The Undead Are Calling

March2013 007I love writing paranormal romance because “dead” isn’t as simple a term. There are “shades” of death, and just because you kill-off a character doesn’t mean they’re dead and gone. They can be “slightly” dead, or “temporarily dead,” or even “life and physical-form deficient.”

I suppose I’ve been thinking about the idea of “undead” because I have a WIP that seems to be that way, which makes me think about the terms living, dead, undead, and non-living.

We’re taught that an inanimate object can’t die because it’s non-living. There is no life that can be lost. Dead is the absence or eradication in a formerly living entity; deprived of life, inanimate, inert. Living is defined as having life, the condition of being alive, full of life or vigour. And then there’s undead. Not living, not dead, and yet too animate to fall into the category of non-living. Well, for my purposes at least. Because my dictionary refuses to provide a definition, merely examples: vampires and zombies.

But don’t vampires and zombies possess vigour? There’s all that running around and biting people – certainly that takes a fair amount of vigour. What then of ghosts and ghouls? They were formerly alive (perhaps human before they died), and if they still possess essence, what are they? Simply dead? Certainly they must be “undead” for they too refuse to remain still and silent – haunting takes effort.

And thus we arrive at “undead” for all the creatures in between that refuse to fit into a neat, tidy box (or grave – your pick.) And that’s where the fun begins. Because if a creature / entity isn’t alive, but possesses the definition of life, and isn’t dead, but is more than non-living, we must have the undead. The essence of something more, something we can’t quite understand. Perhaps it reaches to define the boundary between life and death, the mystery we humans so often ponder. Is there some incorporeal essence that is “us” – a soul, if you will? Is there more than just a physical form and mechanical operations of life?

The undead suggest there is. For the undead means that death doesn’t have to be the end. Even if ending up a mouldering zombie isn’t your thing, it’s still more alive than the rotting corpse, still and silent in the grave, isn’t it?

What do you think? What is “undead” to you?

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Getting Shifty: On Werewolves and other Shifters

Yes, you can definitely put me down on the werewolf side vs vampires; I’ve always had a quesy thing about blood – especially when it’s my own. And really, are vampires dead or not? “Undead” just doesn’t seem fair, since essentially they’re an animated corpse.

Anyway, I’m not interested in mud-slinging at the vampires – they’re all well and good – but rather, explain my own fascination with the top 10 reasons werewolves and other were-creatures reign supreme in my world.

  1. Warm-blooded.Often, actually hot-blooded. Animals run a bit warmer than we do, and since I’m perpetually chilly, having someone warm to snuggle with totally wins points.
  2. Animal instincts. Whereas vampires can be seen as cold and controlling, werewolves and other weres are more prone to follow their animal instincts, whether this means giving in to lust, fury, you name it; as a control-freak who rarely lets go, this is somewhat appealing to me.
  3. Variety. Yes, there are certainly varieties of vampires, but were-creatures open up a wide spectrum of possibility. There are were-wolves, were-panthers, were-cows (yes, really), were-you-name-it. When you come into some northern european myth, you have the possibility of man connecting with any kind of animal he or she desires … although sometimes they have to be a witch to do so.
  4. Grace. Ever watch a wolf or cat in action? ‘Nuff said.
  5. Muscle. Yes, I write romances, and when you live on only a liquid diet, well, you seem to get all pale and sickly. What about some muscle? Whether bulked or sleek, there’s muscle tone there most of us can only dream of.
  6. Freedom from human society’s rules. Indeed, this can be “to a point,” but have you ever been so infuriated with someone you wish you were young or stupid enough to just smack them? Especially when in animal form, were-creatures don’t have to follow the same rules. Have a beef with someone? Have it out with them (though hopefully only if they’re another were and therefore equal in strength and fury).
  7. Magic.  However your were-creature transforms, there’s definitely more than a touch of magic there; what could be better than that?
  8. Superhuman. Depending on the myth, this could mean simply addition of some animal senses / abilities to a normal human skill-set, or could be as much as immortality because of involvement with the magical world. Either way, pretty darn intriguing.
  9. Re-insertion of equality between man and animal. While not all men are animals (at least, not technically), it doesn’t seem any better than humans hold themselves as better than a much larger variety of creatures who are better able to live and adapt to this planet rather than just destroying and stomping all over it. Just saying.
  10. Examination of what it really means to be human. I know, it’s ironic that my favorite thing about were-creatures is how their humanity affects them, but sometimes humanity is best viewed and interpreted with a bit more of an outsider-viewpoint; after all, we’re all pretty close to it as humans ourselves.

So, what about you – vamps, or werewolves? Something else entirely? Do comment below. Thanks for reading, and have a great week.