Karaoke and Pasties

Like most Americans, my family comes from all over. They were immigrants, unwanted by both the countries they came from and the one they settled in. The only ones I know who were actually invited were Cornish, brought over to work the copper mines in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In Forever Wolf, Eyulf works at a bar in the Upper Peninsula called The Last Place on Earth. There is actually such a place near Calumet, but it sells bric-a-brac, not beer. But not so far away there is—at least, was—a bar with a Pasties and Karaoke night.

My grandmother (née Pascoe) made pasties, not fancy ones with lots of meat and a little vegetable. More like this one: a little meat for flavoring and a lot of potato and a bit of onion. I never saw a carrot in a pasty and think it’s an abomination. Ketchup was the only color allowed near it.

She was a silent woman who had known a great deal of poverty, but by the time I was on the scene she was able to afford the things she loved: books, the Detroit Tigers, a bottomless quart of daiquiri kept cooling in the fridge and the endless packs of cigarettes in her sweater pocket.

She indulged in the latter while playing a board game called “Pass Out” that apparently still exists to the chagrin of parents of teenagers. It is a drinking game requiring players to tipple or smoke until they were no longer able to read the tongue-twisters required to advance.

I played with orange juice and pretzel sticks. She played with an adamantine liver and lungs that turned out to be more fragile.

I miss her.

And I miss her pasties. Anyone with a good recipe, would you consider passing it along? No carrots, please.


Dear (Potential) Reader,

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,



The Last Wolf: A Glossary

For three days out of every thirty, the Great North Pack must change into wolves.  And for those three days, the days of the Iron Moon, they have no magic powers. If they are run over, they will die. If they are trapped, they will die. If they are shot, they will die. In short, like real wolves they are painfully vulnerable.

The culture they have developed to protect themselves is secretive, hierarchical and deeply conservative with old laws and old customs and old words.

Although this is quite basic, it should help anyone who wants to know more.

The Last Wolf: A glossary


Æcewulf—A Old Tongue word meaning forever wolf or real wolf. The Iron Moon moves Pack along the spectrum of their wildness. Pack who are already wild at the beginning of the Iron Moon, are pushed farther along and become æcewulf. There is no changing back.

Bedfellow— A kind of mate-in-training. Since Pack couplings are based on strength, Bedfellows must be prepared to fight challengers for rights to their Bedfellow’s body: cunnan-riht

Bredung—The ceremony by which two Pack are mated. It comes from the Old Tongue word for braiding and symbolizes the commitment of an individual to mate and to land and to Pack. The commitment is iron-clad.

Cunnan-richt—Mounting rights. 

Dæling—The ceremony which determines both the initial hierarchy and pairings of an echelon. Challenges are a fact of Pack life, so this will change.

Eardwrecca—Banished. Pack intensely social and exiles rarely survive.

Echelon—An age group, typically consisting of Pack born within five or six years of each other. Each echelon has its own hierarchy. Its Alpha is responsible to the Alpha of the entire pack. Packs rarely have enough wolves to warrant an echelon, so it is a sign of strength.

Iron Moon—The day of the full moon and the two days on either side. During this 72 hour period, the Pack must be wild and must be home.

Lying-in—Pack’s mutable chromosomes mean that pregnancy is rare. When it does happen, the last month is fraught as pups change into babies and back again. The mother must change as well, to prevent her body from rejecting them. It is exhausting.

Nidling—A lone wolf at the bottom of an echelon’s hierarchy. Because lone wolves are considered disruptive, the nidling is forced into a kind of indentured servitude to his or her Alpha pair. They rarely last long. 

Offland—Anywhere that is not Homelands, the Great North’s territory in the Adirondacks. Offlanders return to Homelands only for the Iron Moon and the occasional holiday.

Pack—What humans would call werewolves. Pack can turn into wolves at any time, but during the Iron Moon, they must be wild. 

Schildere—From the Old Tongue for shielder. A shielder is a protector. The lowest degree of wolf pairing. In the youngest Pack, shielders protect each other from being eaten by coyotes during the slow and vulnerable process of changing.

Seax—The dagger worn by all full-fledged adult Pack when at Homelands.

Slitung—Flesh-tearing. The ultimate punishment. Every wolf participates so that the whole Pack bears responsibility for the life they have failed.

Shifter—Shifters are not bound by the Iron Moon and since humans are dominant, Shifters see no advantage in turning into something as vulnerable as a wolf. They have adopted many of humans less-desirable traits. In the Old Tongue, they are called Hwerflic, meaning changeable, shifty.

Werewolves—Werewolves are a figment of human imagination. Pack can get quite testy if anyone suggests they are a figment of human imagination.

Year of First Shoes—This is the first year that pups start changing into skin and, as the name implies, the year they start wearing shoes and clothes. It marks their transition from pups to juveniles. It is universally acknowledged to be a terrible, terrible time.