Monday, 28 October 2013

Renee Wildes: Marek's New World

Today, Heart of Fiction welcomes Renee Wildes. Author of the outstanding Guardians of the Light series, Renee celebrates the publication of her first book outside the series and in a whole new world. In fact, it's also Marek's New World. (see what I did there? :-) )

Before we meet Marek, let's meet Renee. Everything in Renee's life has been a learning experience which has led to her becoming a much loved author. She grew up reading fantasy authors like Mercedes Lacky and Terry Brooks, finding these stories great escapism into new and unfamiliar worlds. She had horses most of her life so it was no surprise when she became a vet tech, something surprising to a family full of nurses. It's pretty similar though, right? Her fondness for animals led her to volunteer at the local humane society and become a passionate Chow advocate. She's now working as a dog groomer during the day, and spends evenings and weekends writing. Renee is a dedicated history buff with a fondness for the Dark Ages and Colonial America. One of her greatest influences came as a Navy brat and the daughter of a cop. She grew up with a passion for righting wrongs, doing good over evil, so it's also no surprise that her writing focuses on protector and guardian heroes and heroines. And you can bet, her stories include all of those life lessons Renee has learned through her life. Including a few critters.

Which leads us to Marek. A Native American thrust into a future new-to-him world, Marek is on the trail of an evil demon called the Reynak. He must train modern day warriors to fight and protect themselves against this creature. What Marek doesn't expect is to encounter Cheyenne Rafferty, a park ranger in the Montana wilderness. While out patrolling the park, Chey experiences a strong earthquake. Knowing quakes are rare in Montana, she's on high alert to ensure everyone in the park is safe. The last thing she expected was finding a Native American man who looks like he's stepped out of the past.

Chey is also a wolf shifter. No better woman for the job as park ranger, eh? She's immediately in tune with both human guardians of a natural park and Nature's own wilderness protectors, the wolves. It's like getting insider intelligence by having a foot in both worlds. It's a terrific plot element. And now a man from the past must teach this futuristic woman about an evil which has lurked underground for so many centuries and resurfaced with a horrible new mission.

Yes, this is also a romance, and a very deep one at that. The bond forged between Marek and Chey pulls at the heartstrings as their relationship intensifies. Will Marek return to his time if the Reynak can be stopped or will he forever be left in a foreign land? Can Chey return to his time with him, and does she want to leave behind the only life she's ever known for a place she's never seen?

This is a deeply moving story on many platforms. The reader will be pulled in from page one. This is a real page-turner. Sorry for the cliche but really, this is an engrossing read. You'll forget the time and suddenly you're on the last page looking for more. While a paranormal story, Renee has brought her characters to life. It's easy to see the Montana wilderness as the backdrop. And she makes it quite believable that something wicked lives just beneath the surface and can come out any time, in any place. For anyone who loves fantasy and wonderful love stories, this one is a must for anyone's TBR pile. Move it to the top.

We had a chance to sit down and chat with Renee about her life as a writer and pet lover --

• • •

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Renee. Sounds like you have a very full life. With so much on your plate, which I understand also includes a very supportive husband and a couple kids, how do you find time for everything? You must have a routine if you're to fit in writing too. Do you have a writing routine? If so, what's it like?
Living in central WI in an OLD house, it's a challenge to stay warm these days. I most often find myself writing in sweats and slippers! (Sometimes wrapped in a blanket if the wind's blowing in the right direction!) I work part-time as a dog groomer, mostly mid-day shifts (11-7) so I tend to work on my social media interactions/promo stuff in the morning before work (after the kids go to school) and do most of my writing in the evenings and on my days off.

My dad got me Dragon software for Christmas that I like to play around with, and family and coworkers are used to me "talking to myself" plotting out bits of scenes or dialogue. The only thing I can't write in office/on computer are love scenes - those I have to write longhand first, then enter into the computer afterward. I guess I don't find computers sexy! LOL You can always tell what I'm writing by the music playing - love scenes mean Enya or Kate Price. For dark magic or battle scenes it's Nightwish and Axel Rudi Pell. When I'm immersed in one of my fantasy books it's Mediaeval Baebes. (The kids go running whenever they hear Enya...)
Funny about your kids. I wonder how they feel about your other selections. And yeah, I'm guessing using Dragon isn't conducive to writing those love scenes either, at least not when the family is around. Interesting that you still enjoy the old paper and pen method. In a day of modern technology, it's nice to see people holding onto the 'old ways' ;-)

So, once you're ready to input everything into your computer, where do you go? What's your writing space like?
I have a small office upstairs in my house with my desk, all my bookshelves, writing awards & book covers. I am a writing book junkie and have a lot of Dark Ages & pagan/magic references. I love scented candles (my favorite scent is amber-anything) and writing to music. For Marek's New World it was R. Carlos Nakai's Canyon Trilogy (Native American flute). When we cleaned out the garage of stuff we were storing for a former next-door-neighbor (they got evicted and after four years of silence we decided we wanted our garage back) we discovered a couple of swords and a "jeweled" long knife that are now my prized possessions!

The dog and cats come in and out at will, but the kids know when Mom's writing, do not disturb unless blood or bones are involved. They're teenagers, so can fend for themselves for stretches of time. Of course, there was the time when Tami banged on the door and cracked it open, waving a chicken bone and complaining "We're hungry and there's no more chicken left." (I should have been more specific!) I splurged on an actual office chair from OfficeMax - much easier to sit for long periods of time. I'm a coffee addict (dark roast ONLY) so pretty much have a cup in hand all day long. Brew a couple pots a day. I have to be careful to watch the cats - they like to wander over the keyboard when they're sick of being ignored - strange things appear on the computer screen when they do that!
Kids and animals are great like that, aren't they? Looks like a very satisfying workspace, especially having all of the paraphernalia around you reconfirming you're good at what you do. Chicken bones aside!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I love to wander through antique stores (I collect red Depression glass and we have a wonderful store in downtown Wausau on 3rd Street called Ginny's), scrapbook and hang out at the farm in Hatley where we board our horses. We have two gray half-Arab mares, my Morab Sassy and Tami's half-Welsh Moonlight. Moonlight's over 25 and not rideable anymore, so she takes extra care these days, esp. prepping for winter. Senior grain, joint supplement & blanketing. Riding through the woods during hunting season's always interesting--we have very glamorous day-glo yellow vests and saddle blankets. Once we saw a black bear on the trail--Sassy was NOT a happy camper! Horses HATE bears.

We also have a black Chow, Abby, (1/2 Chowminator & 1/2 Flufferina) and two cats - Ranger and Chandra. Ranger is only 3 mos. old, and Chandra's a cranky 11-year-old calico, so he drives her nuts. The family spends a lot of time "cat wrangling" b/c Ranger has no survival instinct at all and follows her everywhere. Abby tries to mother him and run interference but even she has her limits.

I'm also a voracious, albeit eclectic, reader. I LOVE research. Anything Viking, Celtic and/or Druidic and I'm gone for hours! When I do come up for air and "read for fun," my favorite fiction authors are Mercedes Lackey, Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Lori Foster, Sherrilyn Kenyan, JR Ward, Christine Feehan, Angela Knight and Mary Hughes.

We're gearing up for our 16th wedding anniversary on Halloween/Samhain Eve. We both have to work, but will probably escape the kids at least long enough for dinner. My favorite restaurant is 2510 - we do all our celebrating there, whether it's family or writing related.
How fun that you got married on Halloween! Sounds like you have a wonderful life though, filled with lots of smiles and laughter. With everything going on around you, it's both a wonder you have time to write AND a fabulous collection of experiences to draw upon if you ever get stuck for a scene in your stories.

Thanks for taking time out of what's obviously a crazy-busy day to talk with us, and good luck with Marek's New World. I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I did.

Before we get to the excerpt, Renee is giving away a copy of Marek's New World to one random commenter, so be sure to drop her a comment or question (*don't forget your contact email address so we can reach you) to be automatically added in the draw.

• • •

When park ranger Cheyenne Rafferty’s truck is destroyed by an earthquake, she doesn't think her day can get any worse. Until she runs afoul of a demon from the ancient past - and the compelling warrior who followed it forward in time.

Hero Marek awakens 2000 years in the future, to a world all but incomprehensible. Sent to teach modern warriors to combat the Reynak, he now finds the demon the only thing familiar. His people and their epic struggle have been lost to the passage of time. The only one willing to help him is a daughter of the earth, a beautiful shifter woman with the heart of a wolf.

Wrongness. The fine hairs prickled the back of Cheyenne Rafferty’s neck as she crouched beside the ice-laced pond and filled the small glass vial with water. Surveying the too-still northwest Montana forest, she sniffed the air, catching the normal scents of a Cabinet Mountains springtime—spicy Ponderosa pines, new quaking aspen leaves, and the mineral tang of mud-tinged snow. She strained to listen.

Silence. Dead silence. No animals, no birds. Weird for early afternoon, even in mid-April. She wanted to melt down into true-self and let Sister take over. The white wolf’s senses were more acute, but she needed to finish collecting water samples and report to her U.S. Forestry Service superiors. Hard to do either with four paws and a growl.

Frowning, Cheyenne pulled her handheld radio from her belt. “Eagle to Nest.”

“What’s up, Chey?” her cousin Sarah asked.

“You got anything from USGS on recent seismic readings?”

“Are you serious? Here? There’s no alert for Kootenai. Why?”

Cheyenne closed her eyes and reached for the inner stillness where soul touched earth. Wrongness. A single ripple on the water’s mirror surface. “Too quiet. Sister’s twitchy.”

“I’ll double-check.” Silence on the line, then “Crap! Hang on, Chey. We’ve got tremors coming.”

The earth shivered; a sigh building to a low groan. With a mighty heave, the ground arched like the back of a newly-saddled mustang and then dropped. Cheyenne lost her balance and tumbled to the ground. The pond crested into a single giant wave that crashed over her. Boulders cartwheeled down the mountainside toward her truck.

With the speed of thought Sister emerged. The nimbleness and claws of the white wolf gave her better purchase on the shifting ground than her human self.  As she danced amidst the rocks, Cheyenne’s thoughts buried beneath Sister’s instinct to stay up and keep moving. One rock with sharp quartz edges glanced off her flank. Sister yelped and ducked out of the way. It seemed an eternity but was over within moments.

Sister shook herself free of the debris. Now that it was safer, Sister retreated. Muscles stretched; joints popped as bones lengthened. Skin burst through split fur. There was a moment of pain, of dizziness and disorientation as Cheyenne straightened upright and rose in her wet filthy uniform. She grimaced as cold, clammy material clung to her skin.

This will teach me to leave my coat in the truck. If only she could shift into clean, dry clothes but that wasn’t how it worked. What you left was what you re-entered. A little extra fur made back into clothing. Minus badge and holster belt, radio and cell phone.

Why I haul the phone around in an area with no reception bars… Her older brother Brady would freak when he couldn’t get a hold of her. He’d raised her singlehandedly after their parents died and still took his guardianship seriously, long after she’d reached the age of consent.

“Chey? Chey? You there? You okay?” Sarah sounded breathless—and frantic. “Answer me, dammit.”

Cheyenne wrung out her dripping ponytail and tossed the scraggly ash blonde rope of hair back over her left shoulder. Her sturdy hiking boots squelched in the mud as she picked up her squawking radio. “Tell Brady I’m fine. You?”
“We’re okay, still here. Lights are gone; no phones. Kane broke out a flashlight to check the records vault down in the basement.”

“What’s the scoop?” Cheyenne struggled to buckle her belt one-handed.

“Four-pointer, but localized.” Sarah paused. “I think it just brushed Troy but didn’t make it as far as Libby; Evan’s checking with both towns, but that’ll take time. Phone and power lines are down. We’ve got broken windows, a crack in the north wall and also—yep, right down the middle of the parking lot. So much for the resurfacing. Crap—your mom’s ivy took a header off your desk…hang on…there. It’s a bit squashed. Sorry. What’s the damage out there?”

Cheyenne looked around. Rocks had carved jagged paths through the dripping underbrush. Evergreen trees lay toppled in every direction, the pond now a shallow, steaming mud puddle. Dead fish lay scattered across the bubbling surface of a newly-emerged hot spring. “Looks like an amateur logging event. The pond’s now hot. Total kill. I need to check my truck.” She returned the radio to her belt, snapped some photos—at least the phone was now good for something—and took another water/mud sample. Then she half-staggered, half-slid down the trail to the gravel road where she’d parked.

A moan sounded from nowhere, from everywhere, like a dying moose magnified a hundredfold building to a roar. A sense of glee, of malice and rage, hammered into her. Cheyenne drew her Smith & Wesson service revolver and looked around for the source of the eerie sound. Sister cowered deep within her. Cheyenne frowned. Sister didn’t cower from anything, not even a mama grizz with new cubs. Whatever that noise was, her inner wolf wanted no part of it.

She quickened her pace. Her hunting rifle was in the truck. This early in the season bears weren’t out unless they’d run short on body fat. For taking soil samples and measuring water depths she didn’t usually need weapons, just a pen, notepad, and test tubes—along with the occasional canoe.

Apparently this wasn’t the usual day.

• • •

Renee Wildes is an award-winning Wisconsin author, married with two teenagers. She grew up reading fantasy authors Terry Brooks and Mercedes Lackey and is a huge Joseph Campbell fan. Renee is a pagan & history buff who’s esp. fond of the Dark Ages and colonial America. Both a Navy brat and a cop’s kid, she gravitated to protector/guardian heroes and heroines. She’s had horses her whole life, so became the only vet tech in a family of nurses. She currently works as a dog groomer in her day job, volunteers at the local humane society, is a passionate Chow advocate and scrapbooks in her spare time. It all comes together in her books – fantasy, action, romance, heroics and lots of critters!

Find Renee online --


  1. Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Renee, and congrats on Marek's New World.

    Tell us, after writing for so long in the Guardians of the Light series, was it a hard transition away from that world into this new world?

    Also, where did you get the idea for this story?

  2. LOL - I originally wrote the story on a bet w/fellow WisRWA author Donna Rogers. We'd met when Duality won the 2006 Fab 5 (she was one of the judges), and there was a contest looking for short werewolf stories. I told her I didn't do "short" and she dared me to try. So I did.

    I've read a lot of paranormal, but never written it. I've got a voice naturally suited for fantasy, but Marek has a lot of fantasy elements in it - it truly bridges genres.

    I love nature, and one of my favorite vacations was going to Yellowstone park with my grandmother. I admire the people who work to keep our world beautiful and natural, and it's a struggle in a "progressive" society to still honor the old ways. I wanted to illustrate the conflict and struggle that goes on every day to find a balance.

    1. Sometimes the best stories come out of bets. I think paranormal and fantasy can go hand in hand. Not all fantasy has to involve fairies and goblins, IMO.

      We were just in Yosemite National Park over the summer. I grew up going camping there when I was a kid. To see the devastating fires was heartbreaking. But you know, the Native People knew how to care for the forests. It was the white man who put a stop to it. Some people never listen! {sigh} From day one I loved your heroine being a wolf shifter. Fabulous job and a terrific spin on the shifter subgenre.

  3. It's lovely to read about your background, Renee - I love that you work with animals and Marek's New World sounds great! All the best with it.

    1. Thanks so much, Rosemary! Exciting to be branching out into new fields!

  4. Love Renee's books and this one looks to be a new favorite! Congrats on your new release and upcoming anniversary!!

    1. Thanks Mary! Nice of you to stop by and visit! Hard to believe Todd & I have 16 years together...where DOES the time go?