Tasting Fire is the story of the Pari people and how the existence of shape-shifters in the world changed how humanity looks at itself and its environment. It's also a love story between Kai Tenzin, the leader of the Pari, a man whose ancestor's DNA was merged with that of an Asian Snow Leopard, and Dr. Rae Hales the beautiful American scientist he hires to try to hide the tell-tale DNA from modern science.
Tasting Fire is not your average paranormal shape-shifting romance. I created a plot that revolved around the hypothesis that if there were shape-shifters, how could they realistically come to exist? I researched methods of bacterial transmission and eventually came up with the idea that if shape-shifters throughout history were caused by an infection, it would have to be difficult to catch, otherwise everybody and their grandmother would be a shape-shifter. That was how I decided to make the infection come from a thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria that lives only in hot springs around the world. You can't catch it from another shape-shifter, but you can inherit the condition from your parents. This method of transmission gives rise to the many different mythologies of shape-shifters that have evolved from every culture on the planet.
As Dr. Rae Hales, my heroine surmises “if the Pari are real, doesn't that mean they could all be real?” (Hint ...more sequels) I treat shape-shifting in the books as a medical condition. It has significant physical, social and economic side effects that arise from the condition and the thrust of the book deals with that.
There is no magic in Tasting Fire by design. This forced me as a writer to develop a strong plot and create fully developed characters. There is humor, adventure, passion, and intelligence. 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 each other, than this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a rich, textured story, full of world building and character development, and if you want to lose yourself in an intelligent, romantic, sexy, adventure, this is your book!
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 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.