WEEK SEVEN: 13 Weeks of Vampires
Spoiler warning: there will be many discussions of plot points and characters below, so if you haven't read these books yet, you may wish to give this section a pass. You have been warned.
Week Seven brings us to UNLEASHED, a novella that has ties with Pia, Alec, and Kristoff, as well as Paen and Samantha.
UNLEASHED was originally published in the Cupid Cats anthology. My agent Michelle and I donated the money earned from the antho to three local animal shelters: Old Dog Haven, Purfect Pals, and SAFE (an equine rescue organization).
Here's the original back cover copy:
This one-of-a-kind-all-original anthology features stories by three bestselling superstar authors starring the mysterious, mischievous, and magical matchmaking felines of the Cupid Cats Animal Shelter, who assist their owners in finding romance and true love.
“Unleashed” by Katie MacAlister
Meet Jacintha Ferreira, kitty whisperer. Or at least that’s what the guys around the Washington State Game and Wildlife office call Jas. Her skills with bigger cats than are normally found left on the back
doorstep of the Cupid Cats Animal Shelter are put to the test when she encounters a sexy Dark One shapeshifter who has no idea how he became a
really big kitty…but he does know a Beloved when he sees one.
BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF: HOW THE BOOK CAME TO BE
Former-editor Laura asked me if I'd like to contribute a novella to a paranormal anthology being headed up by the editorial director at NAL. I declined, saying I really didn't like writing novellas (I don't), but she mentioned that the premise used by all three stories would be an animal shelter that had something magical about it, either the pets or the people who worked there.
Immediately, I was hooked, not because I wanted to write the novella, but because I am a huge supporter of animal shelters, and I figured I could donate all of my proceeds to a couple of local shelters that meant a lot to me. And thus, I was convinced to join the party.
BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF: THE CHARACTERS
Why Avery and Jas? The short answer is: why not?
Jacintha came about via the super short story I did for the Penguin paranormal page featuring Corazon. I knew that Cora was Alec's long-lost Beloved, and figured I could use her sister as a way to include a bit more background on Cora.
Avery joined the fun because I thought it would be interesting to see what a redeemed Dark One would do if he found his Beloved...not that he needed her to save his soul, but still be bound to her. And of course, if I brought Avery into play, that meant I could have a quick revisit with Sam and Paen.
BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF: THE ORIGINAL PLOTTING NOTES
By now it will come as no surprise to anyone that the original plot I envisioned was not what turned out.
Here's a look at part of the original plot notes.
-----ORIGINAL PLOT NOTES-----
Uber Brief description: Avery Scott is a vampire without a care, at least until he arrives in the Pacific Northwest on the trail of illegal exotic animal smuggling. Avery gets tangled up with a bunch of shape-shifting nature lovers, and one thing leads to another...with "another" being Avery turned into a chocolate brown panther by an irate father.
Jacinta Ferreira thinks nothing of the call to collect a large, drugged panther from her local animal shelter. As an employee of the Fish and Game department of the local government, and an expert in big cats, it's all in a day's work to wrangle the panther. It's a bit more than that when the panther turns out to be a man...one who apparently drinks blood, works for his private eye sister-in-law, and who has an entire clan of nature-lovers after his (sometimes furry) hide.
Avery is working for Sam, who has been hired to find the source o illegal exotic animals being smuggled into Scotland for an elite illicit hunty club. He tracks the source to a small town in the WA mountains. While trying to find more info about who is behind it, he is ambushed and left for dead. A female leszi named Danielle finds him, and takes him home to her family, who heals him. Avery decides to use Danielle since she knows the small community, and one thing leads to another and whammo! Daddy suddenly is insisting that Avery do right by his little girl and become one of them--a shapeshifter who devotes his whole life to the care of the woods and its inhabitants.
Avery is appalled. He doesn't even like animals! He hates camping! Bugs assault him the second he steps out of the door! He's a man-about-town, a rogue, the wild one of all the Scott brothers, and he has no intention of settling down and being domesticated like his brothers Paen and Finn. Not him. So he steals out of the leszi compound one night, but is pursued pursued by an irate father who is determined to make him pay.
Corazon's sister Jacinta (Jas) Ferreira gets an odd phone from call from her, yammering on about vampires. She tells her to stop drinking, and hangs up, only to get a call from a panicked worker at an animal shelter who says there is a drugged black panther in kennel. Since she works for a small wildlife conservation group under the auspices of the fish and game department, and since she has experience with large cats, the shelter owner requests that Jas come and collect the panther so the staff can get in to the animals.
Jas's boss/partner is always hitting on her, and is a red herring for the villain.
Real baddie is Danielle's father, who has the power to turn people into animals. Because mankind is destroying the environment, especially the wild parts, killing the wild beasties, he has taken his revenge by picking out those individuals who either deliberately abuse hunting priveliges, or people who are responsible for the destruction of forested areas, and thus the animals. He turns them into beasts, and ships them overseas to hunters groups, enjoying the irony of the hunters now becoming the hunted. (Hunting society doesn't outright kill the animals--that would not be finacially viable. Instead they equip their patrons with tranquilizing guns and let them "take down" the prey, giving them scores for the "kills." )
Daddy attempts to turn Avery into an animal to ship him abroad, but Avery is a vampire, so he turns into a therion instead.
------END PLOTTING NOTES-----
As you can see, things changed in the story, notably the switch from the father to daughter as being behind all the nefarious activities.
BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF: WHAT THE HECK IS A LESZI?
According to Wikipedia: A leshy usually appears as a tall man, but he is able to change his size from that of a blade of grass to a very tall tree. He has hair and a beard made from living grass and vines, and is sometimes depicted with a tail, hooves and horns.
He has pale white skin that contrasts with his bright green eyes. He is sometimes considered akin to the devil. A leshy has a close bond with the Gray Wolf, and is often seen in the company of bears as well. He is the Forest Lord and carries a club to express that he is the master of the wood. Lesnik, Lesovik, Leszi.
You can see elements of that in my version of leshies (Editor Laura didn't care for the original spelling of the name, and preferred I use leshy), mostly in the part about them being bound very firmly to the land and animals.
BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF: SHIFTERS
When I started this story, I hadn't written much about furry shapeshifters. At least, I hadn't shown them shifting "on screen" so I had a very big decision to be made--what happened to their clothes when they shifted?
Dragons and demons shifting, I was copacetic with--they both kept their respective clothing. But furry shapeshifters weren't dragons or demons, and thus, I had to reason out whether their mythos would allow them to shift their clothing along with their bodies or not.
In the end I decided that since dragons were more magical based beings, and therions and weres were animal-based, the latter would in fact lose their clothing when they changed into their animal form.
It may seem like a trivial point when reading the story, but if you knew how long I angsted over which way to go with it, you'd be surprised. I'm willing to admit that the idea of a naked hero every time he shifts might have had something to do with my final decision...
CONNECTION TO ENTHRALLED
None. Nada. Zip. I know, I'm kind of amazed I didn't managed to wedge Christian in here somehow.