Tes Hilaire - Really, She’s Just a Cat + Contest
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Really, She’s Just a Cat
by Tes Hilaire
I’ve recently been hanging out a lot with one of my new characters, the Paladin Warrior, Valin, trying to get past his wall of sarcasm and into his good graces. It hasn’t been easy, but I figure I better before I start writing his story in my paranormal romance series and he finds out what I’ve done to his bond mate (though I’m beginning to seriously think about hiring a bodyguard when we reach that point.) Anyway, he was doing his usual thing, skulking around my office, picking through my stuff with his knife, when I noticed that though he seemed to be preoccupied by being a busybody, he hadn’t taken his eyes off my dark-brown, marble tabby.
“Why do you keep staring at my cat?” I asked.
His focus shifted immediately to me, his bourbon gaze narrowing and I realized that my tone hadn’t been very nice, possibly even bordering on waspish given that it was now the end of a week of close company I’d gotten noting more than the barest glimmer of what made him tick. Well, that’s not quite true. I had gotten the distinct impression I was nothing more than an irritant to be weathered, my only redeeming grace as a test-dummy to try out his dark-edged humor upon. And now I was poking the tiger with a stick. Brilliant.
“I mean, she’s just lying there, not doing anything,” I said, trying to inject just the right mix of offended and curious as I folded my arms, standing (or rather sitting) my ground.
“True,” he replied, shoulders I hadn’t even realized had gone tense relaxing. “And I meant no offense. She is merely…pretty.”
I didn’t buy it. Valin didn’t study anything with that sort of intensity unless it held some sort of great interest to him. And though I think the Paladin would have liked to convince me (and thus the world) that he was simply a shallow, arrogant ass—and thereby as intrigued by beauty as any other superficial thing—I had just spent a week in his company. Ergo, I knew better.
I must have given him a look that said something to this effect because he shrugged and then shocked me with a rare explanation. “Not many modern day domestic cats have retained their ancient role as keepers.”
“Keepers?” I asked, genuinely curious now.
“Key keepers, if you will, to the other realms…or the two lions who preside over the borders of the underworld in Egyptian lore.”
A chill went down my spine. Keepers to the underworld. As in death. As in…Umm…
Valin tipped his head to the side, his eyes narrowing dangerously. “So is she your secret?”
“Secret?” I shifted uneasily, thinking of all the characters I’ve sent on to said “underworld” and some of the characters I was planning on doing so to. He couldn’t have guessed my plans... No way…Nuh uh. ‘Cause if he has…
“To getting that front row seating in Hell’s games,” he replied with a smile, one of those devil-may-care twist of the lips that would normally have made me ooze in my computer chair, striking me brainless for at least an hour…except for the fact that he then began flicking his knife up into the air and catching it again, his gaze pinning me in a manner that made me think of dead butterflies…
Uh-hum. Yeah. Definitely going to have to look into that bodyguard. Luckily it hadn’t been needed that day, but watching that knife flash up and down before my eyes? Yeah, I had been just a wee bit freaked out, until I realized Valin was talking about my eerily intimate knowledge of what the big power players “down there” were doing and not, well…the plans I had for his bond-mate which were going to make having a bodyguard necessary. Anyway…the idea that my cat (if she was this “keeper” that Valin spoke of) was somehow allowing me insight into “realms” that I should have no knowledge of was a good hypothesis. I mean, how many ladies can say that they’ve “seen” Lucifer? (Even if it was via Ganelon’s POV ;-) But the truth is so much more mundane than that, and something I almost hate to admit for fear of losing my mystic powers.
Oh, well, what the heck. My super-super-secret is this….drum role, please….Research! Hey, I told you it was mundane. But necessary. For at the basis of any good novel, the thing that gives it that little bit of intrigue and/or realism, is boring old research. Anyone who’s ever done research knows this can be a long, drawn-out process. Finding the right information, the “thing” that is going to “fit” can be difficult. Even more difficult is coming to terms with the amount of conflicting information. Different cultures, different times—every source has their own spin on a given legend or event. And that’s not to mention our own pop cultures expectations. Pick up a dozen different paranormal romance novels off the shelves and I’ll bet you’ll find just as many twists on their legend of choice (vampire, angel, faerie, witch, shaman, etc…). The key became determining which legend or mix thereof I wanted to incorporate into my novel.
I explored a lot of different mythos while looking for the perfect “warrior” for my series: Knights of the Templar, the Nephilim, Vikings, Spartans. All of them were good, but none of them were quite perfect. Vikings were definitely strong and ruthless, but they also have a bit of a bad rep (you know all that raiding and pillaging stuff). Not to mention I don’t know all that much about Norse legends and the amount of research I’d have to do to incorporate that into my fledgling world? Ugh, I was already getting a headache. I needed something else. The Nephilim were kind of cool, only I’d recently read a YA based on this mythology and I wanted to have a fairly fresh slate to work with in my mind. Spartans were definitely hot, but I couldn’t seem to get past seeing them in those loin-cloth, red-capey attire and my warriors were going to be t-shirt and jeans or leather kind of men. Hmmm that left the Knights of the Templar, and though they certainly fit into the whole heaven, hell, vampires, demons and damned souls in need of redemption portion of my mythos, for some reason I just couldn’t get that old man from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade out of my head. And as honorable as that aging warrior was, I didn’t exactly see him as romance material.
Still, something about those knights stuck in my head. I really liked the tie to those religious artifacts, and I’ve always had a morbid kind of fascination with the crusades. I dug deeper and soon stumbled upon a ten centuries old piece of French literature called The Song of Roland. The song itself is embroiled in political and personal intrigue and, if taken literally, paints none of the players as angelic visages or infallible warriors, but the roots were there. It’s the first mention of the twelve Paladin, twelve religious warriors. I thought what if these men had been in this battle, not as a product of political or cultural intolerance of the time but of their own mission? What if they were taking orders directly from a higher power, their goal to keep religious artifacts (a coveted prize often at the foundation of the Crusades) out of the hands of true evil? More than that, what if my Paladins were volunteer angels come down from Heaven to protect His children from Lucifer’s evil army?
I knew then that I’d found warriors. And, even better, it wasn’t going to take much to spin the legend into this really awesome angel angle too. All the pieces were coming together, conflicts of interest, good verses evil, demons and vampires and angels, oh my! … Oh yeah, this was sweet. Of course, I still had to write the book…but that, my friends, is a story for another day ;-)
P.S. For those of you wondering about the legend that inspired Valin’s comment about my cat? He was speaking of Aker, an ancient Egyptian guardian/deity, often depicted as two lions facing away from each other and of whom granted—or denied—passage into the underworld.
DELIVER ME FROM DARKNESS BY TES HILAIRE – IN STORES NOW
A stranger in the night…
He had once been a warrior of the Light, once of the revered Paladin. A protector. But now he live sin darkness, and the shadows are his sanctuary. Every day is a struggle to overcome the bloodlust. Especially the day Karissa shows up on his doorstep.
Comes knocking on the door…
She is light and bright everything beautiful—despite her scratches and torn clothes. Every creature of the night is after her. So is every male Paladin. Because Karissa is the last female of their kind. But she is his. He may not have a soul, but he can’t deny his heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daphne Award-winning author and former Tennessee native Tes Hilaire doesn’t remember how old she was when she wrote her first story, but she’s pretty sure it had something to do with a boy and a girl and a happily ever after. Displaced at an early age to “the north country,” her stories turned darker as she started creating whole new worlds to escape the harsh, upstate NY winters. Now back in the South, her stories remain edgy, exciting, and bring a hint of dark fantasy to paranormal romance. Best of all, no one ever has to shovel snow. For more, visit her website at www.teshilaire.com.
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