A big welcome today to SJ Himes as part of her blog tour with Embrace the Rainbow Book Promotions for Wolf of the Northern Star.
Why Shifters? By SJ Himes
One of the most enduring subgenres of gay fiction is shifters. Typically inundated with big alphas, sweet omegas, a dash or two of mpreg, and fights for dominance or mates. Not all shifter books in the gay fiction genre share these traits, but one thing is shared amongst all shifter books—a deeply devoted fanbase.
Do we know why? Some might answer that shifter-verse books are more likely to have a high heat index. Some would argue it’s the magic—pure escapism. Who wouldn’t want to turn into a wolf (or a bat, or a zebra, or whatever you like) and run free? By shedding human form, a person could also shed the responsibilities of being human.
This fascination with shifters—or in my case, werewolves—has been around for decades. I read shifters before they were called thus—mostly m/f novels, with an unsuspecting human woman falling in love with a mysterious and brooding man who later revealed himself, usually by saving the heroine from monsters, be the men or paranormal. Always the werewolf saw his shifting as a curse—sometimes literally—and the plucky heroine would love her hero despite, or because of that curse. Some lucky heroines even got the “bite”, and joined the new mate in the woods, to forever spurn humanity and be cursed alongside him for eternity…And my frustration with m/f werewolf romance grew to the point I gave up reading them.
I grew up, having read a great deal of those books when I was a teenager, and I was always frustrated by the persistent belief in every shifter book I came across that being a werewolf was a “curse.”
Imagine my absolute relief and happiness when, as an adult, I came across shifters in the gay fiction genre.
The number of books lamenting the “curse” of being made to turn into an animal dropped to almost zero (I’m know they’re out there, but I haven’t found many) and the number of books where the protagonists are BOTH shifters has jumped to astronomical levels, too.
I wasn’t quite satisfied by what I was reading, though. The books I found always lacked something, a spare handful of series or standalones having that special something I wanted, what I needed in my escapism. Many of the books I came across were like each other in many ways. The ones I resonated with the most were the books that treated shifters as a wholly different species from humans, with their own cultures, laws, and without the “monster” hang up common in the m/f novels from my teenage years.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received regarding writing is thus: Write what you want to read. And I wanted to read a shifter/werewolf book that was a sprawling, epic and in-depth chronicle of love, life, loss and pain. I wanted characters that would stick in my heart and mind long after I read the book. Whose pain and suffering and love hard won would take not just chapters, but entire books to achieve.
I wanted the Tolkien version of shifter-verse romance fiction. And while many came close, none of them hit the mark.
So, I decided to make my own.
The main character who spoke to me first was Gray Shadow. A keeper of complex traditions, histories, and Laws of a mysterious people long hidden from humanity. In Wolves of Black Pine, book one of The Wolfkin Saga, Gray Shadow sets in motion a story that spans decades. Good thing my wolfkin live for a very long time.
Gray Shadow gave way to Ghost and Kane. And while those two are the main characters, Gray Shadow’s presence, his influence, is felt throughout the saga.
In Wolf of the Northern Star, the saga is in full swing. Conflicts from the first book are resolved, and new ones arise. Old enemies defeated, while the new Big Bad is even more frightening. I treat the saga much like a writer would a long-running TV show or movie franchise. Everything is important. Every character has a purpose, a path. There is romance and epic love. Star-crossed lovers and grand destinies. A meddlesome Goddess and dubious characters, and no character is perfect.
That is why I write my shifters. Each book answers a need I have for that story. To feel, dream, and escape. For me, shifters will endure forever.
Title: Wolf of the Northern Star
Author: SJ Himes
Series: The Wolfkin Saga, #2
Release Date: June 15th 2017
Genre: Gay Paranormal Shifter Romance
Ghost, once known as the cub Luca, is finally home. Back among his kind and learning what it means to be both a man and a shaman, Ghost battles the expectations of his people, his family, and the pressures of a society that is both foreign and familiar. His power is greater than any seen before, dwarfing that of even the legendary Shaman Gray Shadow—and his union with Kane places him in the center of a controversy that rattles wolfkin society around the world.
Kane, greater alpha and Heir to Black Pine Clan, has finally defeated the traitor and murderer that destroyed the heart of Black Pine years before. Freed at last from guilt and pain, Kane has a new enemy to face: his own people. Placed on trial for violation of Law and blasphemy, Kane will have to fight to the death to preserve his bond with Ghost and keep his mate and people safe.
The soulbond between Ghost and Kane is forged by the creator and Goddess of the wolfkin. Usually, a sacred and treasured union that honors the pair and their clans, this soulbond is seen not as a gift, but a threat to eons of tradition and Clan Law.
The union of a Shaman and Alpha is anathema—but how to reconcile that belief when it is the wolfkin Goddess who forged it? Can Ghost and Kane save themselves, preserve their bond, and find a new future when the laws of the ancient past threaten to tear them apart?
*This book is part of a series and should not be read as a standalone. Prior books should be read to understand content. 104,000 words*
Purchase: Amazon Universal
Find The Wolfkin Saga on Goodreads
“Where have you been? With your mate?” Glen asked, and Ghost grumbled.
“Been running around the mountain all night long, thinking. Being a man is hard. How do you do it?”
Glen snorted out a laugh. “Practice.” He nodded at the blanket, and Ghost sighed loudly.
Ghost sat up, wrapping the quilt about his hips. He threw himself back down almost immediately, and Glen found himself unable to resist the plaintive whine that came from his pretty lips. Glen was as straight as they came, but even he could acknowledge the sheer beauty of the human form of his wayward wolf. Ghost was beautiful, inside and out, and yet he had a shade of sadness hovering about his expressive silver eyes. He walked around the couch and paused as Ghost scrambled out of the way long enough for him to sit down. A bare second later he had an armful of lean youth and wiggling limbs.
Ghost curled up in his lap like he used to as a pup, though it was different now, as Ghost was not a wolf anymore. Glen heaved out a groan in complaint, but let Ghost hide under his chin and snuggle. He hugged the boy to his chest, and they both relaxed, adjusting easily enough to the new dynamic.
“What’s wrong?” Glen asked, and Ghost responded in a tiny voice.
“They put Kane in a cell in the woods yesterday. And they want to destroy our mate bond.”
Glen could recall only two times in his entire life he ever got angry enough to kill. Once was back in college when he tore a drunk frat boy off a cussing and furious redhead who then proceeded to wallop her attacker. The other time was when he rescued a malnourished wolf-hybrid from a careless and ignorant suburban family in the outskirts of Toronto, the poor thing starved near to death and skeletal thin. As he did then, he ran his hands over the back of a young wolf’s head, and said, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Glen managed to hold onto his temper, but it was a battle. The youngling needed a shoulder to cry on, a place to relax his guarded emotions, and Glen would be that safe place for him.
“I wanted to come home more than anything,” Ghost whispered, pressing his face into Glen’s chest. “But nothing good has come of it. They think me damaged, weak. Vulnerable.”
“We both know you are not damaged or weak. I don’t think I would have survived fifteen years locked away in the body of a wolf, deprived of any sense of self or family. You’re strong. And what do you mean nothing good has come from returning to your people? You have your man now, Kane. He’s your mate, no matter what those fools may say or think.”
“He’s in a cage, Glen. In the woods, alone, surrounded by alphas who wouldn’t hesitate to hurt him. I can feel him through our bond. He’s frustrated, and misses me. I haven’t seen him since they took him away yesterday We can’t talk because the alphas might be able to overhear us, but I can still feel him. It hurts not being with him.”
The Wolfkin Saga #1
Title: Wolves of Black Pine
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Genre: Paranormal, Shifters, MM Romance
An ancient civilization long hidden from humanity is on the brink of chaos and war.
Peaceful for thousands of years, the wolfkin clans are mysteriously losing packmates, kidnapped and killed by unknown foes. Among the dead is Luca, youngest grandson of the two most powerful wolves in the Northern Clans, but he is forced into a half-life, hidden in the far northern wilds of Canada and cut off from his kind. Those who raised him have no idea the creature they harbor in their midst, and name him Ghost. He begins to lose himself over the long years, and though he barely recalls his true name, the one wolf he never forgets is Kane.
Heir to the wolfkin clan Black Pine, Kane is charged with hunting down the traitors who them to the humans. Years fly by, and more wolves are dying. He refuses to give up, and he vows to never again fail another of their kind, as he failed young Luca years before. His heart tells him Luca lives, but his mind tells him that it’s foolish hope, his guilt eating him alive.
Fate and magic change the course of their lives, and the two wolves long separated by the years find their paths intertwining, though the reunion does not come without cost…
150,000+ words, contains graphic sex between men, dubious consent, mentions of abuse. Contains gore and violence. Mature readers only.
Purchase: Amazon Universal **On SALE $2.99 until 5th July**
GIVEAWAY: Win $10 Amazon gift card and Wolves of Black Pine & Wolf of the Northern Star ebooks
About the Author
I’m a self-employed writer who stresses out about the silliest things, like whether or not I got my dog the best kind of snack and the fact my kindle battery tends to die when I’m at the best part in a book. I write mainly gay romance, erotica, and urban fantasy, with ocasional forays into contemporary and paranormal. I love a book heavy on plot and character evolution, and throw in some magic, and that’s perfection. My current series are: The Beacon Hill Sorcerer, Bred For Love (as Revella Hawthorne), and The Wolfkin Saga. My last two novels in the Beacon Hill Sorcerer won 3rd Place in the Gay Fantasy category for the 2016 Rainbow Awards.
I live in New Orleans, where the personalities are big and loud and so are the bugs! New Orleans is rich in cultural history, and the flavor and music of the City is impossible to hide. Before that, I lived all over the United States: Tampa, Western Massachusetts, Indianapolis, and on and on…. I’m a nomad, and I’ve yet to find a place that calls to me strongly enough to become home. My faithful travel companions are my dog Micah, the numerous voices in my head who insist they all get put on paper, and the wind at my back.