Animals and Ghosts
Most of my books have pets in them—or at least animals of some kind. I don’t really plan to include them. They just sort of sneak up on me. Dogs, cats, chickens, I’ve had them all wandering through one or another of my books. But when I wrote my paranormal Ramos Family trilogy for Berkley InterMix, the situation was a little different. I wasn’t sure how I’d work an animal into a series about a family of mediums, most of whom were reluctant to take advantage of their supernatural connections.
The first book in the trilogy, Medium Well, didn’t have any normal beasties hanging around, although a ghost cat provided some significant information to the hero and heroine. But the second, Medium Rare, more than makes up for it. My medium, Rose Ramos, ends up sharing her house (haunted, of course) with a couple of spirit animals that adopt her after some traumatic events.
This in turn led to some interesting problems in creating these animals. How would a pet hellhound behave, for example? What does it eat (besides people)? What kind of leash would you use? Where would it sleep? Do hell hounds sleep?
To make things more interesting, I made Helen (the hellhound) invisible to everyone except the heroine and her hero boyfriend—although being a thorough-going skeptic, he doesn’t catch on to that fact for much of the book. Helen is joined later on by a similarly invisible raven, but my heroine decides having spirit animals around isn’t any tougher than dealing with the supernatural guest she’s already got in residence—a several-hundred-years-old ghost who’s been part of her family for generations.
In Medium Rare, ghosts come in all sizes and shapes, some of them scary and some of them not so much. But at least a couple of them are of the house pet variety. And what do you feed a hellhound? Pretty much anything she wants, as it turns out.
Here’s a quick excerpt showing Helen’s arrival:
Suddenly, she heard the sound of paws galloping along the driveway, monstrous claws clicking on the asphalt. She fumbled for the key she kept in the old mailbox at the door, jamming it into the lock and twisting for all she was worth.
Close behind her, something yipped as she shoved the front door open, half falling through, trying to shove it closed with her shoulder. A large heavy projectile struck her chest with the force of a missile, blowing the door wide and throwing her down full-length just inside. She looked up into an immense mouth full of yellowing fangs. Threads of drool hung a few inches from her face.
She tried to twist away, pulling as far back as she could beneath the dog’s weight. Dread clenched her stomach as she closed her eyes. “Ohgodohgodohgod.”
“Rose!” Skag’s voice echoed through the hall. “That’s a hellhound. Stay absolutely still! Do not move!”
She couldn’t have moved if her life depended on it, which, of course, it probably did. The dog’s huge paws still held her shoulders flat against the floor. Its breath blew hot against her cheeks, smelling of old meat and open graves. She struggled to breathe under its weight, tensing for the moment it would clamp its teeth on her throat. She heard the faint creak of its jaws as they opened wider.
And then something large, damp, and utterly disgusting swiped across her cheeks.
She peeked through her lashes up into the dog’s face. Glowing orange eyes stared back as the animal prepared to lick her again. Read the rest of this entry »