Elemental Magic and Underwater Panthers

Mishupishu EyeI’m very excited to welcome back Angela Wallace to guest post. I interviewed her when she released the second book in her suspense-filled urban fantasy series Elemental Magic (click here to read Behind the Scenes: Angela Wallace and Elementals), and now she’s agreed to come back and tell us about the frightening mythical creature that wreaks havoc on a small Alaskan town in the third book in the series–Earth Tones.


The Mishupishu (Bless You)

Okay, lame pun. One of the things I like doing in my Elemental Magic books is playing with a not very well known piece of mythology. Going into Earth Tones, I knew I wanted some kind of vicious cat. Actually, the inspiration came from the Honda Odyssey commercial with the black van in a ring of fire and a flash of a black panther with glowing eyes. Anyone remember seeing it? Yep, that’s exactly the image I wanted in the book. So I began my research trying to find a mythological black cat. There were a few possibilities, but I eventually found the right one for this story.

The mishupishu (one of many spellings), also known as the underwater panther, is a piece of Native American mythology. It was perfect because Nita, the main character in Earth Tones, is Native American. However, I did take some liberty in geographically relocating this myth from its home in the Great Lakes region to Alaska.

True to its name, the underwater panther has both feline and aquatic characteristics. Its name means “Great Lynx”–a huge black cat with scales down its back and horns atop its head. In some cliff drawings, the horns are long, but I made them shorter. The drawings also show upright scales down its back and tail, but I refined it so the creature only had spikes on its tail, which it used to skewer its victims’ legs, dragging them to the ground before going for the kill.

In Algonquin legends, the mishupishu had control over the elements of water and air, particularly related to its home. It could summon a storm or melt ice in order to drown people who didn’t pay it proper respect. The mishupishu’s offering of choice? Tobacco. Cat loved its smokes. Tobacco is used in Earth Tones as a way to lure the panther. The creature could also be benevolent, and sometimes offered up the copper in its horns for shamans to use for healing. In Earth Tones, the panther has no supernatural abilities, just a mean—and poisonous—bite. But the horns are made of copper, and it does contain healing properties, which is important in the story.

In my adaptation of the myth, the underwater panther is pure evil. It had been sealed under the lake until someone let it out. Then it goes on a killing spree, but Nita eventually learns that the cat isn’t hunting on its own. Someone is leading it to specific victims. And when a deadly disease breaks out in the town (surely not a coincidence), the hunt for the mishupishu becomes a race against the clock.

My gaze landed on a huge, black cat standing in the middle of the road. Its body glinted with scales covered in harsh looking bristles of fur.  Spikes extended from its long tail like a mace.  Its eyes glowed yellow as it stared down at us, and hot, putrid breath puffed from its open maw.  It did have what appeared to be horns: two short, rusty brown ones on top of its head, the tip of one broken off.” ~Earth Tones

Earth Tones Angela WallaceEarth Tones, Elemental Magic Book Three

Book Description: Nita Young doesn’t know if she has a future with college sweetheart Keenan Donovan—two star-crossed lovers of opposing elements—but she invites him up to Alaska to see if Earth and Water can rekindle their old flame.

When a series of wild animal attacks strike the inhabitants of Yakutat, Nita has to put her romantic plans on hold. Mangled bodies are turning up, and a mysterious black panther has been spotted in the woods. Fur, scales, and a venomous bite suggest the cat is supernatural in origin—and evidence indicates that someone not only summoned it, but is using it to target those Nita cares about. It’s the perfect murder weapon: no fingerprints, no evidence. And in a town this small, the killer is someone she knows.

Nita’s strength will be put to the test as she faces losing her friends, her town, and the man she loves.

You can buy a copy of Earth Tones on Amazon.

Angela WallaceAngela Wallace loves gun-toting good boys and could have been a cop in another life except for the unfortunate condition of real blood making her queasy. Good thing writing gun and sword fights isn’t a problem. In her books you’ll find the power of love, magic, and redemption.  You can connect with her on her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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