Guest Post/Excerpt – Tasting Fire by Shelley Holt

Title: Tasting Fire
Author: Shelley Holt
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: September 10th 2012 by Amazon


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.

Guest Post

In Tasting Fire, my debut paranormal romance, the Pari are a group of shape-shifters that evolved thousands of years ago when primitive nomads in Asia became infected with a bacteria that merged their human DNA with that of an Asian Snow Leopard.  Over time the race has become only known to humans through the mythology and folklore of the Himalayas.  Their mythology speaks of a race of female mountain spirits that can be benevolent if respected and cause destruction if angered.

 By using a disease process as a plot device instead of magic, I opened up a world in which many shape-shifting legends can be considered on a realistic non-magical platform.   I decided to write Tasting Fire as if the infection were real and had to consider how the people infected with the merging of the DNA would develop their cultures in the harsh environments of the Himalayas. 

The Asian Snow Leopard does not recognize international boundaries in real life, so I decided to spread the Pari out and each village would reflect the culture of the country they resided in, but the Pari were not fully human and their lives were profoundly affected by the physical condition they inherited. 

In the book, I wove aspects of Himalayan culture into pure fiction.  I created several customs which would be shared by the different Pari villages in the snow leopard's habitat range.  The first custom I created was called the Landru.  In every Pari village when the Pari boys turn 15 they are required to spend six months straight in their leopard form.  If and when they return to their human form it is because they were able to control their animal selves.  The longer a male Pari retains his leopard form the less human his thought processes become.  It is strictly forbidden for other Pari to interfere with a Landru ceremony.  A Pari male must retain some fragment of his humanity by himself or remain an animal for the rest of his life.  It is important to note not all Pari males return home after their Landru.

Another fictional custom was that of the Lesei cub.  In Tasting Fire, female Pari live almost all of their lives in their leopard form.  They are only human during their mating season and pregnancy.  Because of how much of their time is spent in animal form they die at a very young age.  When a female Pari gets pregnant at age twenty or twenty one it is likely that they will not live long enough to even wean their last cub.  This last gift from a Pari wife to her husband is called a Lesei cub.  It is understood by both parents it the final gift a Pari woman can give to her husband due to her biology.  He will sadly have to raise their child alone.

I tried to instill a sense of a rich and ancient culture in Tasting Fire and there can be no doubt the book was influenced strongly by Tibetan, Indian and Chinese cultures.  The cover itself shows a representation of a one hundred year old Thanka, which is a Tibetan painting of the Buddhist deity Yamantaka.  He is known as a protector of dharma and slayer of death.  The cover shows this image superimposed on the back of a young woman.  I choose to license this amazing cover art from talented photographer Michael Tilton Williams because I felt it represented the burden that Pari woman live with due to their ancestry. 

The story has a deeply spiritual tone and deals with issues ranging from personal development to the evolution of human society.  I will warn readers that Tasting Fire is not a light read.  If you want a book where the hero and heroine fall into bed together within the first two minutes of meeting each other, this is not the book for you.  If you are looking for a rich, textured story and if you wish to lose yourself in an intelligent, romantic, erotic, adventure, this is your book!

My thanks to Nomi's Paranormal Palace for inviting me on the blog today to share my experiences of writing 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.

About the Author

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.





Thank you Shelley for being here today and sharing your debut book with us. I must say, I really like the massive tattoo on the cover!!

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