From time to time, I’ve posted excerpts from my published work. For 2016, I thought I’d do that in a more organized and committed way. I’ll be posting passages from each of my books over the next few months and cross-linking them on my website so that they are easier for visitors to find.
Of course, if you enjoy what you read, you can follow the buy links at the end of the excerpt to get the whole enchilada.
First up is an excerpt from my Werecat series.
The series is paranormal action-adventure with a moderate ‘heat level’ romance, perhaps comparable to the HBO series True Blood, but focused on feline shifters instead of vampires of course. One of the things I enjoyed the most about writing it was exploring feline mythology, particularly in Amerindian cultures, so I thought I’d share an excerpt that explains a bit about the world in which the story takes place.
This scene is from The Rearing (Book 1) in which twenty-two-year old Jackson Dowd meets a mysterious drifter Benoit in Montreal. Early in the story, Benoit forces on Jacks the ‘werecat gift’ so that they can be mates. Here, Benoit explains to Jacks the origins of their supernatural natures while they are waiting for a train in upstate New York. I added in a couple of images from around the web related to werecat mythology.
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“Our ancestry goes back to the ancient world, when cults in Africa, Asia and Central America worshipped the great cat,” Benoit said. “Werejagaurs trace our origins to an Olmec King from the Yucatan who performed ritual sacrifices of young warriors, trying to merge their life-force with martyred felines.
“His necromancy didn’t work, but he was so determined to emulate the jaguar god, he killed his favorite beast, laid it at the god’s altar and plunged a dagger into his own heart so he would die beside it. He was said to have been reborn with the shape-shifting magic. Little was recorded about and what happened to him, but some centuries later, in the same region, the Aztecs had an unstoppable army of jaguar-warriors.”
“How did you become a werejaguar?” Jacks said.
“It was a long time ago, when I was sixteen. My father was French, but we travelled the Americas during my childhood. He had a hand in a little of everything, running goods from Guyana through the Caribbean Islands and all the way up the Atlantic to Québec. We were staying on a sugar plantation near Cayenne when the Portuguese and British landed to take the city. We ran off into the countryside to escape the bloodshed. It was nighttime. It was chaos. They were burning everything in town. I got separated from my father, and I wandered deep into the rainforest looking for him.”
Jacks hadn’t been the best student in history class, but he knew a conflict between the France, Portugal and Great Britain placed Benoit’s story something like two hundred years ago.
“You’re talking about colonial times.”
Benoit nodded. The space inside Jacks’ head expanded. How could Benoit have lived so long? There were some fine wrinkles in the corner of his eyes, but if they indicated something like a lifeline, he had one groove for every fifty years. He looked like he was in his late twenties, or early thirties at the most. Could it be another miracle of the werecat transformation? Jacks’ breath halted, waiting to hear the details of Benoit’s story.
“While I was wandering that night, there was a she-jaguar stalking me, though I didn’t know it at the time. She must have been very old, from the glory days of the Aztecs. The Europeans had conquered the native people with their gunpowder and their missionaries. There were very few of her kind left.
“Near daybreak, she showed herself to me when I was cornered on the bank of a river. Her spotted muzzle was big enough to wrap around my head, and she was so near she could close the space between us in seconds. I couldn’t move, even if there had been time or a place for me to go. I had never seen such a powerful animal.
“She must have known enough to sort me out from the foreign men who would kill her for her pelt. Maybe she needed to pass along the gift to somebody before she died or maybe she felt something more for me. I’ll never know. After she attacked me and slashed her chest, my father and a group of men gained up on us, following my screams. They shot her, and then stood around in disbelief as her feline body transformed into a young Aztec woman. They buried her by the river. We never spoke about what we saw again.”
“How did you survive all this time?”
“My father managed to work out some business dealings with the Portuguese, and we migrated back to Québec. After what happened to me, he vowed to never return to South America. He settled into the fur trade, which was very profitable. We had a house and a shop on Rue du Petit Champlain, among the wealthiest residents of Québec City. Over the years, I came to know my feline nature, but my father turned a blind eye to the changes I was undergoing. He blamed himself for losing track of me in the rainforest, and I don’t think he could bear to face what had happened to me.”
“What about your mother?”
“I never knew her. My father said she died in childbirth, some native girl from Guyana. He said I should always say she was French to avoid people’s prejudices. I was his only son. He wanted to make certain there would be no issue about his holdings passing to me. The inheritance came sooner than either of us had imagined. Our fourth winter in Québec, he died of pneumonia.”
Benoit’s face was hard. Jacks let a moment pass in silence. But he couldn’t keep the questions inside him contained for long. “What happened to the business?”
“I kept my father’s trade going for awhile, but while my friends and clients grew older, I wasn’t changing through the years. I had to disappear from people who knew me. I sold off everything and placed funds in foreign bank accounts. I traveled around the world, never staying in one place for more than ten years at a time. I became bored with it after awhile, which is why I returned to Québec. It was the closest thing to home for me.”
Jacks’ hand interlaced with Benoit’s as he thought about his remarkable past, and the profound accident of the two of them meeting in Mont Royal Park.
“How did you figure it out — what it meant to be a werecat, and all this history?”
“The information is out there if you weed through all the nonsense about witches and demonic possession. I had decades to study it. I visited Aztec ruins in Mexico and spoke with Zapotec mystics. I lived with the Ashanti People who worship the leopard in West Africa. In Masharata, India, there are villagers who have knowledge of the magic through the cult of Waghia, the Lord of Tigers. I realized what that she-jaguar did to me wasn’t a curse. It was the greatest gift anyone could give me.”
“Why did you choose to give it to me?”
Benoit’s hand tensed and gradually relaxed. “I sensed in you someone who could be my mate.”
Jacks’ words tripped over themselves. “What…how?”
“Panthers are solitary, but even we need companionship. Especially when we grow older, and we see that a life without connection is empty. I wasn’t looking for a mate, but I found you in the park that night, and I felt your link to the past, a miracle really. There are very few who are suited for the transformation.”
Jacks glossed over his last words, unsure of what he was saying. Instead he asked: “Were there others —” He fumbled for the phrasing. “You converted?”
There was a glimmer in Benoit’s eyes. “There was another many years ago.” His voice trailed off. Jacks gazed at him expectantly.
“I had a lover in Vietnam.”
Jacks squeezed Benoit’s ribs, teasing out more information.
Benoit glared at him in reproach. “You’re already showing your feline jealousy.”
Jacks laughed. “I want to know about your Vietnamese lover.”
“He was handsome, and graceful, and when he reared he became the most magnificent orange and black striped tiger.”
Jacks drew into himself. How did he measure up to a tiger? Benoit nuzzled against his neck.
“But he wasn’t loyal to me.”
“Why are you a panther and I’m a mountain lion?”
Benoit shrugged. “The traces of the old spiritual traditions open up our potential. My maternal ancestors had their roots in the Amazon people. Yours must descend from North America. The Ho-Chunk and Cheyenne tribes hold the cougar with great esteem.”
Jacks thought on it. He had always been told he was a mutt of German and English heritage, but he had seen in his mother’s box of old photographs an old-fashioned portrait of his great-grandmother. She had long, straight hair, high cheekbones and a darker complexion, like a Native American. It had always been a curiosity, though his mother had said nothing about the photo and buried it beneath the others in her scrapbook box. Now, that discovery rang through Jacks with much more meaning. It was possible he carried Native blood from a branch of his family tree.
The idea grew inside him. His cougar nature might be part of his ancestry, a tradition of cat mysticism, passed down through an immutable bond. He had never felt like he was part of any religion, or any group for that matter. In fact, something inside him had always resisted the idea of being part of a community, and he wondered at that moment if it could be some lost spirit within him, refusing convention, wanting something more that would root him in the world. His mind roamed broader, considering the concept of a collective soul, and thrumming vagaries, the inheritance of ancestral wounds, and drawing strength from one’s forefathers.
In a moment, he was rearing. His feline eyes stared up at the star-speckled sky, and he could trace the lines of many constellations. They gradually came into focus as an expansive plane of images he had never seen before in the stars. A soaring falcon, a rattlesnake, the round head of a bear. There among them was a proud cougar, standing on its hind legs, looking down on him.
The springtime night was fresh and crisp. Jacks leapt down to the train tracks. His muscular limbs propelled him forward at an unbreakable pace. He slackened his jaw, the air filling up his lungs, feeling free.
If your interest is piqued, you can pick up The Rearing at Amazon, BN.com, or iTunes. And if you’d like to get the first three installments all together, here are buy links for The Trilogy: Amazon, BN.Com, iTunes.