OF CATS AND DRAGONS: Start here

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Epic adventure. Arcane magic. Monsters. Heroes. Talking cats.

And we’re just getting started!

My best friend Carol and I have roamed the OF CATS AND DRAGONS world for over three decades, creating our stories in the telling — from our high school Dungeons & Dragons games to a private website where we’ve posted over three hundred stories and story fragments for each other alone. But now we are getting ready to share what we’ve conjured up.

It wasn’t easy, sorting through generations of characters, plots long and short, episodes half-forgotten and threads of tales never completed. From the moment Carol and I decided to write that first OF CATS AND DRAGONS novel, it took nearly a year of combing through storylines, weighing character arcs, before we arrived at a starting point.

Other decisions had to be made as well. While our stories range from Grimdark to slapstick, we had to pick one path. Ultimately we had to go with what the core really was — heroic fantasy with a touch of whimsy. A GAME OF THRONES without the naughty bits.

And while we had literally dozens of possible protagonists to choose from, we agreed that Omen and Tormy were at the center of our fantastical universe.

And from where should we launch the tale of their beautiful friendship? After a couple of false starts and at least another year of trying to figure it out, we decided to begin — at the beginning.

NIGHT’S GIFT is the pilot to our new series, one we hope to renew book after book for as long as we can still put word to page.

We are aiming for a late summer 2017 release date, but if you want to get a free pre-release ebook copy of NIGHT’S GIFT, just sign up here.

You can find us many places:

http://ofcatsanddragons.com

https://www.facebook.com/ofcatsanddragons/

Camilla:

Twitter @CamillaOchlan

Instagram: http://instagram.com/camillaochlan/

Carol:

http://caroleleever.deviantart.com

 

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It all ends not with a whimper but a howl!

It’s K-Day Remembrance Day!

Do you remember the night the Kyon Virus changed the world?

Lucy and Xochi do.
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane:

You’re in East L.A.

It’s well past midnight.

You hear vicious howls and roaring laughter…

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—from book 1 of THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER series

Lucy Lowell tucked into the shadows behind the white cinder block wall of Xochitl’s Cantina and listened. Coarse Spanglish curses pierced the night, accompanied by loud cheers and snatches of Tijuana narco-pop. Vicious barking and short, pained shrieks lacerated the seedy revelry.

Through holes in the camouflage canvas stretched over the parking lot’s chain- link fence, Lucy counted thirty East Los Locos gangbangers crowding around a shallow dogfight pit. Strewn around, discarded like trash, lay lumps of fur and flesh Lucy didn’t have the stomach to focus on. Through the wall of men, Lucy caught a glimpse of a blue nose pit bull turning away from its opponent, a muscular pit mastiff mix.

“Handle your dog, güey!” a paunchy man yelled from just outside the ring.

Accompanied by loud taunts, men from each side of the pit dragged their dogs back to the scratch lines. The mastiff’s handler fussed at the dog’s mouth, unfanging the dog’s lip from its teeth. Clearly dead tired and hurt, the blue nose pit bull started toward the line of cages against the opposite fence.

“Whoa, Puta.” A young man with a baseball cap turned backwards yanked the dog’s collar hard, causing the pit to drop to the ground as if taking cover.

From her hiding place, Lucy could see deep scratches on the pit bull’s face, bite wounds bleeding on the shoulder and old burn marks seared into the fur.

Lucy’s stomach cramped.

The dollar tacos she and her partner Gabe had devoured on their way to Echo Park threatened a hasty exit. Cabra Blanca, their favorite late night food truck, had been parked close to the raid at Montana and Alvarado. Eddie, the owner, always included extra mango guacamole with Lucy’s order.

Guacamole! Shouldna eaten. The dogfighting makes me sick enough. Why’d I chance it with the cabeza quesadilla on top of those goat tacos?

Lucy breathed in slowly and directed her gaze from the hurt dog to the few stars blinking in the murky L.A. sky. The lights of an airplane outshone the sliver of the waning crescent moon. She could make out the distant roar of jet engines.

“Bitch won’t fight no more, jefe.” The young man with the cap delivered a kick to the blue nose pit’s side. An ugly curse cut through the tumult as a man in a formfitting white T-shirt and dark designer jeans parted the crowd.

Memo Morales, cock of the walk. Nice of you to join us.

Teeth clenched, Lucy drew her sidearm and looked back down the alley. Officer Gabe Torres of the LAPD Animal Cruelty Task Force quietly crouched down next to Lucy, indicating with a nod that he too had spotted “El Gallo.”

Her partner for five years, Gabe was as fierce an animal rights protector as Lucy had ever met. Both she and Gabe had risked both badge and incarceration many times, as they rescued dogs from backyard dogfighting with or without departmental approval.

Tonight’s raid was another point of contention with their ACTF lieutenant. When the confidential informant had approached Lucy and Gabe about dogfighting behind her cantina, it had been just the break they’d been looking for. These East Los Locos had been brokering dogfights for years, but their slippery leader Memo Morales, a.k.a. “El Gallo,” always managed to ensconce the events with aggravating efficiency.

Distressingly the CI, Xochitl Magaña, had given Lucy and Gabe much more than they’d hoped for. El Gallo and his Los Locos were running guns. The dogfights, while generating tens of thousands of dollars on their own, were a mere front. Lucy and Gabe’s supervisor Lieutenant Heckman had turned their information over to her superior, Captain Burch. Burch had taken the lead on the raid, called in SWAT and only allowed the ACTF along as a courtesy after Lucy had begged to be involved. Lucy and Gabe had been virtually cut out of the planning despite their relentless pursuit of the East Los Locos dogfighting ring.

“Get rid of it, Tuti!” El Gallo spat, prompting Lucy to inch forward. She could see El Gallo throw a fistful of cash at another man and stalk into the cantina through the backdoor.

The gangbangers laughed and joked as more money changed hands. Pushing the baseball-capped banger away, the man named Tuti threw a chain around the bloodied pit bull’s neck and dragged her clear of the wall of men. The exhausted dog cowered from Tuti as he tightened the chain around her neck. Small whimpers reached Lucy’s ears.

“Just shoot it.” A thin teenage boy in baggy jeans and an oversized white T-shirt approached Tuti with what looked like a Hi-Power Browning 9mm.

Nice gun.
A detached part of Lucy’s brain noted the semi-automatic.
”¡Cállate, Flaco! Let’s have some fun.” Tuti yanked the chain, smashing the pit’s chin into the asphalt. The sharp yowl caught the attention of the other attending Locos who turned to watch Tuti’s show.

Gabe’s hand settled on Lucy’s arm and held tight. She would have bruises in the morning.

“Wait,” he hissed.

Lucy tilted her head to look directly into her partner’s dark brown eyes. In a split second a struggle resolved between them. Burch’s words, “You two hotheads are on thin ice,” echoed in her memory. She knew Gabe remembered it too.

“X the bitch, Tuti!” Drunken hysteria pitched the Locos’ voices higher. “¡Fuego! ¡Fuego! ¡Fuego!”

Her eyes still locked on Gabe, Lucy knew what was happening in the parking lot. Having investigated the sad aftermath of the East Los Locos games, she knew what inevitably came next. Slowly she nodded her head, and Gabe released his grip. It wasn’t the plan. It wasn’t even smart.

Lucy rose to her full height. Her Beretta clutched firmly, Lucy shot a quick smile to Gabe. Easily on the taller side of six feet, muscled like a professional bodybuilder, Gabe Torres looked scary as hell.

Glad you’re on my side, good buddy.

Lucy felt calm wash down from her head to her toes. This was what she was made for…

 

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The NIGHT’S GIFT Gallery

This month I want to share a few selected pieces of Carol’s art from  NIGHT’S GIFT, book one of our fantasy adventure series OF CATS AND DRAGONS. The pictures are captioned with short quotes from the story. If this looks like a book you would enjoy, check us out here. And if you’ve already read NIGHT’S GIFT, I hope you enjoy this little trip down memory lane.

-Camilla

The alchemist

A tall, thin figure in long grey robes stood near a cauldron emitting a billow of greenish smoke. He’d been a man at one point, the broad bones of his face distinguishing him as human. But the rest of his features were impossible to discern within the mass of lumpy grey skin, which spread over desiccated muscle tissue.

Gack. Looks like a snake’s slough. Cast-off. Putrefied. Omen swallowed down the sick rising in his throat at the sight. The smell in the air was almost unbearable to his heightened senses, and the silk kerchief only vaguely lessened the impact.

The alchemist had two eye sockets in approximately the right place, but they were filled with glistening gelatinous material that boasted pale green irises with black pinpricks in the center.

Omen took an abrupt step back, bumping into Templar.

“The prinssssessss,” Gerdriu hissed through squared off ivory teeth yellowed with age and far too visible. Part of Gerdriu’s lip had long ago fallen off, and the words that came out of him were difficult to understand. The alchemist prolonged the final “s” so much that the word sounded like princess.

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“Run, walk, crawl, won’t much matter boys,” a low, harsh voice informed them.

Both Omen and Templar spun around. An old woman stood behind them, clutching a gnarled wooden staff in one hand and a goblet of wine in the other. A small hummingbird flittered about her head, pulling at strands of her long white hair. It landed on her shoulder and perched calmly there, tiny eyes peering intently at Omen.

“Ma’am?” Omen nodded his head politely to her — his Melian-bred manners at the forefront. He’d been taught to speak respectfully to the elderly.

“They’ll eat you if you go near them,” the old woman continued with a chuckle that sounded remarkably like a low rolling cackle.

“Who will?” Templar and Omen asked in unison.

The old woman pointed her staff toward the red sector and the group of women sitting in the center of it. “The Feast Seekers of course!” she said.

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“I thought Mer folk were supposed to be beautiful maidens,” Omen whispered to Templar as they approached the strange, scaled man.

“There are more different types of Mer folk than there are land folk,” Templar said. “This kind is frequently seen around the bay of Hex. They’re mostly harmless, but they’re strong and extremely long-lived.”

As they approached the strange man, he turned toward them expectantly. Omen could see thin slits in the man’s neck. Though the Mer’s features were mostly human, his gills suggested that he could breathe underwater. He was dressed in long blue robes that hid his form. His hands, folded upon his lap, were unusually large — his fingers extremely long and thin. Omen spotted webbing between each digit.

Templar stopped beside him and inclined his head politely. “Greetings old one,” he stated clearly. “We are here to ask for Miss Cornelia’s pearl back. She has sent us to retrieve it.”

The Mer blinked slowly. His eyes, blue as the sea, were enormous and bulbous, lending him a wild, wide-eyed expression. The smile that accompanied that look only added to the unnerving effect as it revealed tiny needle-like teeth behind his pale blue lips. “Delightful,” the Mer replied, his voice soft but clear. “But if you want the pearl, you’ll have to play for it.” He motioned with one webbed hand toward the Battlefield board next to him.

“You’re saying you’ll give us the pearl, if we play a game of Battlefield with you?” Omen tried to clarify.

The Mer’s smile widened. “I’m saying I’ll give you the pearl if you win a game of Battlefield.”

“And if we lose?” Omen pressed.

The Mer rubbed his chin thoughtfully, looking the two of them over. The webbed plume on his head raised upward as he studied them.

ringmaster

Standing in the center of the pit was a most curious-looking creature. Tall, with fine sharp features and long dark hair that hung about his shoulders in curls, he might have passed for human were it not for his glowing yellow eyes and the fact that his legs below the knees looked like they belonged on a goat. His goat legs stuck out from beneath his calf-length velvet breeches. Covered in fine black fur, his fetlocks and pasterns ended in glittering black hooves that clicked and clattered upon the marble floor.

Dressed in a flowing black coat and a tall black silk hat, the goat man swept the hat from his brow and elaborately bowed to the audience all around him. He gestured to the crowd with grand over-exaggerated motions and waved the hat in the air several times before setting it back upon his head. Then, he cracked the long whip clutched in his other hand. The sharp sound of the thin piece of leather snapping in the air drew all attention toward him.

“Welcome back gentle lords and ladies!” he shouted to the crowd. His voice was deep and rich, and easily carried throughout the cavernous arena.

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Team Luciene, the champions, were towering, androgynous entities that, while humanoid in shape were anything but human. Tall and well-muscled, they bore enormous leathery wings upon their backs like giant bats. Their hands ended in long vicious claws, and their feet were shaped like the talons of raptors. Black beaks sprouted from the front of their faces as if a dark triangle had been shoved over an unsuspecting human’s mouth and nose. Their beady bird eyes flashed yellow and bright over their beaks, while their thick, scaly tongues flicked out over their long incongruous fangs and rows and rows of sharp teeth.

Beaks and fangs. Hardly seems right.

As team Luciene entered the ring, their wings beat fiercely, carrying them over the marble floor in great bounds. They landed near the ringmaster, and Omen could see their claws digging down into the surface of the stone as if it were made of sand. Each let out a series of vicious caws that cut right through Omen. While their bodies showed signs of minor injuries, they did not seem even slightly fatigued from their previous matches.

Fierce!

From the other door the two challengers . . . slithered. Not remotely human, these two players were mostly reptilian — their lower bodies curled into enormous serpent coils. Their long, wide upper torsos were covered with glistening scales. They possessed four arms each, heavily muscled and thick with ropy sinews. Their scaled hands flashed with sharp claws.

Nightmare snake things.

As the snake creatures approached, both hissed, showing off long dripping fangs. Team Islid swayed menacingly in front of the ringmaster, who cracked his whip in warning.

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Two furry white shapes caught hold of the edge of the box. The fuzzy shapes were white as snow, white as cream, long fluffy tendrils of fur catching in the air. A larger shape pulled itself upward. Omen saw a flash of orange, a gleam of gold, a shimmer of gossamer, and a moment later he found himself staring into the face of a . . . kitten.

Omen blinked. The music in his head grew utterly silent. The patterns vanished. He blinked again and stared hard, trying to make out exactly what he was seeing.

The kitten was large — perhaps the size of a herding dog. But it was still a kitten, a kitten with a too-large head and gangly legs. The kitten was covered in long fluffy orange and white fur patterned in glimmering stripes that caught in the air currents and shimmered with a silken sheen. The kitten’s ears, long tufts of white fur sticking up from them, the insides as pink as sea coral, were perked forward. Enormous amber-colored eyes shone with curiosity. The pink nose, twitching as it tried to catch the scents all around, seemed almost lopsided due to the small smattering of dark freckles on one side of the velvety skin. Incongruously there was a slender golden crown perched upon the kitten’s head, held up by one ear.

To Omen’s shock the kitten opened its mouth and proclaimed in a loud voice for all to hear, “I is only three weeks old!” And then the little creature yawned as if exhausted. The words — not meows, not growls or some vague approximation of speech — were spoken in clear, unmistakable Sul’eldrine, the Language of the Gods. The kitten’s voice was sweet and lilting and perfect for the holy tongue.

  • all art by Carol E. Leever

 

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XOXO from the world OF CATS AND DRAGONS!

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Hope you’ve had a good start to the new year and are enjoying fun times and good reads. If you haven’t had the chance to download our new OF CATS AND DRAGONS  short story, SOLSTICE THYME, please click on the link below to collect the tale from Bookfunnel. It is our gift to you.
Carol and I are currently working on the next Omen and Tormy adventure, which should provide more travel, more magic, and  — hopefully — old and new favorite characters.

Download SOLSTICE THYME for FREE

Meet a little shapeshifter from the story:

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“Is that a frog?” Tokara wondered out loud. She’d never seen a frog with blue hair and a long, curling lizard tail before. Its orange belly glistened like an over-ripe peach.
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Solstice Thyme

We’ve got a brand-new OF CATS AND DRAGONS story to share!

Read what happens when Tokara and Caia take their new friends Tormy, Kyr, and little Tyrin to Wood Frog Pond. This story takes place toward the end of AUTUMN KING (book 5 in the series), and while we don’t think there are many *spoilers*, you will probably enjoy the tale more after you’ve finished at least Chapter 12 of AUTUMN KING (Calculations).

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download full story here

Chapter 1: Balcony

“Do you think the giant kitty will play with us today?” little Caia lisped through the wide gap created by a missing tooth. Tokara tried not to giggle at the extra th in us. Her six-year-old sister was still struggling with her s sounds.

Tokara peeked through the wrought iron pickets of the bedchamber’s small balcony, edging herself closer to where Caia was kneeling, small hands gripping the iron pickets, head poking out between them. Both girls set their eyes on the horse-sized orange cat prancing up and down the castle’s courtyard.

“He sure looks ready to play,” Tokara replied longingly. Though she was already ten years old, Tokara too was enamored with the enormous cat. He’s just so fluffy!

“I don’t see that little Tyrin.” Caia leaned forward, squinting hard to spot the tiny kitten in the gathering below.

“He’s probably in Kyr’s pocket.” Tokara pulled her sister back from the railing. “Careful,” she said automatically.

Caia huffed and shuffled backward on her knees to what amounted to less than a half step. “I’m almost ready to go.” She pulled a cap from her pocket and started cramming her long, tangled hair under it.

“Momma won’t let you wear a cap all day.” With so much company in the castle, Tokara knew her mother would want them to present themselves properly attired.

“But it’s a big rats’ nest,” the little girl whined. She scrambled up so she could stomp one foot expressively. “It hurts to comb it!”

“I’ll help.” Tokara, well used to her sister’s hair troubles, stepped away from the balcony and took a few aimless turns around Caia’s room while reflecting on both their playtime and the tangle of locks. She picked up a sandalwood comb from the carved side table. “Come here, Caia,” she beckoned. “I’ll fix it for you.”

Caia touched a snarl above her ear with chagrin. “Guess I’m not so good at braids.” The little girl turned her back to Tokara, hands on the balcony railing, eyes on the goings-on below. She did, however, tug off the old cap.

Tokara returned to the balcony. Nothing is prying her away from the sight of Tormy.

“This is a braid?” Tokara poked her finger at the tangled knot in her sister’s baby-fine blond hair. She could hear the murmur of conversation in the courtyard below, as she carefully unwound the knot and then ran the wide-tooth comb through the tangle of her sister’s hair. “I can always braid it for you before you go to sleep,” she suggested, her brain still working on their lack-of-cat problem.

Caia held very still, hardly breathing as Tokara combed through one section of hair at a time.

“I bet,” Tokara’s thoughts spun as she spoke, “Tormy would want to play with us if we asked real nice.” She considered the obstacles, her tongue pushing against her cheek as she finished straightening Caia’s hair. The blond locks shone golden in the morning light. “Momma said Omen is busy and we shouldn’t bother him.”

“She said that?” Caia sounded mildly outraged even as she ran both palms over her now straight and sleek hair. “Thanks. I can’t ever get it to do that.”

“Mm-hmm. Just got to go slow.” Tokara thought about the chain of command as she handed the comb back to Caia. “We’d have to ask Omen’s permission to play with his cat, but if he’s too busy we can’t ask. And then we can’t have Tormy go down to Wood Frog Pond with us. But—” Figure it out, Caia, the solution is obvious. She didn’t want to suggest the idea herself.

“But we could skip Omen and just ask Tormy.” Caia caught on right away. “We shouldn’t bother Omen when he’s so busy.”

Both girls poked their heads over the railing again and looked down at the figures practicing hand-to-hand combat in the courtyard below: Omen, Templar, Liethan, and the girls’ grandfather Yoshihiro.

The night before at dinner, Omen had asked Yoshihiro if he’d be willing to train him and his friends in the Shindarian fighting arts. The table had grown very still, all aware that Omen’s naive question skirted close to outrageous disrespect. A highly traditional Shindarian sword master, Yoshihiro lacked the outgoing, generous nature of his son Diatho — the girls’ beloved father. The old man grumbled something unintelligible over his plate, but his tone was that of an unmistakable, unequivocal, no.

Tokara felt uncomfortable at once, but she greatly respected her grandfather and had been taught that his side of the family lived by a code of rules that reached back to his native land’s millennia-old history.

Unbendable. But we’re not in Shindar and some of his ancient rules are so silly. Like how he won’t train me and Caia because we’re girls. But then he’ll watch and help when Reeve and Rask teach us the lessons he just taught them.

A Shindarian sword master chooses his pupils; they can’t ask to be trained. Guess Omen didn’t know that rule.

Tokara’s mother had never directly spoken against Yoshihiro, but she blatantly ignored any of the Shindarian rules she disagreed with.

“What’s that, Omen?” Kadana had broken the dinner table silence with laughter in her voice. “Are you really going to ask a creaky old man to teach you to fight, when you could learn so much more from me?”

Tokara’s grandfather had merely clicked his tongue.

“I can’t believe Momma called Baba creaky to his face,” Caia had whispered.

“Don’t draw attention.” Tokara had given her sister a soft kick under the table, and both girls had simultaneously refocused their big-eyed attention to the entertaining back-and-forth.

Kadana had made a show of shaking her head — slowly, dramatically. “I’m deeply offended, grandson.”

Omen had flushed with embarrassment, and Tokara had started to feel sorry for him. She knew how her mother always teased, and she also knew that her mother took little offense at any perceived slight.

Momma’s just goofing on him. She’s always even-tempered, laughs at everything.

Yoshihiro had cleared his throat. “Perhaps, Kadana-sa,” he’d said with appeasement in his voice, “young Omen means not to study the swordplay that bashes and cuts. Perhaps his interest lies in the natural laws. Perhaps he is ready to learn not just the how but the why.”

Kadana had played at seriously considering his words, brows knotted. “You are so wise. The boys certainly would enjoy learning the throws and holds from you. A joint-lock or two could come in handy, I bet.” She’d turned to Omen. “What do you say, Omen? Will you take Yoshihiro up on his generous offer to train you?”

Tokara had tried not to giggle as Omen’s and Yoshihiro’s surprised expressions mirrored one another.

I wonder how long ago Momma set that in motion. She wants Omen to study with Baba, but she knows Baba would never take him on as a student. So, she tricked him. Tricked both of them.

The training had started early the next morning, and Tokara now watched intently as Baba flipped Omen over his head time and again. She could clearly hear the OOMPH of Omen’s large frame hitting the makeshift straw practice mat. Omen thought his size and strength would be a match for Baba. The old man had quickly proven that guess incorrect.

“Omen does look busy,” Tokara told her sister, the dinner’s events inspiring a ploy in her brain.

Caia leaned over the balcony a little farther. “Sure does. And Kyr and Tormy look like they’re just waiting around. I bet they’re getting bored.”

“And hungry,” Tokara added. “How long before they head over to the kitchens?”

“Not long,” Caia said with a smirk. “But shouldn’t we—”

She’s going to chicken out, Tokara thought with alarm.

“It’s finally summer,” Tokara started carefully. “If Momma won’t let us go down to Wood Frog Pond by ourselves—”

“She won’t let us go down to Wood Frog Pond by ourselves,” Caia said in a manner that felt entirely unhelpful to Tokara, “because of what happened last winter.”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Tokara said, instantly defensive. The search-and-rescue mission to Wood Frog Pond had been her idea when Caia’s puppy had gone missing. “Momma never let us go into the woods without Rask and Reeve before that time either. And since the boys are on the Corsair Islands with Papa, we’re stuck in the castle.”

“All summer long?” Caia asked, furrows of concern on her forehead.

“All summer long,” Tokara said lightly, hoping her sister would go with her on this.

“What if we just ask for someone else to come with us?” Caia considered, thoughtful. “Niadh, Neylie, and Zennie would go with us.”

“I already asked,” Tokara grumbled. “I wanted to surprise you. But Momma said that with all the company staying at the castle, everyone is too busy.”

Caia’s shoulders slumped.

“And Momma said that there could still be orclets or other critters running around the woods. Which means we’d need someone who is a good fighter to go with us.”

“Like Tormy?” Caia’s eyes lit up with excitement.

Tokara looked down again to where the giant cat now lay sprawled on the ground, fluffy belly exposed. The enormous orange and white feline snored so loudly the sound reached all the way up to the balcony.

“Just like Tormy.”

😺😺😺😺😺

Download the rest of the story for free from BookFunnel

 

 

Reader Wednesday — My Birthday Book Bonanza!

Happy birhtday, Ol’ Werewolf Whisperer buddy of mine 🐺

Bonita's Geeky Blog-Fu!

Today’s my birthday! Woohoo🎉

To celebrate, I’m sharing a bonanza of fantastic Sci-Fi/Fantasy freebies, giveaways and deals!

Happy Reading!

-Bonita

Here’s a FREE novella featuring a kickass heroine!

A CIRUCS OF DEVILS by C. Rene Astle

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KOBO readers! Love Fantasy? Love History? Then you’ll love this historical fantasy series. And it’s 40% off right now!

THE PENLLYN CHRONICLES by Troy A. Hill

Arthur is dead, and a dangerous game for Britain’s soul begins…
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GIVEAWAYS GALORE!

Click on the pics and download as many as you like for FREE!

And make sure to grab my book

BEAST OUT OF HELL: A WEREWOLF WHISPERER TALE.

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YA FANS! This giveaway is for you!

Be sure to download Camilla Ochlan’s OF CATS AND DRAGONS novella WINTER TITHE.

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This giveaway has a little bit of everything for everyone.

And…

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Reader Wednesday — NEWSLETTER DAY!

HAPPY NEW YEAR from TEAM WEREWOLF WHISPERER!

Bonita's Geeky Blog-Fu!

Empyrean Press presents the first BEASTY BITES newsletter of 2019 🎉

Learn more about our Urban Fantasy series – THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER and find great new reads. There’s even a FREEBIE from the world OF CATS AND DRAGONS by Camilla Ochlan!

Subscribe, and we’ll send you a FREE Werewolf Whisperer novella as our way of saying ¡Gracias!


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WINTER TITHE – a solstice tale

Season’s Greetings from Of Cats And Dragons!

Get WINTER TITHE free as our gift to you.

WINTER TITHE takes us to another corner of the world OF CATS AND DRAGONS. We find ourselves in the land of Kharakhan on the eve of the winter solstice. This time our hero is ten-year-old Tokara, one of Omen’s young relatives.

Tokara’s strong curiosity and loyalty to her sister bring her face-to-face with a monster older than the stars. But our girl has a brave heart and an irrepressible spirit, and the longest night of the year may still hold many secrets.

We hope WINTER TITHE brings you joy.

Our best,

Camilla & Carol

Read Chapter 1: Storybook here or download the whole story to your device.

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Chapter 1: Storybook

Tokara Deldano eyed the leather-bound tome resting in her mother’s lap. The girl had seen the dusty book before, high on the shelf and out of reach. Is Momma going to read to us? She pressed her lips together, trying to suppress the squeal of joy building up inside.

They had retired to the castle’s solar, the place where the whole family usually spent winter evenings playing board games or cards. Unfortunately, her father and brothers were away for the evening.

Despite the early hour, it was already dark, and — even though it was well before her own bedtime — Tokara felt tired and chilled to the bone. Caia, who was four years younger than Tokara, had started yawning before the pudding had been served and was half-asleep by the time they had climbed the tower stairs to the solar. The relentless harsh winds and weeks of icy temperatures were taking their toll on everybody.

Tokara let her eyes drift over the solar, her favorite room in the castle. Intricate tapestries lined all four stone walls. Her mother had brought the hanging pieces from a faraway land only last fall. Enormous, they depicted faerie stories and tales of magical beasts that made Tokara’s imagination tumble.

The room’s chilly stone floors had been layered with plush rugs, which created a spongy cushion for her every step, but this evening she’d pulled on two pairs of knitted socks before cramming her feet into her sheepskin-lined house boots. Leaning slightly forward on the stuffed leather hassock, she wiggled her toes, grateful for the arched fireplace so big that it could fit a team of pack mules. Fed throughout the day and evening, the fire kept the solar toasty and drove away the dampness.

Tokara turned her back to the fireplace, enjoying the warmth that spread from her lower back to her shoulder blades. She was glad her mother would not be traveling again until spring. Home was always merry for the Deldano children but never as merry as when their mother returned from one of her long voyages. Tokara also noted happily that her mother’s tremendous desk was bare. The farmers’ tithes had been collected after harvest, and the annual review of the estate and the Deldano lands had been concluded in time for the midwinter feast. According to tradition, the family would soon bring solstice gifts to the inhabitants of the Chain and the farms that surrounded the villages. Tokara always looked forward to the village celebrations and the feast that would follow at the castle.

As an early present, her father had taken both of her brothers ice fishing on Garganey Lake. Tokara shivered to think just how cold her father and the twins would be on this long and starless night. While she liked fishing, she was happy to have stayed behind. Her mother traveled so often throughout the year that having her home was solstice prize enough for Tokara.

The flames in the fireplace jumped up and sent a pleasant blast of warmth up her spine. Tokara looked over at little Caia. The six-year-old lay contently curled on the thick lambskin rugs, nestled between the family’s five hunting dogs. Caia and the dogs were fast asleep; the youngest, a seventy-pound monster of a six-month-old puppy, snored in Caia’s tightly wound grasp.

“I think Howler belongs to Caia,” her mother said softly. “He’s taken to her.”

Tokara nodded firmly. She longed to pet the pup’s short velvety coat but kept her hands to herself.

“You don’t mind?” Her mother turned her bright and penetrating gaze on her.

“A little.” Tokara could never lie to her parents. “I thought Howler would be my special dog.” She shifted her body and leaned toward the leather chair to be closer to her mother.

Dressed in warm robes that brought out the green of her eyes, her honey-blond curls loose around her shoulders, Kadana Deldano looked far less commanding than usual.

Tokara loved these rare moments when her mother was relaxed and completely present. She admired her mother greatly, but at times like this, Tokara’s heart swelled with adoration as well. Momma is the most beautiful woman in the world.

“Why did you think that?” Her mother wasn’t searching for a specific answer; she just wanted to know the truth.

“Well, I thought, since Fergus and Liam and Becca and Rawley are twins, they obviously belong to our twins.” Tokara thought about how one of each of the hound twins had sought out one of her twin brothers to follow around and worship. “Fergus and Becca are always with Rask. And Liam and Rawley can’t wait for Reeve to play with them, even though they are really working dogs.”

“You noticed the dogs didn’t go ice fishing with the Rask and Reeve?” her mother pointed out with a smirk. “The dogs stayed here where it’s warm.”

Tokara nodded, aware. “I thought when Daddy brought home a puppy this summer, that it would be my puppy. Because I’m next in line.”

“I see why you might think that.”

“But Caia loves Howler. Can’t sleep without him.” Tokara spoke from experience. “He’s a baby, and she’s our baby. So, it all does make a lot of sense.”

“You sound very grown up, my sweet girl.” Her mother put her hand on the leather tome. “The giants of the earth could learn from you.” She smiled. “Did I ever tell you the story of Straakhan . . . and Bumpus?”

Tokara leaned against the overstuffed arm of the chair. “I don’t know that story, Momma.”

Kadana opened the great book to the middle and began to flip pages, searching for the story. The leather binding brushed softly against her woolen robes.

Tokara held her breath. Her mother didn’t often take time to read to them. Far more often she’d take her children hunting or run them through sword drills or archery practice. Under her mother’s strict tutelage, Tokara had learned to ride a pony when she was only three. Story time was more the realm of her father and sometimes the Melian relatives on the rare occasions they visited.

Kadana carefully shifted the book, folding out a longer page to three times its length. The rustling of paper caught Howler’s attention. The puppy raised his copper head, looked around the room, bleary-eyed, and gave a hearty yawn. Then he settled back down and rested the full weight of his head on Caia’s shoulder. The little girl didn’t stir.

“In days long ago . . .” The story began the traditional way. “Straakhan built his castle in the impenetrable forest of—”

“Is it our castle, Momma?” Tokara thought she already knew the answer.

“Yes, this is the castle Straakhan built,” her mother confirmed.

Tokara sighed. “A castle built by one of the giants of Imlidral. . .” She let the mystery of it hang in the air.

“Straakhan wasn’t just one of the giants of Imlidral, you know. The blood of the faerie coursed through him as well,” her mother went on. “And once, when the days were short and the nights were long, Straakhan left his castle to search for a companion.

“He didn’t like spending time with the other giants. But he had grown weary of being alone. So, he sought new company.” Her mother looked up from her book. “What kind of companion do you think he found?”

“Wouldn’t he seek a human companion?” Tokara asked. “A friend?”

“Remember, this was in days long ago,” her mother said. “So long ago that there were no humans.”

Tokara considered. “Was it a cat?” she asked, finally. “A mighty, fierce cat like Tormy?” She’d never met the talking cat, which was rumored to be the size of a pony, but the stories told of Omen and Tormy’s adventures were fantastical and amazing. She wondered if they were all true.

“I don’t know if Straakhan knew about Tormy’s kin,” her mother said. “I’ve never heard stories of such cats before.”

“My third guess . . .” Tokara looked at the pile of dogs. “My third guess is that he sought the company of a dog.”

“He would have, my dearest.” Her mother flipped the pages of the book. “But in those days so long ago, there were no dogs.”

“No dogs, Momma?” Tokara set her lips to a pout. “Dogs have always been. Haven’t they?”

“Nothing has always been.” Kadana tapped the page.

The story wasn’t going the way Tokara had expected. Her lips trembled slightly, questions dancing through her head like snowflakes caught up in an unexpected gust. “Did Straakhan ever find a pet?” she asked finally.

“Not a pet,” her mother corrected. “A companion. There’s a big difference.”

“Did he find a companion, Momma?”

“Straakhan went out into the forest. In the deepest, darkest part of the woods, he saw a great beast. The creature was so large and so fierce, he dared not approach it, but he watched its movements for many days.

“It was mighty indeed: large jaws filled with fearsome, snapping teeth; fat paws round as stones with claws drawn out and sharp; a coat as brown as the earth and as thick and long as pine needles. When it roared, the trees trembled and the moon hid behind the sun.

“The creature holed up in a cave for a long time, and Straakhan lay in wait, his patience growing thin. When the mighty one emerged from the cave again, Straakhan knew the wait had been worth it.

“With her, for Straakhan learned then that the creature was a female, were four little ones of her kind. Three were brown like their mother, but one — the largest — was white as milk and had eyes blue as the sky at noon.

“Over many months of waiting and watching, Straakhan won the trust of the mother. He brought her food, watched over the cubs, and protected them from enemies. A season passed, and the cubs grew.

“One day, the family moved on while Straakhan slept. He woke to find them gone and the cave empty. His heart was broken, for he had come to love them all.

“But as he turned away, knowing he would have to return to his empty castle all alone, the snowy white youngling with the blue eyes came to his side.

“He named him Bumpus.”

“Bumpus is a funny name,” Tokara interrupted.

“Bumpus is a funny name, and Straakhan was delighted by his funny companion.”

“Was Bumpus a good companion?”

“The very best, most loyal companion. Bumpus grew to be incredibly big and strong. His long coat was white in winter and golden in summer. Bumpus followed Straakhan everywhere, like a puppy.”

“Is there a picture in the book?” Tokara asked impetuously.

Her mother stiffened slightly, but she turned the book so Tokara could study the folded-out page.

The parchment was brittle but the picture seemed fresh, nearly gleaming. A tall, handsome man in leathers stood next to an enormous creature Tokara thought looked like both a wolf and a bear.

“Is that Bumpus?” she asked, pointing her finger at the white wolf-bear. “His neck is thick; his legs are like tree stumps; his jaw is round like a bear’s, but everything else about him is like a wolf. And he walks on four feet.”

Her mother nodded. “And don’t forget, Straakhan was a giant. So Bumpus is much larger than a regular wolf standing next to a regular man.”

Tokara thought that Straakhan in the painting was nearly as handsome as her oldest brother. “Straakhan looks a lot like Beren,” she said absently.

Her mother chuckled softly.

“I don’t recognize this language, Momma.” Tokara tilted her head to look at the odd letters, which appeared to her as if a chicken had danced across the page.

“The writing is very, very old,” her mother said. “Don’t worry. You won’t have to learn it.”

Tokara wanted to hear more, but a powerful yawn took hold of her. She quickly flung her hands to her face to cover her mouth.

“Straakhan and Bumpus were the best of companions. They traveled the world and had many adventures.” Her mother closed the book, stifling a yawn of her own. “It’s getting to be bedtime, for all of us.”

“Were Bumpus and Straakhan companions forever?” Tokara hoped to draw out the tale.

“Not forever, my sweet.” Her mother returned the book to the side table.

Though afraid to hear more, Tokara couldn’t stop herself from asking. “What happened?” she whispered anxiously.

A sad smile played on her mother’s lips. “What always happens. When it was time for Bumpus to pass, Straakhan wouldn’t accept it. Straakhan, through his faerie blood, was immortal. He wanted his companion to be immortal as well.”

“And that couldn’t happen.” Tokara felt a lump form in her throat.

“Oh no, Tokara.” Her mother took a deep breath. “It did happen. Straakhan railed against the gods and nature. He found a way to make Bumpus immortal.”

“But then everything was all right.” Tokara didn’t understand why her mother had made it seem like the story’s end would be sad.

“Straakhan made a lot of enemies in his quest to make Bumpus immortal. He defied many powerful immortals and put worlds in danger. He cared for nothing but obtaining his goal. Straakhan got what he wanted. But not the way he wanted it.

“Once Bumpus was immortal like Straakhan, the powerful ones he had offended punished Straakhan. They banished him to a solitary realm, a place that could only hold one immortal at a time. If a second immortal joined him there, they would both be torn apart, splintered into the tiniest bits of energy and pure power. Destroyed for eternity.

“If Bumpus hadn’t been immortal, he would have been able to join Straakhan in his exile. The very gift of immortality held them apart, will hold them apart for all eternity.”

Tokara’s eyes stung. “What happened to Bumpus?”

“Bumpus was left all alone. His family long dead, none of his kind walked the earth.”

Tokara frowned. “This is only a story, right Momma?”

Her mother tilted her head. “This happened in days so long ago, it might as well be called ‘only a story.’ But I want you to think of the responsibility that comes with gaining a companion. Straakhan ruined himself for the love of Bumpus, and his heart breaks every day anew.”

Tokara looked over at Caia snuggling closer to Howler. “So, is it bad to have a companion? Does it always end in sadness? If it’s like that, I don’t think I want one.”

“My little philosopher,” her mother said. “You have to live and love wherever your heart takes you. And sometimes love of another takes you down a thorny path. That is life.”

Tokara looked at her mother’s smiling face and the cozy dog pile, her sister at its center. “Life is beautiful and cruel then.”

“Let’s get you girls ready for bed,” her mother said. She scooped Caia from the rug, lifting the sleeping girl as if she weighed less than a feather.

Howler, stretching and yawing, padded out of the room after them.

Tokara’s eyes fell on the leather tome. Impulsively, she picked it up from the table and followed her mother and sister to the sleeping chambers.

Download all of  Winter Tithe through December

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Reader Wednesday — The Werewolf Whisperer Paperback Is Here!

Bonita's Geeky Blog-Fu!

I’m super excited to share that the first book in my urban fantasy series — THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER  — is now available in paperback!

If you’re looking for a last minute stocking stuffer, grab a copy. Nothing says Feliz Navidad like the werewolf apocalypse!

WWW paperback stocking

Ferocious Werewolf Virus Hits L.A.
Werebeasts Rampage Through The Streets.
The City’s In Chaos.
Nobody’s Safe.

Enter Lucy Lowell, The Werewolf Whisperer.

Some call her savior.

Some call her bitch.

Xochi Magaña just calls her, FRIEND.

Together they kick Werebutt.

They thought there’d be no stopping them.

They didn’t know the half of it.

Welcome to the werewolf apocalypse. Hope you’re locked and loaded.

2018 Golden Quill Reader’s Choice

“THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER takes the lycanthrope legend to the OPPOSITE of obedience school. The result is a feral genre mix breed that will maul your expectations as if it were a McRib sandwich” – Goodreads Review

You’ll…

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THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER FREEBIE!

Free First in Series! Welcome to the Werewolf Apocalypse!

Bonita's Geeky Blog-Fu!

CYBER MONDAY STARTS TODAY

Get my book for FREE November 25 & 26!

Ferocious Werewolf Virus Hits L.A.
Werebeasts Rampage Through The Streets. 
The City’s In Chaos.
Nobody’s Safe.

Enter Lucy Lowell, The Werewolf Whisperer.

Some call her savior.

Some call her bitch.

Xochi Magaña just calls her, FRIEND.

Together they kick Werebutt.

They thought there’d be no stopping them.

They didn’t know the half of it.

Welcome to the werewolf apocalypse. Hope you’re locked and loaded.

2018 Golden Quill Reader’s Choice

Reviews

Exciting, grounded, complex.” – LIMITLESS/JERICHO screenwriter Stephen Scaia

“Finally, a great buddy story featuring women!The Werewolf Whisperer is suspenseful, action packed, funny, sad, dark…it is so many things. Even if you’ve never picked up an urban fantasy novel (this was my first!), you’ll tear through this one. And, it’ll leave you ready for more!” – HER PROCESS Jo Bozarth

“The crux…

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