So don't stop reading!
Panthera unica or Asian Snow Leopard is one of the most highly endangered felines on the planet. When I sat down last March and decided to write a paranormal romance about a shape-shifting species, one of the first things I had to decide was which animal I would bring to life in the book. You should have seen me sitting literally on the floor going through my collection of library discards until I found a book called Snow Leopards and their babies. I paid a whopping twenty-five cents for it at the library. I have a habit of buying books at library bookstores and putting them on my shelf and forgetting about them. As I sat there and read the children's book I feel in love with the incredibly beautiful exotic cat. After I finished the book, I got up and started to Google everything I could about the Asian Snow Leopard.
I was horrified to learn that experts believe there are only three to seven thousand of them left in the wild. I watched video after video on You Tube to learn all I could about their habitat and challenges the snow leopard faces in the wild. Everything I learned pretty much ended up distilled into the book. I knew that to do justice to my story about shape-shifting Asian Snow Leopards that the characters would have to actually be from cultures that evolved in the habitat range of the animal itself. That's why my alpha male hero Kai Tenzin is from Tibet, because snow leopards are from Tibet. Many of my secondary characters are from cultures that live in the habitat range of the exotic cat as well. My shape-shifters come from China, Mongolia and Pakistan and India.
As I wrote the book, I found I had to walk a very thin line between preaching and educating people about conservation of this amazing animal. Hopefully the plot and romance are also evenly balanced as well. The very presence of the Asian Snow Leopard in the story helped guide the tone and style of the book.
Tasting Fire is not your average paranormal shape-shifting romance. Twenty thousand years ago a thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria that thrives in hot springs, infected primitive nomads in many parts of the world. The bacteria when ingested orally allows the infected individual with just the right genetic makeup to add a secondary DNA sequence to their own genetic code. Over the course of thousands of years, this little bug has given rise to the many different legends of shape-shifters that have evolved on nearly every continent. Tasting Fire is the story of how one species in particular, the Pari of central Asia, fought to stay hidden and what happens when they are revealed to the world.
There is no magic in Tasting Fire by design. This forced me as a writer to not use a crutch to prop up weak writing. Instead, I was forced to develop a strong plot and create fully developed characters. There is humor, adventure, passion, and intelligence, but Tasting Fire is not a light read!
If you want a book where the hero and heroine fall into bed within the first two minutes of meeting and have mindless sex, than this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a rich, textured romance full of world building and character development, and if you want to lose yourself in an intelligent, romantic, SEXY, adventure, this is your book.
My thanks to Books Down My Pillow for inviting me on the blog today to share my thoughts on Tasting Fire with you.
Rae took an admiring look at the vista below as she dropped her heavy pack on the ground. The mountains in the distance looked purple and the desert brush spread out below them like a master oil painting. It was awe inspiring to human eyes. Rae wondered what would it look like to a snow leopard. She suddenly realized many a biologist would sell their very soul for the opportunity she had at that moment. Rae turned to Kai who had been sitting on the ground with his pack and fishing around for lunch and asked him “what is it like when you're in your Shan form out in country like this?” Kai rewarded Rae with the most brilliant smile she had yet seen to grace the handsome shape-shifter's face. He seemed truly delighted to discuss the subject with her. Kai stood up to answer Rae's question. He addressed the human scientist. “It's like nothing you can imagine Rae. Every sense is in tune with the planet. See that tree over there” he pointed a few yards away at an ancient gnarled pinyon. “Yes” Rae replied. Kai walked up behind Rae and put his hands on her shoulders and directed her to look even closer at the tree. He whispered intimately in her ear as if they were in a church or another sacred space “when you look at that tree with your limited human vision, the average person can certainly appreciate its form and color. A biologist like yourself would ask what type of tree is it and how old it is. A philosopher might ask who may have sat underneath it in the past or who might sit underneath it in the future. All of you might even wonder when will it die. That's the limit of your human perception. When you're in Shan form every single leaf will bid you a glorious greeting as you walk up to the tree for the first time. Every drop of sap tells you the history of the tree's life like an intimate biography written in the utterly sensual language of scent. The tree itself will tell you if it's healthy or sick. You can smell if the water that nourishes it is bitter or sweet. If you deeply pay attention you can smell every animal that has ever been there.” Kai looked to Rae like he was experiencing a spiritual moment and Rae suddenly realized he was. The enthralled shape-shifter continued to explain to Rae the nuances of the animal world “when you are ready to move on to another place you reach up with your powerful claws and dig deep into the bark to mark the tree with your scent. It's added harmoniously to the scent of hundreds of other animals. You do this not just to mark your hunting territory, but to tell every animal after you have left this world that you lived and breathed here at one time in the great mystery that is life. That is your only immortality in the animal world. There are no monuments to mark a man's ego, or family albums for a mother to remember her children by, but neither is there hate, nor fear of the future or regret of the past. You are fully alive in each and every moment. It's a wonderfully free existence. I wish I could truly share it with you... words, words pale in comparison.” Kai looked so happy at that moment. Rae was so moved by what he had just shared with her that all she could do was reach out and touch his wrist. “Thank you!” she whispered. Kai nodded at her in acknowledgment, but he was too emotional to even speak.
My name is Shelly Holt and I live in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving Mojave desert. I write my stories looking out of a window that shows sweeping desert views. Outside is a barren and severe landscape, yet inside my head lives a world filled with exotic shape-shifters come to life, pulled from the pages of myth and legend, ready to entice and seduce any reader brave enough to take them on.