Visual inspiration for The Sim Ru Prophecy #Werecat4ReleaseWeek

Yep. You might have felt it. #Werecat4ReleaseWeek

via GIPHY

I’ve been posting special features about The Sim Ru Prophecy all week to celebrate the release of the fourth and final installment of the Werecat series. You can buy the paperback at Amazon or BN.com, or pick up the e-book at Kindle Exclusive.

I also recently updated my Werecat board on Pinterest to include some inspirations for the story. The Sim Ru Prophecy is the longest book in the series (hey, it worked for J.K. Rowling), and it delves deeper into werecat mythology, introduces a bunch of new characters, and has the hero Jacks, along with his trusty boyfriend Farzan, and his trusty cat Bella, on the run through many exotic locales.

Jacks' Journey in Werecat #4

I made this map of Jacks’ journey in Werecat #4 using Google maps. It’s a lot easier to look at if you open it in a new tab. My technological genius. 🙂

The story begins with Jacks in Caracas, Venezuela, and his adventure proceeds to Puerto Ayacucho, then outside of Palanquero, Colombia, onward on a series of flights to the fictional Boca do Ango in the western Brazilian Amazon, then off to Apia, Samoa, and finally cruising across the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal, to the Western Caribbean Sea and landing in Yucatan, Mexico.

Werecat #4 also brings together the full story on werecat mythology, which includes six centers of the werecat diaspora, which I’ve represented visually here:

Ashanti witchdoctor

Ashanti witchdoctors knew the practice of ‘obeye,’ harnessing the soul of animals such as the leopard and the lion.

Jade sculpture of an Olmec Werejaguar god, retrieved from latinmericanstudies.org

 

White lion

Lion shifters were born from the Zulu white lion god.

Suea Saming Were Tigress

Figurine of a Suea Saming weretigress, an artifact of an ancient Southeast Asian belief.

Waghia, Lord of the Tigers

A young man dressed as Waghia, lord of the tigers, a vestige of ancient folk beliefs in the Indian subcontinent.

Ani Sahoni Clan

Shapeshifting in North America originated from the practices of the Cherokee Ani-Sahoni Wildcat Clan

I also found some images of guys that, erm, inspired me. What does a werecat look like in human form? Well, the book is a work of fiction.

Francois Arnaud, an inspiration point for the hero Jacks

 

Actor Suraj Sharma, who would fit quite well as Farzan (and also seems to like big cats)

Jacks travels through South America with his loyal friend Kwame, an Ashanti werelion.

Werecat #4 introduces the character of Agent Sowanaki

Che Guevara figures into the story…

And just a cute guy who could be hanging out on Maarten’s yacht.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can check out the whole collage of images on my Pinterest Werecat board:

 

#Werecat4ReleaseWeek: Werecat #1 Tops the Charts!

The Rearing, the first installment of my Werecat series, went permafree this past weekend so that readers can dig into the story in advance of the release of the final book, which went on sale just yesterday.

If you’ve ever wondered whether that strategy makes a difference, I’m here to tell you: It does! That first title jettisoned up the best seller charts at the Kindle store and has held the #1 spot in free books/gay fiction for the past three days. I was so excited, I took a screen shot.

That’s not making me any money directly, but the nice thing is that the other titles in the series have also seen a nice boost in sales rankings, and The Rearing also picked up some new reviews. As a small press author, really, more than anything, it’s rewarding to see that more readers are discovering the series. I don’t know that I’m headed for fame and fortune, but it’s great to know that people are taking the time to download, and hopefully read, something that I wrote.

Here’s where you can download The Rearing for free at the Kindle store. Got a gripe against Amazon? No problem. You can also get the book for free at BN.com, Kobo, and iTunes. If you want to leave a rating/review, well, that’s awfully nice of you since it helps a ton to spread the word.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t heard, the last chapter in the saga is also available for purchase. It’s called The Sim Ru Prophecy, and you can get the e-book for just $3.99 at Kindle Exclusive. The paperback at $16.95 is available at Amazon and BN.com.

Next up for #Werecat4ReleaseWeek: some images that inspired the story. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Inside the ‘Character’s Studio’

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For #Werecat4 Release Week, I have a special feature today I’m calling Inside the Character’s Studio.

I love interviewing characters from my books. It’s fun, and it actually gives me more insight into the fictional people I cooked up in my brain. A little while back, I interviewed Cleito from Poseidon and Cleito at History Imagined, and I previously wrote a George Wayne interview with Jackson Dowd, the main character from Werecat, when his first book came out.

This time, I decided to do the interview from the perspective of the iconic James Lipton of The Actor’s Studio in order to challenge Jacks (and myself) with Lipton’s penetrating questions. So, I bring you James Lipton sitting down with my very own Jacks to give you a peek at the star of Werecat and the story itself.

James Lipton by David Shankbone, retrieved from Wikipedia Commons

The Sim Ru Prophecy (Werecat, #4)

The just released, final installment of the Werecat series.

Lipton: Jackson Dowd made his literary début in 2013 with the release of an e-novelette entitled The Rearing. That slim volume became a launching pad for the sensation known as Werecat, which has delighted paranormal fans and garnered critical acclaim from Kirkus and media outlets throughout the sci fi/fantasy and gay fiction world. In 2016, Werecat was a Readers’ Choice finalist in The Romance Reviews’ awards.

Following The Rearing, Jackson appeared in The Glaring, The Fugitive, and just this week, the long-awaited fourth and final book: The Sim Ru Prophecy. He is some parts anti-hero, some parts Everyman, and of course most notably, some parts man and beast. While shifter and mutant characters have a longtime tradition of providing allegory to the challenges of real life social outsiders such as LGBTs, Jackson, or Jacks as he likes to be called, is both fantastical creature and an ‘out’ gay man. It is my pleasure to bring into The Character’s Studio, for the first time, the hero of Werecat, Jackson Dowd.

[Wild studio applause]

Dowd: [grins, waves] Thanks.

Lipton: Thank you for taking that existential leap of faith to join us today. How does it feel to get that kind of reception?

Dowd: [bows head, peeks out, bows head again] Good. It’s pretty surreal.

Lipton: You grew up in a small, paper mill town in Pennsylvania. What was that like for you?

Dowd: Yeah, well, my dad worked at that paper mill. And my grandfather did as well. If you’ve ever driven through central Pennsylvania, you can smell the factories from miles away. It’s pretty much a fading industry, and where I grew up, it was one of those blue collar, Middle America kind of towns where you knew if you didn’t get out, it was going to be pretty hard. I mean, most people relied on the factory for work, and it was shrinking every year. Y’know, jobs going overseas.

I can’t say I had great memories of growing up. I wasn’t into football, or cars, or girls, so most of the time I felt like a social oddity. I had a few friends, and I was pretty good at school. When I got a scholarship to a college in New York State, it kinda felt like winning the lottery. I had my bags packed before I even graduated high school, and I was already thinking: I’m getting out and I’m never looking back.

Lipton: Which of your childhood experiences has stayed with you the most?

Dowd: [razzes] I guess I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but I do have one. My mom kept a lot of old photos, and when I was younger, in elementary school y’know, I used to love going through them. It was kind of a lonely age for me. I’m an only child. My parents both worked. So after school, I had the house to myself, and I found this big box of photographs in my parents’ bedroom closet. I knew I wasn’t supposed to go in there. Would have caught hell if they found out, but it became kind of this obsession for me.

Anyway, she had photos of a lot of people I knew, like my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and old photos when she was a kid, when my dad was a kid. They were high school sweethearts so that was kind of interesting seeing how different they looked when they were in school. But the photo I loved the best was this really fragile antique photo of this woman I had never met. It was one of those old black and whites, where this woman was posed all formal sitting down and dressed up in this blouse with a big, frilly collar and a ribbon around her neck. Y’know, the kind of photo where you can picture the photographer with one of those big, old cameras with a curtain that you pretty much step into to take a shot. LIke a family heirloom, y’know. It was really fascinating to me because just about every photo my mom had was from family weddings or baby photos, y’know, stuff like that, but this woman looked nothing like us. She had fine, straight hair, high cheekbones, a darker complexion. The only thing that was written on the back in fancy handwriting was the name: Barbara. She looked like a Native American, and I don’t know, at the time I invented this story in my head that she had been a maid or something to my great grandparents. Which is really, totally ridiculous because both my mom’s and my dad’s families were dirt poor as far back as I ever knew.

So one night, it was a Saturday night I remember because that was “family time” and the only night when my dad was in a decent mood to do things with us, my mom brought out the box of photos to the kitchen table so we could all go through them. And she starts telling all these stories about them, and I’m pretending like I’ve never seen them, though I never heard her stories about this and that, and I’m like going nuts inside waiting for her to get to that woman’s photo and finally have an answer to who the hell she is.

And I remember really clearly: she gets to the photo, picks it up really gently, looks it over for a couple of seconds, and then she sets it aside, face down. And now I’m really dying because, y’know, after all this time, sitting through all her stories, she’s not going to say a peep about the strangest photo in her entire collection?

So I get the balls to ask her: “Who’s that?” And, y’know, it’s one of those moments where you feel like you saw something you shouldn’t have, almost as bad as walking in on your parents having sex. But I saw my mom looking so embarrassed, so torn up that I had asked that question about Barbara. And she glances at my dad, and he’s looking like he doesn’t know what to say either, and I’m wondering: did this Barbara do something horrible? Like murder somebody? But then why would you keep a picture of her?

So finally, my dad says, in his serious ‘parent’ voice: “That’s Nana’s mother.” We always called my mom’s mom Nana, and I guess she had died about a year before we pulled out those old photos. And I swear my first thought was my dad must be putting me on since for one thing, why was it so hard to say that? And meanwhile, I’d never seen anyone in our family who looked like that. But I couldn’t say anything at the time. I was just sort of gobsmacked, y’know, and I let it pass. Though I’ll always remember that moment because it was one of those things where you can never look at your parents in the same way again, and it stirred up these raw emotions. Like I was embarrassed along with my parents, but at the same time, I felt really happy, and maybe this was more in my head than anything else since I never even met Barbara, my great grandmother. But I felt like I finally had a connection to someone in my family for the first time, that who I was made sense.

Lipton: Your family never spoke of your Native ancestry?

Dowd: Nope. Well, a few years later, I guess when I was in middle school, Barbara came up somehow when I was visiting my cousins and my aunt, my mom’s sister, and my aunt said something about Barbara having been Cherokee. But that was another one of those confidential, hush hush conversations, and my cousins, they were two older boys, they joked about it in a mean way, saying that I must have been the one who got the Cherokee blood because I was queer and weak. I was always picked last when we played street hockey or kickball in the neighborhood. That kind of kid.

But my parents always said they were German and Irish.

Lipton: What does being a werecat mean to you?

Dowd: [shifts around in seat, shrugs] I guess it means everything and nothing at the same time. I mean, I’m the same person I always was I guess you’d say on the inside. Before and after my feline soul was reared, and I got the shifter ability, I’ve always thought the same way, had the same kinds of interests, so it’s not like I became this totally different person.

Though this is going to sound like a contradiction, and it’s hard to explain that at the same time, an entirely new life started for me that night I became a werecat. It was terrifying at first. I mean, I had come to terms with being a freak because I was gay, and here the universe handed me another, even huger dose of freakdom. But, y’know, that was just another journey you get through. Meeting other werecats, getting used to my feline half, eventually it became not such a big deal. And it is kind of everything since it’s who I am, the way I see the world, the way I relate to the world and other people, I guess my outlook expanded pretty majorly compared to before, understanding now what it’s like to live as human and what it’s like to live as a hybrid. It forced me to grow up fast, to figure out how to take care of myself, so I became a lot more confident, less afraid. A lot of werecats say that it’s a gift, and I’d agree with that. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

Lipton: What sound, or noise do you love?

Dowd: [laughs] I guess my favorite sound is laughter.

Lipton: What sound, or noise do you hate?

Dowd: I’m not so crazy about silence. Y’know, when you’re with someone and one or the other of you can’t say what’s on your mind, maybe because you’re angry or scared to say it, and this cold, silence just grows between you. I usually walk away or try to make the other person come out with it.

Lipton: What is your favorite word?

Dowd: [silent, smiles] Yes.

Lipton: What is your least favorite word?

Dowd: [laughs] No.

Lipton: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say to you at the pearly gates?

Dowd: [smiles] “You did a good job, Jacks. Now here’s the way to the clothing-optional beach, and by the way, the guys are hot, and you’ll never age.”

Lipton: Thanks for coming Jackson Dowd.

You can buy the latest installment of the Werecat series: The Sim Ru Propecy in paperback at Amazon and BN.com, or get the e-book at KDP Exclusive.

Also, the first book in the series: The Rearing, just went permafree at retailers like Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and BN.com.

 

 

 

 

 

The City of Seven Gods Gets a Nod for a Silver Falchion Award

The City of Seven Gods

Hot off the presses: The City of Seven Gods was chosen as a finalist for Best Novel (Sci Fi/Fantasy) in the 2016 Silver Falchion awards!

Now, the competition moves to readers who can vote for their favorites in one or more categories. The winners will be announced at Killer Nashville’s annual conference at the end of August.

You can vote for The City of Seven Gods here.

I’m really happy about this, especially since there’s been a little buzz about the book. The City of Seven Gods was shortlisted by Foreword Magazine as a 2016 Book of the Year, and has gotten some great reviews by bloggers and over at Goodreads.

If you liked the book, please do vote. It helps so much to spread the word.

About Silver Falchion (from the Killer Nashville website): The Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award is committed to discovering new writers, as well as superlative books by established authors and, upon discovery, sharing those writers and their works with new readers.

Our Reader’s Choice Award is an extension of that commitment to authors and allows fans to honor their favorite books from all those submitted to our competition.

Get started on the Werecat series for free!

You have absolutely no excuse not to get started on the Werecat series as Book #1 just went free at iTunes, B&N.com, Kobo, and many other retailers. My publisher and I are hounding Amazon to change the price as well so it should go free there as well very soon!

Pick it up at your favorite retailer (the link for the book at iTunes is here). If you’re on Goodreads or LibraryThing, add it to your shelves, and let folks know what you think about it. We’re hoping to create a tsunami of interest to boost the big news that the last book The Sim Ru Prophecy comes out on June 27th. Thanks a million!