Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tasting Fire by Shelly Holt: Guest Post


By Shelly Holt

In Tasting Fire, many thousands of years ago, an infection caused by a bacteria that lives only in hot springs, resulted in the merging of human and animal DNA.  For self protection these shape-shifters have allowed their very existence to become the substance of myth and legend.  The story begins as advances in modern genetics are about to reveal them to the world.
Location, location, location!  Isn't that what they say matters most when opening a new restaurant or small business? I found out it also makes a huge difference in plotting a paranormal romance as well.  When I sat down and started writing my outline of Tasting Fire, I decided for the sake of authenticity, I would have to take my characters all over the world.  This became quite a challenge for me, as I personally have never stepped off the continent. 
My hero and heroine, Kai Tenzin and Dr. Rae Hales first meet in Orlando.  Luckily, Florida is one of the few states I have actually been to outside of the western United States.  Although I personally never hung around the everglades with a gorgeous shape-shifting snow leopard, I tried to share my experiences and impressions of the area.
After those beginning chapters, a large part of Kai and Rae's American adventures takes place in scenic Sedona, Arizona.  An incredibly beautiful vacation spot which I have been fortunate enough to visit.  My own experiences in Sedona cast a very large fingerprint over those chapters in the book.  In fact, the scene where Kai and Rae help a mother and daughter navigate a rocky parking lot with a wheelchair actually occurred.  Unfortunately for me, I had deal with the rocks myself, no handsome shape-shifting snow leopard was there to help.  The plaza I visited with my mother after a monsoon in April of 2006 was actually the Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village.  A charming shopping center with art galleries, crafters and restaurants (highly recommended). 
The restaurant that Kai and Rae enjoy before their flight to Hong Kong also actually exists.  Black Barts is a delightful treat for families in Flagstaff, Arizona. The wait staff goes up on stage during the evening and sings Broadway show tunes.  My family and I stayed in the R.V. park that Kai and Rae take a walk through.  I contacted the owners prior to publishing the book and they graciously gave their permission to use the locale in the story.
An interesting side note, during the writing of Tasting Fire, I wanted to use the lyrics to a famous Broadway musical in the chapter that takes place inside Black Barts and contacted the company that owns the copyright to the song.  Although they were more than willing to license it at a fair price, the problem was the technology of e books is so new, they had no way of keeping track and charging me accurately for the licensing.  It broke my heart to have to rewrite the chapter not using the lyrics, but it shows you interestingly enough just how new the technology really is and not all industries have caught up to it yet. 
In my heroine's back story I used my experiences of living in Southern Nevada to enrich the tone of the book.  Rae's fondest memories are when she was taken as young child by her mother to Red Rock Canyon, which is about twenty miles outside of Las Vegas.  I can't give any spoilers, but Red Rock Canyon plays a huge part in Rae's family history.  It really is a special place the residents and visitors of Las Vegas treasure. If you are ever visiting Las Vegas, I urge you to take a day off from the strip and the slot machines to visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  I can't guarantee you will see a shape-shifter, but I do guarantee you will see some breathtaking scenery.  I do recommend you avoid the canyon in the summer though. Try visiting during the spring, winter or fall.  No matter what time of year you decide to enjoy Red Rock please bring enough water, it's a desert out there. 
After the plot left the United States, I found it quite a bit harder to write about locations I have never been to.  My characters visit Hong Kong and Russia, and I basically had to learn about the two countries from the internet.  Russia in particular was a challenge as I focus the plot for several chapters in a medium sized town called Petrozavodsk.  I watched many You Tube travel videos while I was doing the research for the book.  I remember one in particular was a lovely mass done acappella in a historic church on Kizhi Island and that was all it took, I fell in love with the architecture and history of Kizhi Island.
When I decided to write a paranormal romance, I bought one of those dummy books to help me understand how to structure the plot, as I wasn't a huge reader of romance novels myself prior to writing Tasting Fire.  One of the pieces of advice that really stuck out was to not fall in love with your location.  I admit when it came to Petrozavodsk and Kizhi Island I broke that rule.  Hopefully the travel guide portion of the book is evenly balanced with the romance.  Finances permitting I would absolutely love to be able to travel someday to Petrozavodsk and see Kizhi Island for myself. 
My thanks to Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews for inviting me on the blog today to share my experiences of writing Tasting Fire with you.

Shape-shifters have always walked the earth. Shrouded in myth and folklore, hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting. Advances in modern science are now about to reveal them to the world. Kai Tenzin is the self appointed leader of the Pari people. He and his kind evolved from the most reclusive predators on earth, the Asian Snow Leopard. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. As a young man, Kai left his small village where the mountain touches the heavens, determined to do anything to protect his people. When he is forced to enlist the aid of the beautiful American scientist Dr. Rae Hales, the last thing he expects to find is a woman who will ensnare his heart and endanger them all. Their action-packed adventure will take them around the world to discover the truth behind the legends and reveal the future of humanity.


 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 therehe 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 spacewhen 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.


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1 comment:

Shelly Holt said...

Thanks so much for inviting me on the blog today.