Most of our regular readers know that Deirdre O’Dare writes dog stories. And most probably know that I am a very dedicated animal lover. Still, cats are not my normal venue. So why this story? First off, I have to blame Christiane France a little bit. She honchos our PAX schedule and sign up list and about a year ago was worried when we came up short a tale for a cat shifter PAX that sounded very promising. She almost dared me to jump in even when I said I was allergic to cats and not that knowledgeable about them. Well, of course Ms O’Dare can hardly resist a dare! So I volunteered.
Years ago when I was in college, a roommate and I each got a kitten. Here is a snapshot of Pinto (mine) and Goldie (hers).
At the time I started having some semi-asthma symptoms and had no idea why. When I graduated and went off to my first job, I had to leave my cat behind. A few months later I married into a ready-made family, getting my kids “second hand and housebroke” as I am fond of saying, and a cat came with the package. I had actually met Jennifer, my future daughter, first when I moved in next door and she came to visit her new neighbors, wearing her cat like a fur stole across her shoulders. That was mama cat Sassy. I was soon back to the asthma.
Having had allergies all my life, I finally went to a specialist and had all those stick-and-itch tests done. Sure enough, cats were high on my list. When we moved a couple of years later, Jennifer’s kitty could not go and she didn’t get cats again until she had her own home as I just could not live with one. Sad, because they are neat animals, too. Now unless they are on the bed I sleep in or right in my face I can be around them a bit but not on a prolonged basis.
Back to the story, though, the first thing that came to my mind was a character who loved the whole feline tribe but had major allergies. So happened he worked in a zoo… And there came Carl, stepping out of that shadowy place where new story people hide until it’s time for them to start sharing. I had not planned that he’d be a shifter but I knew there was one who’d spring into his life and work magic. Sure enough, here came Zyl: a cheetah who could also be a man.
Mmmm, loved him right away and it seemed that Carl did too. Still it was a shock to him and to me also when Zyl told him the allergies were probably the result of the cat inside Carl who wanted desperately to be freed! Yowzers. Where did that come from??
From there on, as my tales usually do, it kept taking new twists and turns and throwing curve balls my way which I caught and fielded as best I could. It was so much fun, though! I have to admit my whole shifter community was inspired somewhat by a marvelous series of urban fantasy tales I was reading as the story began. Some of you may have read Ilona Andrews wonderful “Magic” stories. My shifter folk are a bit different but maybe kin to the ones she (actually a husband and wife team) writes about. I expect I will be doing some more stories where they will appear. There may even be more adventures for Carl and Zyl. We’ll see.
In the process of building this one, I did some research on the cheetah species. They are beautiful, amazing and sadly very endangered now. Other than a sanctuary or two in Africa, very few exist except those in captivity. I certainly do hope and pray they can be brought back and reintroduced in some of their historic habitats. I’m going to try to devote about 10% of my sales of Catastrophe to help this cause. There are other endangered felines as well and I wish the same for them. The daughter of a friend is very taken with white tigers, another rare and now scarce group. I also like the ocelots, so far not endangered but for how long?
Years ago during the same time when my daughter’s cats were triggering my allergies, there was a small zoo of the type that has now mostly been abolished, often for good reasons, near where we lived. The old man who ran it had an ocelot and a coyote that shared an enclosure. We were all fascinated by this odd paring but they were fast friends. The ocelot had been declawed and I think used in some movies so it could not exist in the wild but it was so gorgeous!
About that time, Jennifer’s old mama cat had kittens and after they were weaned, the cat went to another home but Jen got to keep one kitten. He was a gray tabby but his stripes were kind of dots and dashes instead of solid so she named him Ozzie, short for Ocelot. You might say this story is for a little girl who grew up to be a strong woman with kids of her own long after she had decided I was a good candidate for her second mom and came to meet me wearing her cat those many years ago. And for Chris; you knew you could get me to do it, didn’t you? Maybe the moral is never Dare a Deirdre!!
Coming in a bit: a story which is currently in process that involves a very special heart and another about an aerial firefighter and an investigative reporter both focused on some of the terrible wildfires that have been happening the last few years in the American southwest. After that, who knows? So watch later this year for A Game of Hearts and Red Tails in the Sunset (working titles but likely to remain). Game at least will be a PAX story in the Silver Foxes PAX due out probably early in the fall.
Catastrophe by Deidre O'Dare is now available at Amber Allure.
If you'd like the chance to win the entire pax collection, just leave a comment on today's post. On Saturday, a winner will be picked at random from all the comments made this week on the blog. Comment on all, and that's multiple chances to win!