the farther reaches of the Homelands.” Leelee scampers on ahead, leaping awkwardly over a huge downed log and sliding down the other side, her fur covered in the sooty brown decay.

Ti clears it in one stride and stands close, not helping me exactly, but I know if I falter, his big shoulder is there for me to grab on to. I make it by myself, but I appreciate his silent gesture.

Leelee watches, her head cocked to the side, as I take a running jump over one of the numerous small, mucky streams that crisscross our land. I slip down the other side, my foot sinking into a soft bruise in the moss. She yips and worries, waiting for me to pull my boot out with a dull sucking sound.

I lift her up and give her an open-jawed kiss on her ear, but she sees a squirrel and won’t stop squirming until I set her down.

“No farther than the Stones, Leelee.”

When we finally catch up, she’s clambering over the variously sized rocks that form rough circles around the ancient central stones. Over the years, the circle has encroached farther and farther into the forest, surrounding the trees.

Leelee marks one of the stones.

“What is this?” Ti asks.

“It’s, um…the Gemyndstow? The memory place? But we just call it the Stones.”

“Like a graveyard?”

“Graveyards are for bodies, aren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“So, no. Coyotes eat our dead. That’s why we call them wulfbyrgenna. Wolf tombs. The stones are only for wolf names and the date of their last hunt so that we can remember.”

When Ti crouches down and looks at one near the front, Leelee runs up to him and looks too, trying to figure out why it is so interesting.

As soon as he stands, she marks that one too.

An ill-advised squirrel runs across the outer rim of the Stones, and Leelee turns quickly to run after it, the wind tickling her fur and the scent in her nose. I know that feeling of taking it all in—moldering pine needles, owl pellets, borer beetle, tree sap, two-year-old porcupine den, sassafras bush—until the scent of prey hits you right in the back of the throat and everything tenses and you chase, even if your tummy’s little and full and all you really want is for the thing, whatever it is, to escape so you don’t have to eat it, but still you can’t help but hunt.

She peels off after her squirrel, looking behind to make sure we’re watching.

The squirrel chitters at her from the safety of a maple. Ti stares, his hands fisted by his sides, as Leelee scampers and bounds and falls on her back and twists her little legs in the air, her belly dotted with leaf litter. A tiny furrow cuts through his usually impassive brow, and his mouth, while still tightly closed, turns down a little at the corners. His wild—that seductive scent of crushed bone and evergreen—radiates thicker now, and when I touch his arm, he jolts as if from a waking dream and blinks down at me, looking in this moment like a lost boy.

About the Author:Maria Vale is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don’t really need it. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet.

Website

Pre-order the book at Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, iBooks, or Indiebound.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Last Wolf by Maria Vale – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Maria Vale who is visiting with us and sharing some early excerpts from The Last Wolf, the first book in her The Legend of All Wolves series, which will be released in February. Maria is giving away 2 advance copies of The Last Wolf and 2 posters – enter at the end of the post.

For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild.

If she returns to her Pack, the stranger will die.
But if she stays…

Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of her Pack’s social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn’t all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves…

Enjoy an Excerpt

In which Tiberius eats dinner with the hostile Pack and learns that not everything that is small and cute and furry is a puppy

Upstairs, the screen door opens and closes with a slam. Orders are barked out, and heavy treads stomp back and forth between hall and kitchen. As the Pack passes the stairs to the basement, the complex fragrances of the dishes they’re carrying waft down to us. Benches start scraping across floors, and I push Ti’s extra clothes into a bag and push the man himself up the stairs.

As soon as we reach the hall, the smile I hadn’t even known I was wearing fades. The Alphas of every echelon are standing around the heavy hand-scraped tables, each one of them holding tight onto their seaxs, the sharp daggers that all adult Pack wear at their waist.

There are strict penalties for attacking a table guest, and John will kill anyone who tries, but edgy wolves are edgy wolves and not always in control. I am this man’s shielder, and I face them, my thighs coiled low, my shoulders squared, and my lips curled back from my teeth, so these wolves know that I will fight, even in skin.

Tock, tock, tock.

Behind me, Ti is not even facing the right way. He’s looking at the table, opening up casseroles with one hand, while flicking his spoon up and down against his bowl with the thumb of the other (tock, tock, tock). As though there weren’t a hundred evil-eyed wolves staring holes into his back.

He lifts a hand-thrown lid and sniffs the saag paneer. Another basket with bread. A selection of Corningware casseroles hold cauliflower and lentil stew; sun-dried tomatoes and fresh cheese; corn chowder. Pasta with herbs. Egg salad.

“So…you’re vegetarians?” Ti says to no one in particular.

“Not vegetarians,” John answers. “But not carrion eaters either. You are our guest,” he says loudly to remind all the wolves with itchy palms about our very ancient and very strict rules of hospitality, “and free to hunt anywhere on our land, but Shifter? You must eat what you kill.”

“John?” I whisper, pulling at his elbow, and he bends down. “His name?”

John scratches his graying beard for a moment before pointing to one casserole dish in Blue Onion pattern. “Tiberius?” he says, “My personal favorite is the cauliflower and lentils. Be sure to add some toasted hazelnuts.”

Someone coughs, but John has broken the spell, and the Alphas reclaim their seats. Though when they do, they seem to have doubled in size, their broad shoulders and thighs now claiming whatever spare space we might have squeezed into.

I bend my head toward one of the empty tables. Those too will be full when the Offlanders come home for the Iron Moon, but for now, we sit there alone, side by side. The Pack starts talking again, bent low over their food because our table manners at home are not all they should be.

Naturally, there is a lot of talk about Ti, and while no one will question John’s decision, it is one of the peculiarities of the Old Tongue that the word giest means guest and stranger and enemy, so when someone speaks of our new giest, everyone understands the double meaning.

Then John says that’s enough Old Tongue for now.

A handful of pups scrabble up the stairs from the basement storage. They’re chasing something, taking wide frantic turns around the room.

“Mouse,” I whisper to Ti. “They don’t last long here.”

“She didn’t take me down,” Eudemos complains loudly.

“I mean, I was still standing.” He hacks at the big loaf of bread with his seax. “Where’sa butter?

“I neber submided,” he insists, a pale-yellow crumb flying across the table. He uses his thumb to push the mouthful back in. “If what she did counts as submitting now, I think we should change the laws, thass all I’m sayin’.”

“Deemer?” says John.

Victor, our Deemer, our thinker about Pack law, crosses his arms and looks at the ceiling for a moment. “The law does say an opponent must be pinned down,” he says. “But while Eudemos was not down, he was very definitely pinned, and that is the more important part of the law.”

“Your Alpha agrees. The spirit of the law was upheld.”

And with that, Eudemos will not say another word about the matter.

The mouse finally caught, Golan trots up to John, followed by a roiling mass of fur. He lays his tiny prey at the Alpha’s feet. John looks at it, making sure the kill was clean and the mouse didn’t suffer, then he scratches Golan’s ear and wishes him good eating.

Suddenly, Ti jumps and lowers his hand to fend off a juvenile, who has her damp nose in his crotch.

“Rainy!” shouts Gran Moira. “Come here!”

Rainy cocks her head to the side and stares up at Ti before running off.

“Why do you have so many dogs?” Ti asks, his legs now tightly crossed.

“Nooo,” I hiss. “They’re not…” It’s too late. He didn’t say it loudly, but our hearing is very good, and one set of very good ears is all that’s needed. One by one, the Pack falls silent, appalled by what Ti has called our children.

Four fuzzy snouts peek over the arm of one of the fireplace sofas. Other pups glower down from the curved stairs that lead up to the children’s quarters.

Then the only sound is the brittle crunch of Golan’s sharp, white teeth.

“Excuse me, Shifter?” pipes a small voice. A ten-year-old girl with long, pale-brown curls, wearing shorts and a much-washed blue T-shirt with a picture of a pickle on it, scratches the back of her calf with a bare foot. “I am sorry I smelled your crutch?” she says, glancing back at Gran Moira, who mouths the word crotch with an encouraging smile. “But that’s what I said. ‘Crutch.’”

“It’s ‘crotch,’” corrects Gran Moira.

“Oh,” Rainy says, turning back to Ti. “I am sorry I smelled your crotch? I didn’t mean to be offensive. I am just in the Year of First Shoes?”

The Year of First Shoes is the first twelve moons in the juvenile wing, when you’re too old to scamper around and be fed tidbits from the table, and you’re too young to see even the remotest advantage to being human. It’s when we first wear shoes and clothes.

It is a terrible, terrible time.

About the Author:
Maria Vale is a journalist who has worked for Publishers Weekly, Glamour magazine, Redbook, the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don’t really need it. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet.

Website

Buy the book at Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, iBooks, or Indiebound.

a Rafflecopter giveaway