Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Blog Has Moved!

If you've somehow magically reached this page and are looking for the most recent info on me and my books, please head on over to!

I'm retiring this site with a nostalgic sigh. It has served me well, but it was getting a bit old fashioned and creaky. My new site is linked to Tumblr and will feature all the photos, quotes, and blog posts I like and write, with more wide-ranging content that changes daily.

This site will remain up as an archive of my older blog posts, with a link to it on the new site if for any reason you ever want to come back here.

Now - onward! To the future!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Tax Season Goodreads Giveaway of the Otherkin Series!

To help alleviate the evil stress of tax season (I just finished doing mine and - ick!), I'm giving away the entire OTHERKIN series to three lucky people on Goodreads.

Just to be clear and pedantic and all that, three people will win the entire trilogy - OTHERKIN, OTHERMOON, and OTHERSPHERE! All books will be personally signed by me because, well, I'm the author. And I'll throw in a bunch of bookmarks for the winners too.

Makes you wanna howl at the moon, doesn't it?

Giveaway starts midnight April 2 and ends midnight, April 15, so go now and enter!

I'm really sorry to all my international readers, but this giveaway is US only. I hate having to do that, but the international postage rates are murder. You can buy the books for less money than it takes to ship them internationally. Crazy!

Here's the lovely Goodreads widget you can click on to enter.


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Othersphere by Nina Berry





          by Nina Berry


            Giveaway ends April 15, 2014.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Thanks, everyone, and I hope you all get a giant tax refund!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Czech Cover of OTHERKIN!

I was writing another blog post today (it'll be published on Thursday), and googled "otherkin series" as a quick easy way to find images and - pow! I saw this:

The cover of OTHERKIN for the Czech edition!

My first international edition, and the first time I've seen my name on something in a different language. A language I don't know! And her hair is super red! Are those tattoos on her arm? How exactly does the title  in Czech translate?

So many happy questions!

I'm a tad excited.

 It's on Goodreads here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shades & Shadows

This Saturday, some time after 8:30pm PST, I'll be standing on this stage, trying not to look nervous, as I read from my books.

You should come see me!

Well, if you're in or around Southern California, that is.

The event is called Shades & Shadows, and it's taking place at the deliciously named California Institute of the Abnormalarts in North Hollywood, California, this Saturday, March 15, starting at 8:30.

Other dark fantasy, horror, and sci fi writers will also be reading from their works, including Zach Morrissette, S.P. Hendrick, Becket, Chiwan Choi, and Cherisse Yanit-Nadal.

The subject matter can be dark and disturbing, I'm told, so this is probably an adults or older teens only event. I'm currently going through my books, looking for the most twisted things in them to see what to read. I'm not really a "dark" writer, but every story has a dark side, or else how can the light shine through?

It's $10 to get in, and they sell beer, wine, and a few spirits to those who wish to imbibe. I'll be drinking AFTER, most likely, in relief. Mostly I'm looking forward to hearing the other writers' material. Hanging with my fellow scribblers is always interesting.

Hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What Kind of Shifter Are You?

Yep, I wrote one of those cool personality quizzes, but this one's based on the shifter clans in my books.

Are you a....

Big cat shifter?

A raptor shifter?

Bald eagle. I enjoy going to Alton, the first of the year; the eagles are down here and look wonderful!

A bear shifter?

Cub Antics in Yellowstone Bear World, Idaho. Repinned from Vital Outburst clothing

A wolf shifter?
. white wolf / winter scene

Or a rat shifter?
My sister and I always had mice and rats when we were kids. So fun

Don't worry. As November would tell you, rat shifters are by far the coolest.

Go here to find out. (Sorry, it's only available on Facebook.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tweet and Watch Along with me Tonight!

I'm setting up for this right now! See you soon! Follow me on the @YASeriesInsider account or via the hashtag #YASImovie!

I'll be tweeting instructions and caveats and info starting 15 minutes before I start the movie. All from the @YASeriesInsider account.

If I don't "see" you there - have a great MLK Jr. Weekend!

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Can't Stop Giving Books Away!

Things are BUSY. And yay for that!

On top of rewriting the first PAGAN JONES book while outlining the second, on top of my day job and getting feral kittens neutered, on top of my current blog tour, I'm giving away five signed copies of OTHERSPHERE on Goodreads. It starts today and goes for two weeks.

If you're on Goodreads, get thee hence!


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Othersphere by Nina Berry





          by Nina Berry


            Giveaway ends January 28, 2014.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Meanwhile, you can read Cici Theories flattering review of the entire OTHERKIN series here.

And you can read my Top Ten Places in the World on The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club here.

Both have links to my big, fat, fabulous giveaway, in which you can win books and this pretty, fierce tiger necklace:

And earrings and bookmarks.

Tiger books and jewelry for all! I wish.

Oh, and this Sunday I'm doing the first Movie Tweet-Along for YA Series Insiders. We'll be watching The Mortal Instruments! I haven't seen it yet, love the books, and can't wait to watch.

Join me for appreciation and snark!

Until then, I'll be over here...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

This Week on "Nina Does a Blog Tour"

My first blog tour started last Monday, and it goes till next Wednesday, and so far so pretty darn good!

Our adventure so far starts New Years Eve, when Othersphere was born. (Even though more than one person told me they got it early! I've learned that happens often with books. No biggie.) Since I finished Othersphere, I've written the first book in a whole new series, and I was feeling a bit distant from the Otherkin trilogy. My head had gone to completely different places since Dez and her friends set foot in another world, where the moon has a heartbeat all its own...

But my emotional distance was also partially due to the fact that it was the last in my trilogy and that thought made me sad, so I chose to concentrate on other things.

The journey back to Othersphere started with me writing this post for Read It In Houston, about why I wrote the series in the first place. I started to get back in touch with my inner tiger.

I highly recommend it.

Then the holidays hit, and I kept writing blog posts for my upcoming blog tour while celebrating with family and friends, eating home-made tamales and seeing movies.

The actual day the book came out was a busy one - I had to take my cat Lucy to the vet (She's doing fine. Here she is enjoying the Los Angeles sunshine and keeping her highlights brown):

I also talked to my lovely editor on the phone, and (poor me) hung with fabulous friends for New Year's Eve.  I did a bit of book birthday social media blah blah blah, but book birthday's are weird things. People get the book on their e-readers (a couple of people were sweet enough to let me know they got theirs! I have such great friends) and it's now officially available in hard copies as well.

But it's not like the book leaps out of a cake and does a striptease. (Wish I could find a .gif of that!) Oh well.

It's magical and weird and awesome, but it's not as if your book parachutes down amidst fireworks or emerges from the primordial ooze to crawl at last upon the land. It's all oddly abstract for the author. For me the book was done six months ago. But that's how it has to work in publishing.

I was back at work on Jan 2, a bit shellshocked to return to the real world. I mailed off a bunch of books and swag to the winners of the YA Series Insiders launch giveaways (the main winner got over $1,000 worth of goodies from 11 different authors - crazy! Be sure to check out the YASI blog and keep checking for more giveaways. We've currently got one for the hot January releases going.)

Then - dun dun DUUUN! My first blog tour commenced. I'm giving away signed copies of all three Otherkin books, a gorgeous tiger necklace, fearless earrings to evoke that inner tiger, and more! Go here to see the whole deal, or read on.

First, a nice review at Ren's Rambles.

Second, an interview at Para Your Normal.

Third, a not as thrilled review (I'm being honest here, but don't get used to it!) at Hope, Love and Happy Endings.

Fourth, a super fun Dream Cast post at Taking it One Book at a Time.

Fifth, a review of the first book, OTHERKIN, at Bibliophilia, Please. (Because OTHERSPHERE is the last in the series, I thought it would be best to give the bloggers a choice as to which book to review.)

And tomorrow, a review of OTHERSPHERE by the lovely Jenna Does Books. No link to that actual review yet because it hasn't been posted, but here's a hint - she gave it five stars on Goodreads!

After that:

January 12th: CiCi Theories REVIEW ALL 3 BOOKS
January 13th: Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club TENS LIST
January 14th: Dream With In A Dream REVIEW ALL 3 BOOKS
January 15th: TTC Books And More SPOTLIGHT & EXCERPT


In the meantime, I got a nice mention in USA Today, I Smell Sheep reviewed OTHERSPHERE, as did Book Hoarder Mom, and Maci and Zoe Read Books published a very fun interview I did with them.

My best friend sent me flowers to commemorate the book coming out.

And so many nice messages on FB and twitter! My head is still spinning!

It was a relief to go to Lissa Price's launch for ENDERS and think about someone else's books for a little while. And of course I snagged copies of STARTERS and ENDERS signed by Lissa.

Hmm. Could be the makings of another giveaway...

Thanks for tolerating all my yim-yamming about this past week. Figured I should do my due diligence by listing it all, and thanking all the bloggers and Book Nerd Blog Tours for reading the books and taking the time to post things.

All the attention is amazing, don't get me wrong. I engineered a fair amount of it, after all, by setting up the blog tour. But I'm an introvert at heart, so I'm kind of excited to be working on the outline for my next book this weekend. I'd rather tell stories than blabber on about ME.

ME is boring.

ME and YOU on an adventure, in a story? That's more like it.

Friday, January 03, 2014

OTHERSPHERE Blog Tour Begins Next Week!

So this starts on Monday...

So, my cherbim, I'll be hopping from one blog to the next, a new one every day, deluging you with book excerpts, interviews, my dream cast (if the books were to become movies), a big FAT giveaway and more!

Details are here. But I'll be bothering you every day here and on all my many social media sites with links and all that jazz.

Did someone say jazz? Let me see your jazz hands!

More on Monday.

Oh, you're going to be SO sick of me!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, OTHERSPHERE! Lucky Book Number 3.

My third book is out today. The third in my OTHERKIN series, OTHERSPHERE.

They say 3 is a lucky number. They say it's magic.

In fact, they sing about it.

All I know is that I feel very lucky to have three whole books out there in the world, telling the story of Dez and her friends. It has been magical. Thank you everyone who has taken the time to get to know them along with me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

In Which I Takeover Someone Else's Blog

Kelly over at Read It in Houston: A Dyslexic's Bookshelf invited me to takeover her blog to help her celebrate Chrsistmahanakwanzika (yes, you read that right!) and I did so with a vengeance!

It gave me an excuse to post all kinds of cool tiger photos and videos and to babble about how the OTHERKIN books, where a teen girl with a back brace shifts into a tiger, are based on my real life experience.

No, really.

But you'll have to read it over at Read It In Houston!

Oh, and I'm giving away even MORE books! It's the holidays, folks - books for everyone! (Or at least as many of you as I can manage...)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

OTHERSPHERE Launch Giveaway!

I can't believe OTHERSPHERE will be out in just over a week on December 31!

To celebrate, I'm having a big ol' giveaway. Two people can win, and each of them will get:

A signed ARC of OTHERSPHERE. (I also promise to hand-write in the final five words of the book, which are missing from the ARC.)

Earrings with one of my favorite quotes on them, from Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN. One earring says "Beware for I am fearless," and the other says "And therefore powerful."

The quote makes me think of my main character Dez, when she's in her tiger-form. And maybe a little of that fearlessness and power will transfer to you when you wear them (or, if you don't wear earrings, to the person you give them to!) The background behind the quote in the earring is literary text. The earrings are nickel-free, for pierced ears, made of brass and clear magnifying glass, and are 21mm wide and 45mm long from the top of the earwire. (I had three sets made, kept one for myself because I love them so much, and am giving away the other two.)

A set of tiger notebooks (also pictured above in a patch of sunlight on my rug), one small and one medium. These are thin, soft-back notebooks made from 100% recycled materials featuring a tiger on the front and back from The small one is 3.5" x 4.75" with 40 unlined pages. The medium one is 5" x 7"with 44 unlined pages. (I have two sets of these and kept a set for myself too!)

The contest starts tonight at midnight and ends at midnight on Monday, December 30. Sorry, but it has to be US only because I'm tapped out on shipping this holiday season.

You can enter by commenting on this blog, liking my Facebook page, or tweeting about the contest, via the Rafflecopter widget below. You'll get the most points for commenting, less for tweeting, and even less for Facebook. I figured that way it's a bit fairer for those who are not on Twitter or Facebook.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for a wonderful 2013, everyone! Ending it with a book launch ain't half-bad for me. And in a way it's the launch of my new year as well. Here's to a fabulous 2014 for us all!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Read the First Chapter of Othersphere Now!

Happy December!

For me, this is not just the month of Christmas, family, giving, and pumpkin pie. It's the month my third book, OTHERSPHERE, comes out - on December 31.

Dun dun duuuuun!

I'd say it's my gift to you, but gifts don't cost $9.99 (or less on sale or in e-book form), do they?

But I can give you a free glimpse of the book. The first chapter is up on Scribd here to read online or download for free.

Woo hoo!

Read it, and I'll give you such a hug (virtually) you won't know what hit you.

Okay. I need to go lie down now.

(Those last two gifs thanks to my new TV obsession, NBC's gorgeous Dracula, in case you were wondering...)

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Win the OTHERKIN Trilogy in my Facebook-Only Giveaway!

To reward the folks who've so kindly liked my Facebook page this year, I'm giving away THREE (yep, 3) full sets of the OTHERKIN trilogy, signed and personalized for each winner. This is an international giveaway, opent to all.

Three folks will get a signed hard copy of OTHERKIN:


And the Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of OTHERSPHERE. All the ARCs of OTHERSPHERE are mysteriously missing the last five words of the story. Crazy, right? So I promise to hand-write those last five magic words into the last page of your OTHERSPHERE ARC myself, making it just that much more personal.

Unless you don't want me to and want to be left hanging because you're funny that way. Up to you!

Just go here to my Facebook page and comment on the post announcing the giveaway (you might have to "like" the page first), telling me your favorite animal character in literature. (By which I mean any animal, magical, talking, or not! And not shifters like my characters.)

Animals in books are part of what drew me to reading in the first place, whether it was Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia or Charlotte, Wilbur, and good old Templeton the rat (see any resemblance to my character November?) in CHARLOTTE'S WEB. But as my all-time favorite I have to pick Iorek Byrnison from THE GOLDEN COMPASS/HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Philip Pullman, probably because this amazing armored polar bear is as flawed and three-dimensional as any human character in books.


This is a still from the movie, but don't see the movie. (It's not that great.) Read the books! They're amazing.

And thanks to everyone on my Facebook page this year. I really am thankful for you all!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

OTHERSPHERE - Now Available on NetGalley!

If you're a blogger or reviewer, you can now read OTHERSPHERE (third book in my OTHERKIN series) on Netgalley here.

If you're having trouble and/or need to be approved, just email me at ninaberrybooks (at) gmail (dot) come and I'll send a request to my publisher to get you approved.

I'm waiting...

Or if you need a widget, I can email it to you. Just let me know!

Monday, November 04, 2013

The Otherkin Series to Be Published in Czech!

The headline says it all except for - WOO HOO!

To celebrate, here's my own photo of Prague from my visit there in 2008:

Such a spectacular city!

How cool is it that a book I wrote will be coming out in a language I can't even read? It's surreal.

I can't help wondering - how will "otherkin" translate in Czech? Not to mention "humdrum" and "Othersphere"!  Luckily for me, that's up to the translator.

And what will the covers of the books look like? I'm a huge fan of Czech artist Alphone Mucha, and so am dreaming of art deco tigers dancing across the covers...

Or perhaps that a very dated way to think about Czech design. Here's the cover of Czech edition of Maggie Stiefvater's Scorpio Races, as a more recent example:

Very cool!

Thanks to KTeen for making the sale and I'll keep you posted when I finally do see a Czech book cover and find out the Czech word for otherkin. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Otherkin Halloween

(Author's note: I wrote this short story for Halloween last year, and it appeared on the Good Choice Reading blog. Since it's once again the time for trick or treat, here is my Halloween tale of what happened the Halloween before Dez's arrival at Morfael's school. This is a prequel to my book OTHERKIN, featuring the other four shifter kids on a small adventure all their own...)

Nobody goes to the Old Fig Garden neighborhood on Halloween any more.

When I was a kid, papier-mâché witches rested tired broomsticks in the treetops. Vast front lawns were bedecked with Styrofoam tombstones. Elaborate jack o’ lanterns grimaced from front porches swathed in fake cobwebs. Parents would bring children to the area by the truckload as the last traces of day smeared the western sky every October 31st and watch as mini vampires and pirates scampered from one grand old house to another, collecting pumpkin pop tarts and dollar bills.

Now on All Hallow’s Eve the neighborhood’s gracious homes lie dark and unwelcoming. No cardboard bats flit stapled to the bare branches of the oaks. No store-bought zombie hands reach up from the piles of fallen leaves.

I know why. I was there the night everything changed.

Consuela, Tawnia, and I were the Three Musketeers that year, complete with wide brimmed hats decked with ostrich feathers and painted on mustaches. We had just scored a bag of fair-trade malted milk balls and five bucks each at a plantation style mansion, and we were cackling over how everyone had said we were too old for this now that we were thirteen. Boy, were they missing out!

“We are way too old for this,” said a deep guy’s voice from somewhere behind us.

“And we look like idiots.” That was a girl’s voice, low and unhappy.

I turned my head to see who was talking as we continued down the sidewalk. My friends did the same. We saw a group of four teenagers, older than us, sixteen at least, emerging from a pick up truck in the coolest costumes I’d ever seen.

The person striding in front of the group was short like me, and she looked like a five-foot tall rat walking on its hind legs until I focused and saw she was just a girl in a suit made out of brown-gray fuzzy blanket. Behind her loomed a huge grizzly bear who, when I blinked hard, was actually a very tall, broad-shouldered boy with long straight black hair and cheekbones you could cut yourself on. He was wearing what looked like a fluffy brown rug and a snout made from a pinecone. Next to him stood a six-foot tall bald eagle. Except the eagle was really an angular boy in a beaked mask covered with white feathers and large cardboard wings strapped to his arms. Behind them skulked a silver wolf – or rather a girl in a cleverly cut up bit of gray carpet.

“Idiots don’t collect candy and money for free.” The rat girl asked, pulling out a canvas bag and shaking it. “My candy stash is running low, and so’s my cash stash.”

Behind the yellow beak mask, the eagle’s voice was sharp. “Isn’t the whole point of Halloween to dress up as something you’re not?”

“My whole point is that shifters don’t celebrate Halloween.” The grizzly boy’s comment came out like a grunt.

I looked at Tawnia and mouthed, “Shifters?”

She shrugged, whispered, “Some kind of gang?”

“Halloween’s what humdrums do because they’re scared of things like us,” said the wolf girl with a touch of disdain. “I’m perpetuating negative stereotypes tonight against my will.”

“You look great,” said the rat girl. “Can’t believe how good you are with a needle, Wolfie. These costumes will score me—I mean, us some mega-goodies for sure. “

They went on talking, something about the full moon and shadow, walking about thirty feet behind us until the wolf girl hissed, “Shut up! Those mundanes will hear us.”

It took me a second. Then I realized - she meant us!

Silence fell. Tawnia, Consuela, and I moved closer together and sped up our pace. I wished the rapier at my side was made out of steel rather than wood. Consuela’s mom was listening to an audio book a few hundred feet down the street in her SUV, a phone call away. But something about the animal teens (I couldn’t help thinking of them that way) spooked me.

Don’t be silly, I told myself. That’s just Halloween. And you’re too old for that stuff.

As we approached the next house, terrible screams shredded the air. We halted as a stream of little kids in sheets and black capes ran thumping away from the dark dwelling, yelling for their mothers.

We couldn’t help laughing.

“Remember that time that lady dressed up like a zombie and jumped out of the bushes at us as we walked up her steps?” Tawnia asked.  “That was awesome.”

“Whatever these people have planned will be no match for the Three Musketeers!” Consuela slipped her sword out of her belt to hold it high.

Tawnia and I did the same, clicking the foil-covered wood tips together. They gleamed in the moonlight as we shouted, “All for one and one for all!”

I felt a rush of happiness. We were too old to be terrified by silly tricks any more.  Too old, I told myself, to be scared by older teenagers in better costumes talking weirdly. United, swords still out, we strode as one up the cracked walkway to a tall, crooked house, too full of ourselves to notice that it didn’t have any witches in the trees or pumpkins in the window. Nothing but a sliver of light leaked from behind the curtains as the wind sent the broken-seated porch swing creaking.

 We marched up the steps in a martial rhythm, the four animal teens not far behind. The front door swooped open. Light blazed out, casting the looming figure of a man into silhouette.

We couldn’t see his face, but we were prepared and unafraid. We held out our bags and chanted, “Trick or treat!”

He was holding something long and narrow in both hands, and he did something to it that made a loud cha-chunk noise. I paused, not quite believing it. The lamplight from the doorway gleamed off the metal barrel. It was a shotgun. And it looked very real.

“Get the hell off my property, you stupid kids!” His voice was rough. His upper teeth flashed as he snarled. “Damned holiday – I’ve had enough! If my doorbell rings one more time, I swear something’s gonna get shot. Now leave me alone!”

That’s not funny, I thought, too terrified to move. I heard nothing but a frantic, chest-shaking thump that must’ve been my heart. It had to be a joke. A terrible joke.

Then the man pointed the gun up at the wooden roof of his own porch and fired. The report slammed into my head like a punch. The gun recoiled deep into his shoulder, and chips of wood rained down around us.  “I said get out of here!”

Tawnia screamed, a high-pitched wail of pure panic I’d never heard from her before. She backed away, shaking her head, missed the first step down and fell over backwards. Her cry abruptly cut off.

Consuela whimpered, turned and ran after her, yelling “Tawnia! Tawnia!”

I couldn’t even turn to see if Tawnia was okay. Couldn’t walk backwards, couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t breathe.

The man’s eyes traveled from the commotion on the steps back to me. His eyebrows lowered, a deep line furrowed between them. “Didn’t you hear me, girl?

I opened my mouth. I wanted to say “Yes. Yes, I heard you. I’m sorry. I’ll go now. Bye, and thanks for not killing me.”

But no sound would come.

He lowered the gun to point it right at me.  “I got a right to –“

Something growled.

The man stopped mid-word, his eyes popping open. As one, he and I turned our heads toward the menacing rumble.

There by the broken porch swing crouched an enormous wolf, much bigger than any wolf should be, its thick fur shining silver in the moonlight.

My skin erupted in goose bumps. If the sight of a gun had scared me stiff, that was nothing to the shocking otherness of the wolf. I’d never seen anything so beautiful, or so terrifying. Its eyes, an eerie blue, glowed radioactively at the man with the gun. 

 Not at me. At him.

The man inhaled noisily. His hand tightened on the shotgun. I had a sudden, insane desire to shout a warning to the wolf.

As the man swung the gun toward the animal, its eyes shifted from him to something behind him.  It looked almost… pleased. The hair on the back of my neck rose.

I forced myself to turn, to look. A few feet away stood a grizzly bear the size of Consuela’s mom’s SUV. Its blond-tipped brown fur rippled over thick padded muscle. Its shining black eyes were fixed on the man’s back. 

My throat went dry. My scalp to wanted to leap off the top of my head. I stumbled back, but the bear paid me no mind.

The man, aiming at the wolf, tightened his finger on the shotgun’s trigger. The bear stood on its hind legs with an uncanny silence and grace, lifted a paw bigger than a tire, and swatted the man on the shoulder.

It didn’t look like the bear put much weight or effort into the hit, but the man flew with a sudden unnatural jerk through the air. A yelp of surprise shot out of him as he sailed past his own front steps to thump down onto his walkway, rolling with a crunch into some dead leaves.

The wolf barked, high and happy, bounding up to the bear, who came back onto all fours and snuffled the wolf’s neck.

I was gripping the worn wooden handrail near the stairs. The bear was not ten feet away. Consuela and Tawnia were squealing periodically over by some bushes. They must have managed to crawl there while I was frozen. Consuela shouted, “Theresa, get out of there!”

But I was looking at the man on the ground. He still had the gun, and he rolled to his knees, lifting it once more.  “Look out!” I yelled at the bear and wolf.

Then something else, something dark with a splash of white, swooped down swifter than any witch on a broom, bigger than any bat. The man cried out as a whoosh of air from powerful wings washed over us all. A bald eagle the size of a Pegasus snatched the shotgun from the man with its talons and flew away, silhouetted for a moment against the rising moon.

That was it for the man. He leaped to his feet and took off at a dead run down his walkway toward the street, yelling for someone to call the cops, call the sheriff, get animal control.

I was sitting down. My knees must have given way without me even noticing. I stared in numb disbelief as the wolf trotted a few steps closer, its unnerving blue gaze fixing me in place the way a pin sticks an insect. The bear sat down, as if I’d inspired it, and looked at the paw that had swiped at the man, flexing black claws longer than my fingers.

“Sorry they scared you.”  It was the rat girl, still in her brown-gray costume, whiskers painted on her cheeks, coming up the porch steps to me. “But we couldn’t let him shoot you, could we?”

“But…” I managed to say finally. “What…?”

“Probably better you don’t tell anyone about us.” She walked up and leaned comfortably against the bear, who didn’t seem to mind. “They won’t believe you anyway.”

A beat of wings, and the eagle came to land on the handrail near my head. I felt the wood give under its weight. The bird fixed one piercing golden eye on me. Despite the cruel curve of its sharp beak, the razor sharp claws on its feet, I saw something in its gaze that told me I was no longer in danger. This creature had taken away the gun that had been pointed at me and dropped it somewhere to help me. I realized I was breathing again. I was okay, even if I was shaking.

The wolf’s ears swiveled toward the road, and a moment later I heard distant sirens.

“That’s our cue,” said the rat girl. She looked around at the animals around her. “Sorry guys. I promised you trick or treating, and we got crazy humdrums with guns again. My bad.”

The bear moved one huge shoulder in what looked like a shrug and got to its feet. The wolf yipped what might have been a laugh, and the eagle gave me one last penetrating glance, then took off into the air, spreading wings that looked as soft as eiderdown, as strong as ocean waves.

“Hang on, Sik,” the rat girl said. “I’m going to shift.” She took off the headband her costume rat ears were attached to and put it in my hand. I stared down at it, not understanding. “Just tell them he shot the gun, pointed it at you, then got scared, tossed the gun away, and ran off yelling like a crazy person. It’s basically the truth.”

She grinned, showing all of her small, sharp upper and lower teeth. “You can have my costume if you want. We’re about the same size. You could wear it next year. My gift to you.”

The air around her seemed to bend, the way it does on hot days in the desert. The thick material of her costume fell to the ground. She was gone.

A brown rat as big as a cat scuttled out from under the costume and leaped onto the bear’s back, running up to sit on its flat head like a figurehead on a ship. The rat girl’s beady eyes gleamed up at me. She plucked out one of her own long white whiskers and held it out to me, chittering what sounded somehow like farewell.

“Bye,” I said, automatically taking the whisker from her outstretched paw. Then couldn’t believe I’d said it.

The bear with the rat on its head lumbered down the porch steps, headed over to the wooded side yard, and vanished into the darkness.  The wolf’s toenails clicked on the wooden steps as it followed. I stood watching as it neared the shadows of the trees. It stopped in a shaft of moonlight and turned one last time to look over its shoulder. The blue of its eyes blazed out at me, and I found my voice.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Thank you.”

Then it was gone. I gathered up the rat’s abandoned costume and stumbled down the steps. My hands were trembling. 

I don’t remember much about what I told the cops after that. Consuela’s mom called my Dad, and he made sure the cops had the man with the shotgun arrested.

They found the gun in the river a week later, and the man went to jail. No one ever trick or treated in that neighborhood again after all the parents heard about the crazy guy who’d threatened costumed kids with a gun.  It’s kind of a shame. But I understand it.

I never said anything about the animal teens we’d seen, the shifters. It just sounded too crazy. But Tawnia or Consuela must’ve said something to someone, because among the kids the story grew that if you trick or treated in the Old Fig Garden when the moon was full, you’d turn into whatever your costume was.

We saw a lot of kids dressed up as rock stars and ninjas for a few years after that, but nowhere near the Old Fig Garden. Tawnia and Consuela and I told each other it had been a trick of the light. It was those kids that had saved us, but they’d been kids in costumes the whole time. Not animals.

I knew better. The January after the Old Fig Garden incident, I found a story on the internet about a man in Burbank who claimed he saw a girl turn into a giant tiger as she ran down his street one rainy night. He even had a blurry phone camera shot of what looked like a huge tiger in an old oak tree near a school. But everyone knew the photo had been doctored. Everyone but me.

That last look from the wolf’s blue eyes had decided my fate. When I grew up, I became a wildlife biologist and moved to Idaho to study the endangered wolf packs there. Every now and then I’d hear a crazy story about someone in the area turning into a wolf. But when I tried to follow up, the locals stopped speaking to me. I decided to move to Alaska so I could study grizzlies and eagles too. 

I’ve never told anyone what I really saw and heard that night. For years I wondered if maybe I was crazy.

The police took the rat’s costume away from me as evidence. I never saw it again. But five years later, when I was cleaning out my closet on the way to college, I found my old musketeer cloak, with the rat-ear headband bundled up inside. Beside it was a long white whisker.