‘Undercover Unicorn’ — My Latest Short Story

Undercover Unicorn

The cover to my short story ‘Undercover Unicorn’.

I just released my latest short story, entitled ‘Undercover Unicorn’. Its the story of a team of FBI agents in a world where a small but significant number of people were Changed: infused with and transformed by magic patterned after some form of legendary or mythological creature. It is now available through SmashWords and soon through other ePub distributors as well.

The story is an introduction to a world changed when people suddenly gained the magical abilities associated with such creatures as unicorns, dragons, trolls and succubi. It didn’t matter who they were or how they would use their magic, and so it was only natural that some would use them for criminal or anti-social purposes. Thus others were recruited as police and Federal agents to combat them. This world is seen through the eyes of the various members of an FBI team who must deal with such new things as illegal magical drugs, human trafficking operations to create new illegal Changers, and literal monsters.

The lead character shown here is Vanity, a human unicorn (as denoted by the gold unicorn mark on her forehead, her impossible blue eyes and her silver white hair) and an FBI agent working out of the parallel offices in Lafayette, Indiana and West Lafayette, Indiana. (The reason why there are two stations there is because the border of the Zone, the stable area where magic exists, cuts across between both cities, and so there are offices both inside and outside the Zone at this location.) She leads a team of Changers on assignment in this area in enforcing both the existing and the new laws whenever Changers get involved.

The core of this story and the subsequent stories (one already written and needing cover artwork and three more in the development and writing stages) is based on a roleplaying gamed named DragonStorm created by artist Sue van Camp. DragonStorm is a fantasy RPG based on the concept of allowing the players to play the monsters, albeit in a heroic manner. The world is a place where massive magical storms occurred centuries before, devastating the land, for which the “monstrous” creatures such as dragons, unicorns, werewolves and the like were blamed: actually, they were victims, and the victors here, wizards who sought to use the magical power inherent in these creatures, were the actual villains, because it was their first massive ritual in using that power that caused (and still cause) the storms in the first place. I had the notion of adapting the RPG system for use in the present day: that never truly worked out, but the underlying concept of magic set loose in a world eventually became the basis for this story and the concept of characters who are magical creatures became the basis for the characters that eventually emerged for the story. The reasons and history behind the magic in this story is quite different, and a mystery to me as well, until I actually wrote myself into another story as a character to ask the questions I needed answered in order to understand them. That will be revealed in a later story.

The story itself emerged from the first line: “The cupcakes the nice old church lady was handing out were doped. I knew that because I’m a unicorn in disguise.” Once I had that, I had to continue writing just to see what all was happening there. (Originally, the title was ‘A Unicorn in Disguise’ but I changed that to ‘Undercover Unicorn’ because the latter fit better on the final cover. That also led to modifying the first line, slightly.) That lead to realizing this was as much a police procedural story as it was a fantasy story, and I am a fan of television team police procedural and detective series such as Law and Order and its various spin offs, Dragnet and Adam-12 from my youth and, most recently, Castle. Hence, there is police work involved as much and possibly even more than fantasy, although all of that work is performed by fantasy creatures using magic in the course of their jobs.

This story was in the works for some time, and one of the reasons for that was that it was difficult finding cover artwork for it. Finally, though, I was rewarded when I discovered a photographer on DeviantArt named Cathleen Tarawhiti who provided the photographs I used to create the cover image. I will be writing more about the creation of the cover image in a subsequent post.

The short URL of the present article is: http://www.terryobrien.me/bWsHu

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