Being an October baby, growing up my parties almost always revolved around Halloween. How could a kid resist? Especially one who got Stephen King as bedtime stories :3 I think my favorite of these was the year a few of my dad's Marine buddies crashed the party with scary masks and scared the living shit out of a bunch of little kids. I had one friend so terrified we had to walk her home. But that party was awesome.
As I got older, my desire for big, loud birthday parties faded off. By the time I turned twenty-one, my roommates and I were so busy studying and attempting to conquer mountains of homework that we just didn't have time. We all paused briefly to gather in the kitchen, select our booze of choice, and do a shot together. They told me happy birthday, then I went back to despairing over my inability to memorize kanji. That shit is hard.
When I tell this story, I get a lot of people who tell me they're sorry and that it must have sucked. It really really didn't. I've never needed anything big or flashy. I like simple stuff. Moving around a lot (you may have guessed we were military brats) teaches you pretty quick what matters and doesn't. I was also a seriously clumsy kid and broke, like, every breakable thing my parents ever had. I spent a lot of time (seemed like it back then) crying and apologizing and feeling dumb. But my parents never yelled at me, just told me it was an accident and they were glad I was okay and it was 'only stuff'. Because that's very true—it is only stuff, and stuff can be replaced or lived without.
Many traditions, like the get wildly drunk on your 21st, are just stuff to me. I have no desire for a big, fancy wedding should I ever get married someday. I suck at remembering anniversaries and even most holidays. There's maybe three I actually celebrate anymore, and honestly that makes me happier than when I used to try and celebrate them all.
But for all that I could do without most traditions, I love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. I might prefer my birthdays be quiet, simple affairs these days (and have carrot cake, because it's my favorite but I only eat it on my birthday, that's my silly tradition), but I love making other people happy and making their birthdays exactly the kind of awesome they want. Everybody should get what they want on their birthday.
A last anecdote, because April is an important birthday month for me. When my parents had me, they deliberated on my middle name. They almost named me Megan October Derr, but finally decided on April, my mom's birth month, because who could resist giving a child the initials MAD?
Happy birthday to all the April babies! I hope your birthday wishes come true.
April is the fourth month of the year, so four lucky winners! Each winner can have their pick of one ebook from my backlist. Alternately, you can choose a three month subscription to LT3's Serials. To enter, leave a comment with your email. Contest ends April 30. Also, don't forget to enter the grand prize giveaway!
I have two stories coming out in the near future. Lukos Heat is a short story in the Dracones anthology being released by Storm Moon Press at the end of April. My story is about a dragon seeking vengeance for the attempted murder of his brother, but he's hindered because he comes from a hot, dry climate and only magic sustains him in the snowy mountains where he hunts.
Najlah grumbled and shifted restlessly on the campfire until he found a more comfortable position, thinking longingly of his homeland, Tahjil. He hated Restuel's wretched winters. He had not realized how much worse the cold would be when they reached the mountains that formed the northern border.
Back home, it was all hot sand, hot sun, hot stones that only the dragons could endure; anyone else foolish enough to try wound up severely burned. When foreigners started arriving in droves, he and his fellow dragons had struggled to keep the idiots from getting themselves killed.
He shifted again, hissing his discontent. A few of the men regarded him sympathetically, and a couple built the fire up higher for him. Najlah thanked them with a soft rumble.
To distract himself, he flicked his tongue out, tasting the air, but he came away with nothing but wintry forest, fire, and his companions, the cat and bird shifters that comprised their small unit of the Royal Shifter Corp.
It was frustrating to be so close to their goal, only to be thwarted by the mass and might of the Shide Mountains. They had hoped to catch Lord Kay Ranteth sooner, but the bastard was slicker than a brown scale bitch on the prowl.
Najlah tasted the air again—and jerked his head up with a spitting growl, alerting the men, sending embers and sparks flying into the air and out across the snow.
He uncoiled his sinuous body, black scales glistening wetly where they were struck by moonlight and flickering flames. He flexed his claws, spikes springing up all the way down the length of his spine to the tip of his tail, drops of poison gleaming at their ends. He growled loudly, baring his teeth as seven figures came out of the shadows, their scent the wildest he'd caught since leaving home.
It was similar to dog, but sharper, more feral, with the bitter tang that always accompanied the scent of shifters. They also carried the smell of predators: the hot bite of blood and lust for the hunt. Najlah's battle brothers were no slouches, but they did not compare—and everyone present knew it.
Najlah hissed again, not backing down from his protective stance. He was intrigued, but he would be just as happy to rip their throats out, drink their blood and devour their flesh. It would warm him better than conversation.
The wolves growled back at him, hackles rising, but Najlah did not stand down. They were large—standing shoulders to hips to his brothers—and better suited to the environment, but he doubted they knew how to fight a dragon. The foremost of them, a wolf of pure black with eyes the same silver-gold as the moon, stepped forward and barked, then let his tongue loll.
Unamused and unimpressed, Najlah turned to Fayth, Captain and his brother-in-law, and waited.
- - - - -
The second story is a stand-alone, cute and fluffy short coming out the end of May with Less Than Three Press.
Skylar is used to the way people think of him as frightening, mean, and dangerous. Snakes are not the most popular shifters around and the fact he grew up wild doesn't help. He knows the way he's chosen to live alone in the woods only makes things worse, but he didn't think it meant people thought him capable of killing a couple of wolf puppies.
Determined to find the real monster who left them to die, Skylar calls up the only wolf he knows, a man he always wished would see him as more than a snake …
It was still pitch black—why was he awake? Skylar sat up in bed and shoved aside his
electric blanket, immediately mourning the loss of heat. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he shoved his feet into slippers and left the bedroom, padding through the house to the kitchen.
Then he heard it, distant and faint: crying. Wolves by the sounds of it, two little wolf puppies. Why would they be crying in the middle of the woods at … he glanced at the microwave clock … ugh, was it really three in the morning?
The crying flared up again and Skylar's gut twisted. Who would leave babies alone in the woods and in the middle of winter? Had something happened to their parents? Why had they been on his property at all? And those questions just led to a host of others: why had he not heard anything sooner? Why wolves, when there were no wolf shifters anywhere remotely close? The nearest packs were four to six hours away.
Why, oh why, did these things always happen when it was freezing cold outside? Sighing, Skylar left the kitchen to go get properly dressed. He'd travel the woods in his shifted form, but he would definitely want the clothes later. In his bedroom, he shucked his flannel pajama pants and t-shirt, then pulled on thermal underwear, jeans, a t-shirt, sweater, and his favorite fleece. Tugging a toboggan down over his head, smooshing his poor curls and guaranteeing they'd look stupid later, he sat down to lace on heavy, fur-lined boots.
He snatched up his gloves and pulled them on as he headed for the back door, snagging one of the scarves from the rack by the door on his way past. Winding it around his neck, burying his nose in the soft, warm wool, he stepped outside into the frigid night.
The cries were louder without the buffer of the house, filled with so much terror that Skylar ached and feared for them. He wanted to sink his fangs into whatever jerk had left them. He hoped he hadn't slept through something tragic and the parents were dead.
Well, he wouldn't know until he knew, and standing on his porch wouldn’t tell him anything. Closing his eyes, Skylar reached deep, called up his alt form—true form, most liked to say, but Skylar was of the opinion that both forms were true forms and he'd much rather use a microwave than swallow his food whole, thanks—and let it overtake him.
Magic prickled and rubbed along his skin, wrapped around him like a scratchy blanket. The world seemed to vanish beneath him, stomach rolling in the moment before his alternate form took hold. Skylar flicked his tongue, tasting the air. Cold, so miserably cold.
But he could also taste wolf, blood. Judging by the vibrations, they were near his frog pond. He could only sense the pups, though, which meant they had been abandoned, or he could not yet taste anyone who might be dead. Skylar slithered off across the frosted grass and into the dense woods that surrounded his property, constantly sampling the air, listening and feeling to the activity of the woods. Mostly it was quiet—too quiet. Even the nocturnal animals had withdrawn, alarmed by the crying of the pups.
As he got closer, Skylar could taste the unique tang of shifter. So not just wolves, but shifter wolves. Baby shifters! He wished he had someone to sink his fangs into just to watch them freak out before they realized his venom was not as dangerous as some snakes'. A pity, that. He wouldn’t mind a bit of his parents' venom to inflict on the kind of monster who would hurt babies.
He reached the pond quickly, his presence driving off the last few lingering frogs, even though he'd never eaten a frog in his life. The pups were huddled together near the pond, their body heat vibrant, and they were squirming and crying enough that between the vibrations and heat signature Skylar had an excellent image of them. They tensed and went quiet when they realized he was there. One of them recoiled while the slightly smaller one lunged forward and began to bark for all it was worth.
Affection surged for them, the one that knew better than to tangle with a snake, especially in the dark, and the smaller one that was going to do it anyway. Skylar reached for his magic again, letting out a slow breath when his human form settled into place. The barking puppy stopped, then gave a low confused whine. Skylar crept toward them on his knees and extended a hand. "Shh, little pups. Sky won't hurt you."
The smaller puppy whined again, hunched and creeping as it drew close enough to press its nose into Skylar's hand. It yipped a moment later and attempted to climb him. Skylar fell over on his ass and allowed the puppy into his lap. The other one quickly followed, sniffing his jeans thoroughly before following his brother to squirm and huddle against Skylar, shivering with fear and cold and the relief of no longer being alone. He held them close, feeling possessive, protective. Nobody was going to hurt them ever again, not if he could help it.
Megan is a long time resident of m/m fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she's not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies (especially all things James Bond). She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all around the internet.