Read an excerpt from The Seventh Pleiade

Continuing with my excerpt feature, I’m posting a short passage from The Seventh Pleiade.

The Seventh Pleiade was my first novel, and naturally very close to my heart. I started writing stories about Atlantis back in 2005, but they were jumbled together in a dense, mismatched “epic,” which I thought for a while would work as interwoven past and present narratives.

The problem was those narratives were too loosely related. Gradually, what made a whole lot more sense was to isolate complete stories from the manuscript and work on a series from there. The most complete story that emerged happened to be about the last days of Atlantis, and that unexpected start to the series appealed to me.

The Seventh Pleiade 300 DPI

The Seventh Pleiade is the story of a young prince Aerander who discovers a centuries-old conspiracy that is at the root of his kingdom’s demise. He’s also a young man figuring out his place in the world, and coming to terms with past wrongs to his cousin and best childhood friend Damianos, as well as the social and political pitfalls of boy-boy romances.

At readings and online venues, I’ve shared parts of the story on the ‘coming-of-age’ side. Here I thought I’d post a passage that relates to Aerander’s adventure. A brief set up: about a quarter-way into the story, Aerander goes looking for his missing cousin Damianos one night in the woods beyond the palace where they used to spend a lot of time as boys. At an ancient shrine, he stumbles into what seems to be a burrow and has to find his way out.

~ ~ ~

The ground was cold and rough like granite. He must have fallen down a hole into some sort of cavern.

But something had changed very significantly. The air was deathly still. There were none of the earthy odors of the forest, and none of its boggy humidity. Like he had been boxed up deep underground in a tomb.

Aerander sprung up on his feet and cried out for help. He stopped. There was no one in the forest to hear him. He would have to wait for daylight and hope someone would pass by the spot where he had fallen.

That was crazy. It could take days for someone to find him. Aerander’s father would be enraged when he found out his son had run off from the banquet into the woods.

Fumbling blindly, he felt an earthen wall and drew up against it. He tried to get a footing so he could climb up to the top. It was too dark to make out a workable route, and the passage seemed to be vertical. With his hands and feet, Aerander managed to raise himself a few feet, and then he slipped and landed bottom first on the floor.

His chest heaved, and his hands were slick with sweat. Shuffling around on his hand and knees, he felt around on all sides of him: one wall, two walls, three walls, and an opening in the space behind him. He wondered again how he landed there without breaking a leg. The place was unnaturally cold, as though it was packed with ice. Is that how it felt deep underground? Caverns were cold but not that cold. No matter, there was only one way to go.

Aerander crawled forward, and a few feet in, the air turned warmer. Why was that? Was there an underground spring, warm like a volcanic pool, somewhere ahead? Red light glimmered from a distance away. He figured he must be at the dead end of some sort of subterranean passageway. That meant there was another way out. He righted himself and stepped down the tunnel, eyes shifting and shoulders drawn up tight.

Somewhere further in there was a lamp, that red light, and he could use it to orient himself. He would find his way back up to the forest. What a stupid thing to do—tripping down a hole!

After twenty or so paces, the tunnel took a sharp turn, and the red light brightened the tunnel a little more. Things looked somewhat familiar: walls carved out of rock like the palace cellar where they stored wine and grain. But the place where he fell down was many stadia from the palace complex. Could there be a tunnel that stretched the whole length of the Citadel? Aerander had never heard of anything like that, but the idea was encouraging. Maybe there was a way to get back to the palace, underground, and he could sneak up through the cellar and get back to the banquet with a little story that he had taken a long walk around the grounds.

Aerander rounded the corner, stepping quietly so as not to be heard, and a few yards down he came to a metallic, arched door on one side of the tunnel. It was unusually high, like the threshold of a statehouse or a temple. At its apex, there were strange engravings. If they were letters, they were not of the Atlantean or Lemurian varieties Aerander had studied. He imagined it signified some sort of shrine, archaic like the Temple of Cleito and Poseidon, though the ancestors didn’t build temples or any kind of buildings beneath the earth to Aerander’s knowledge. Even the necropolis and the mausoleums were above the ground.

There was no knob or handle for the door. Aerander pushed against it. It was too heavy to move, or maybe it was bolted from the other side. In the dim light, he ran his hand along the surface, searching for some mechanism to open it.

The door scraped forward just enough for him to step in sideways. Had he triggered some device? The tunnel looked empty in both directions. Aerander couldn’t see all the way to the end, but it had to be quite a distance. He stepped around the door and entered the chamber.

The first thing he noticed was light coming from a single lamp hanging on a wheeled stand some yards within. The space was vast. Its walls and ceiling were entirely in shadow, but there were some three dozen pedestals, each one the size of a cot, in the center, by the lamp. Most of the pedestals were bare, but two held crude sculptures of men.

He glanced back to the door, still open, his way out if he had to make a quick escape. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but on the other hand, no one could fault him for ending up there by falling down a hole in the forest. Someone had been in the chamber recently, but no sounds were coming from the tunnel. He stepped over to one of the pedestals and examined the sculpture-thing.

It wasn’t bronze or stone but some kind of cloth. Actually, it looked as though someone had taken many long, thin cloths and wrapped them over and over, finally depicting the shape of a young man.

He reached to touch it and quickly drew his hand back. It wasn’t cloths wound up together. There was a something, someone, beneath the coverings.

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Read an Excerpt from the Werecat Series

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.

~ ~ ~

“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.”

Jade sculpture of an Olmec Werejaguar god, retrieved from

Jade sculpture of an Olmec Werejaguar god, retrieved from

“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 QuĂ©bec. 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 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 QuĂ©bec. 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 QuĂ©bec 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 QuĂ©bec, 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 QuĂ©bec. 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.”

Illustration of the Wampus cat, a legendary feline monster that has its roots in Native American folklore. Retrieved from

Illustration of the Wampus cat, a legendary feline monster that has its roots in Native American folklore. Retrieved from

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,, 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.

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Extras from The Seventh Pleiade: The Houses of the Poseidonidae

I thought I’d share these “extras” from The Seventh Pleiade that aren’t included in the recently released edition of the book.

The story takes place in a prehistoric kingdom that was founded by the legendary Poseidon. There are many clans and many characters, but for the most part that’s a backdrop to the main story, which concerns sixteen-year-old Aerander who is undergoing his Panegyris–a sacred rite of passage for boys of royal birth. Aerander uncovers a conspiracy while searching for his missing cousin Damianos, and that investigation leads to a mission to save his kingdom.

Here’s more about the backstory and the sideline characters.

The kingdom of Atlantis was founded by Poseidon and bequeathed in portions to his five sets of twin sons. Poseidon’s sacred commandments maintain their union, the foremost being: “Ten Kings for One Kingdom.”

Each son was given the right to govern his lands as he saw fit, but in matters of the kingdom, there was one vote for each son. They convened every four years as a Governor’s Council to decide upon those matters, such as pledging units to the kingdom’s military and negotiating trade agreements. Naturally, when there were competing interests, alliances and rivalries formed. But the sons were sworn to never take up arms against each other. They were sworn to Poseidon’s commandment that there would never be one King for their country.

Governorship passed down those ten ancestral lines from father to first-born son or in an alternative patriarchal fashion (e.g. first-born son to second-born son if the first-born died without producing a male heir).

Here are the ten lines or Houses, briefly characterized. The emblem illustrations are by my husband Genaro Cruz. Atlas As the first-born son of Poseidon’s first set of twins, Atlas received the kingdom’s seat of power: the island city of Atlantis. The kingdom takes its name from him as does the Atlantic Sea.

Atlas stands above all in glory among Poseidon’s sons. He fought Minotaurs and Amazons and was known to be his father’s favorite. The Atlas emblem contains Poseidon’s most sacred symbol: the trident spear.

Still, a curse haunts his House. It was said that Atlas insulted an Amazon priestess, and she called upon her goddess to doom him to never raise an heir. According to legend, Atlas’ wife Pleione gave birth to seven daughters (the ‘Pleiades’) and one son Atlas II who died before reaching manhood. The Atlas bloodline is blighted by stillbirths of male children.

Featured Characters: Aerander, Prince Regent; Pylartes, his father and House Governor; Thessala, Pylartes’ wife; Damianos, a minor relation taken in by Pylartes as an orphan; Alixa and Danae, Aerander’s younger half-sisters; Atlas’ lost daughter, the titular “Seventh Pleiade.”GadirThe twin of Atlas, Gadir was given the bread basket of the kingdom in the wintry plains of Azilia, which borders the frozen and barbarous north. The House’s alliance with his ancestral brother has always been tinged with a bit of sibling rivalry. Gadir has produced strong politicians if not the military heroes of his brother clans.

Its emblem is verdant to extol the House’s agricultural power. Its three crescent moons in silver, bronze and gold represent Gadir’s nobility.

Featured characters: Dardanos and Evandros, friends and allies of Aerander; Governor Hesperos.


Amphisos is the first clan of the seafaring twins who received dominion of The Fortunate Isles. Amphisos holds the key island outpost of Bimini, the “Gateway to the West.”

The House is known for its rugged and reliable trade galleys that ferry commodities around the world. The fighting dolphins represented in its emblem commemorate the sea-dwelling creatures that were sacred to Poseidon and a sign of good fortune to sailors.

Featured Characters: Kaleidos, a Panegyris celebrant; Deuterion, House Governor..


Eudemon’s House garnered fame for its naval adventurers. Its people have a proud tradition of sagas which chronicle the journeys of their sea captains who fought barbarian raiders and monsters like the Scylla.

Its red emblem represents its stouthearted, red-bearded men who command the House’s warships in the fearsome North Atlantic Sea. A starburst hails Eudemon’s supremacy on the glinting waters.

Featured characters: Lysimachos, a Panegyris celebrant; Leonitos and Kosmos, his cousins; Eulian, Lysimachos’ father and House Governor; Hecamenes, father of Leonitos and Kosmos.


As Atlas was the favorite of Poseidon, Mneseus was the favorite younger brother of Atlas. Handsome and fearless, Mneseus received the continent of Lemuria where he battled an ancient kingdom of natives (Lemurians) into subjugation. The country boasts the kingdom’s prized lumber — teak and locust — as well as a thriving market for domestic slaves. The hawk is a symbol of Mneseus’ martial strength.

Featured Characters: Calyiches, Aerander’s boyhood lover and a Panegyris celebrant; Oleon, Calyiches’ younger brother; Kondrian, Calyiches’ father and House Governor.

House of Autochthonos

The emblem for House Autochthonos is the stallion tower shield, which reflects its martial tradition. They boast that their boys are taught to ride ponies in the grasslands of Tamana before they have learned to walk on their own two feet. Military discipline is their hallmark, and the House can be counted on to have strong contenders in the kingdom’s athletic games.

Featured characters: Radamanthes, a Panegyris celebrant; Ephegene, House Governor.


Elassipos’ stronghold is the southwestern coast of Azilia where Atlantis’ “second city” Tartessos flourishes. Like Autochthonos, they are a military clan, and the two Houses vie for bragging rights to having the most ferocious legionnaires. Their men are tall of stature with aquiline noses, and they wear their golden hair long with one ponytail knotted high on their heads. Their symbol is the ibis rearing her wings for flight.

Featured characters: Didophyles, a Panegyris celebrant; Trachmenes, House Governor.


When Mestor mined the arid mountains of his province in Mauritania, he discovered precious silver and gems that would make his House the richest of any of Poseidon’s legacies. His progeny built lavish palaces on the cliffs of the Middle Sea. The gentlemen and ladies of the court pride themselves on their refined, fine-woven costumes and handsome grooming. The women’s jeweled hair pins and pendants set the kingdom’s style. The rival Houses call Mestor frivolous and haughty, but its hard to finance a military campaign without the support of Mestor’s treasury.

Featured characters: Perdikkas, celebrant of the Panegyris; Basilides, his father and House Governor; Palmdyra, Perdikkas’s sister and hearthrob of the Panegyris.


The youngest set of twins was portioned the wild continent of Lost Pangea, which had been discovered and claimed by Atlas during the Twin Emperors’ reign (during which their brothers were too young to preside at court).

Azaes built its acropolis in the farthest reaches of the Pangean backcountry and commands a mighty land army to crush its barbarian enemies. Their high-walled fortresses are equipped with parapet archer stations. The House’s favored weapon: the bolt and crossbow are represented in its emblem.

Featured characters: Mesokantes, a Panegyris celebrant; Amphigoron, his father and House Governor.


Diaprepos was tasked with settling the southern portion of Lost Pangea. Like its twin House Azaes, Diaprepos boasts a tradition of rugged, battle-trained warriors.

The emblem also represents the clan’s rustic mysticism, specifically the sacrifice of the bull, which was instructed in Poseidon’s commandments. Diaprepos originated the ritual of bull-fighting. Its famed bull-masters risk their lives for a seat of honor at the table of their ancestral father in his heavenly realm.

Featured characters: Boros, a Panegyris celebrant; Spinther, House Governor.


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On Writing About Atlantis

Just a quick post to say my short essay “On Writing About Atlantis” went live on the Bold Strokes Authors Blog today. This is in anticipation of my young adult fantasy The Seventh Pleiade, which is upcoming in November!

So stop by the blog, drop a comment, let me know what you think about the legend of Atlantis. 🙂

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The George Wayne Interview: Jacks Dowd

I love Vanity Fair, and one of my favorite features is the George Wayne interview.

George Wayne is described as “a chronicler of global cafĂ© society,” a “distinguished cultural arbiter,” (both from Vanity Fair) and an “invasive celebrity interrogator” (New York Magazine). He can be counted on to pose off-color and sexually-provocative questions to anyone, from A-list Hollywood actors to right-wing politicians. He’s kind of a forerunner to Sasha Cohen Baron’s Borat with a less intentionally clueless deviousness and more self-winking camp.

So I thought it would be fun to imagine Wayne interviewing the hero Jacks Dowd from my upcoming Werecat: The Rearing.

Retrieved from


Wayne:  So Jacks, you’re a gay college student. Tell us what the young gays are doing for fun these days.

Dowd: I was a college student. But I dropped out in my last semester. I went to a pretty small college in upstate New York so there wasn’t a whole lot going on. House parties. Sometimes we’d go up to MontrĂ©al–

 Wayne: I’ve heard there are now gay fraternities. Isn’t that concept redundant?

Dowd: They didn’t have any gay fraternities at Calverton University. They had a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Wayne: In my day, a Gay-Straight Alliance was something that happened in the backrooms of Merv Griffin’s studio. Or was it a hustler service for Republican politicians? Anyway, have you ever been spanked?

Dowd: (guffaws) Yeah.

Wayne: I promised myself I wasn’t going to ask this question. But I can’t help myself so let’s just get it out of the way. Your story is called Werecat. What is a gay man doing in a book about pussy?

Dowd: It’s about feline shapeshifters. I don’t have sex with women if that’s what you’re asking.

Wayne: Thank God. I knew a man on Fire Island who used to dress up as Cat Woman and pull a chariot down the boardwalk offering people free rides. Is that the kind of werecat we’re talking about?

Dowd: No.

Wayne: So what are the young werecats doing for fun these days?

Dowd: I would have no idea. If you read the book, my boyfriend and I spend most of the time hanging out in an abandoned building.

Wayne: Oooh! I did that in the early 90’s. It’s like a rave, right?

Dowd: No. It’s not like a rave.

Wayne: Did anyone ever tell you: you’re a lousy interview?

Dowd: Did anyone ever tell you: you’re a sexually-obsessed old queen who asks lousy questions?

Wayne: TouchĂ©. [roots out a business card from his pocket] Here’s my number if you’re ever in the mood for Grandpa trade. I’ll bring the catnip.

Dowd: [takes the card and crumples it up in his fist] No thanks. Is this over?

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