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Looking at the cover image of Nocturnal Origins, I still can’t believe it. Finally, after a very long time, it’s being published. Mixed with the excitement is more than a little bit of fear. What if no one likes it? What if no one, not even family and friends, buys it? That’s like everyone saying your baby is ugly. Why, oh why, did I agree when the bosses came to me and said they’d made the decision to publish it without discussing it with me because they knew I would say no?

Okay, hysterics aside, or at least pushed down a bit. These really are the questions I’ve been asking myself since Origins came out the other day. Part of the reason is this is my first novel to be published. But it’s more than that. Every author has that one novel or short story that is special. The one that just sings to them and never quite leaves the back of their mind. It’s the world that keeps on living and has more stories to tell than you will ever be able to write. Origins is that for me.

In a lot of ways, this book came about because of a challenge from Sarah. She’ll be the first to tell you that she had to drag it out of me, painfully and with much protestations and denials, that I was a writer. But she did it, at first by trickery and cajoling and then by downright demands and threats. Finally, worn down, I admitted that I did “write a little”. Well, that was it. The next thing I knew, she had somehow convinced me to send her something I’d written. From there it was exercises and plot discussions and, well, the next thing I knew, Origins was born.

I’ll admit here, this is a blatant post promoting the book. Why? Because that’s what authors do — or should do. Also because I’m really proud of the book and hope folks buy it and like it and tell their friends about it. So, along that same line, keep reading to find out how to win a free digital copy of the book.

So, what is Nocturnal Origins? It’s an urban fantasy mixed with mystery mixed with police procedural mixed with just a hint of romance. It is not, as a friend said, lady porn — not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve read more than my fair share of it 😉

I posted a snippet of Origins back in January. You can find it here.

Here’s a snippet from later in the book.

* * *
Deep shadows swathed the neighborhood as night slowly crept toward day. The pre-dawn silence was broken by the occasional passing car or the lonesome bark of a dog left outside by owners still safely tucked away in their beds. So normal and seemingly so safe.
And so prime for the taking.

The large cat moved silently as a wraith as it kept to the deepest shadows. It avoided the occasional splash of light thrown off by street lamps along the edge of the road. The jaguar prowled the well-manicured lawns, a cat on the hunt. This might not be the jungle it longed for, but this was the jaguar’s territory. Nothing else mattered.

A padding step behind her brought her to a stop. Her head swung in the direction of the sound, teeth bared even as she scented…him. A soft growl sounded in her throat. At the same time he stepped into the light cast by the nearest street lamp. For a moment, it was as if he called to her.

No! How dare he intrude on her territory?

He took a step forward and she bared her teeth, another growl cutting the silence of the night even as her ears folded back against her head. Undeterred, he moved even closer. How dare he! Her heavy paw darted out, barely missing his head as he pulled back, surprise reflected in his brown eyes.

To her surprise, he tried again to approach her. Maybe he was a bit more wary. Not that it mattered. Her guttural challenge came a mere split-second before her paw slashed forward, claws bared.

How dare he think he could intrude on her territory, hunt her prey! Such a foolish male. Just like all of them. Just because they are larger, they think they are the masters. Well, she’d shown him. She’d shown that she wouldn’t meekly let him usurp her rightful place. The fight might have been short but it had been brutal and he’d slunk off into the shadows to lick his wounds, leaving her to her hunt at her pleasure.

Foolish, pitiful male.

A porch light switched on down the street, and the cat froze, melting into the shadows. Its head lifted, and surprisingly deep green eyes, eyes that seemed more human than feline, scanned the area even as the jaguar stood poised for flight. Finally satisfied no danger awaited, it continued on the prowl.

A few moments later, the jaguar paused once more. Its large head swung from side to side, something nearly a smile parting its lips to show a set of very deadly teeth. What good hunting could be had here. So many unsuspecting humans with their pampered, overfed pets. Yet, while it might be enticing, it wasn’t sport. Not when the pets were penned like sheep awaiting the slaughter. Too bad, especially since the jaguar craved the joy of the hunt, a real hunt, that night. She hungered for the thrill of the kill, for the taste of fresh meat.

From somewhere down the street a dog, safe inside its fenced backyard, barked a challenge. As other dogs picked up the call, the jaguar once more bared its teeth in something that looked suspiciously like a grin. Such foolish creatures, these dogs. Brave as long as they were behind their fences with their humans close by. But so easy to silence.

A harsh growl sounded, low and rumbling. Almost instantly, the dogs quieted. The cat shook its head. They presented no challenge. It was time to move on and find more worthy prey.

Then, without warning, the silence of the night was shattered. A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky followed almost instantly by an ominous roll of thunder. Barking once more filled the air as dogs up and down the street clamored to get inside to safety.

A few moments later the first large raindrops slashed to the ground. Unlike most cats, the jaguar didn’t race for shelter. Instead, it waited, listening, watching. Then it crouched, muscles gathering before it leapt into deeper shadows at the edge of the trees. It was time to move on, to find a better hunting ground.
To find food.

* * *

The steady drip-drip-drip slowly penetrated the fog that held her. Consciousness returned and with it a paralyzing fear. Whatever had happened, she wasn’t lying on her bed, huddled under the blankets. Nor was she safe inside her house. Somehow she was outside, and that couldn’t be good.

Eyes tightly shut, she prayed it was all a dream. But it wasn’t. She knew it just as she knew the cold seeping into her bones was leaching the last of the warmth from her body. If she didn’t get up soon, she would be in real trouble.

Mac’s mind wailed in fear as reality sank in. She lay cold, wet, and completely nude in a puddle of water. Mud oozed between her fingers as she struggled to gather enough strength to climb to her knees. After twice trying to rise only to fall back to the ground like a helpless kitten, she knew she had to open her eyes, no matter what she might find. But she didn’t want to. Once she did, she’d be forced to face the truth. Something had happened, something she couldn’t remember, and she had a very sick feeling it was nothing good.

Why do these things keep happening to me?

Slowly, terrified of what she might find, Mac opened her eyes. Almost immediately, relief washed over her. She lay in her own backyard, safe – she hoped – from the prying eyes of her nearest neighbors.

That much, at least, reassured her. Nothing else did. Aches and pains too numerous to count spoke volumes about what she’d been though these last few hours – days? Worse, she had no idea, no memory of what had happened. How the hell had she wound up here? Had she been attacked again?

Or was it worse?

Could it be worse?

Swallowing hard against a sore, dry throat, she once more tried to push to her knees. A gasp of pain was torn from her, breaking the silence of the new dawn like a scream. Instinctively, she clamped her mouth shut and swallowed again, this time against the nausea that caused her stomach to pitch dangerously.

She most definitely was not in good shape.

Not daring to try to stand, Mac slowly crawled across the waterlogged grass toward the house. Never before had the yard seemed so large or taken so long to cross. Perspiration from the effort mixed with the rain, chilling her even more. Tears tracked down her cheeks as she forced herself to climb the three steps to the back porch on her hands and knees.

Sobbing in relief to have gotten that far, she paused. Part of her wanted to collapse where she was. She didn’t have the strength to go any further. She could just lie there and rest awhile. There was nothing wrong with that. Then she could go inside. That would be all right, wouldn’t it?

No! She couldn’t stay there. No matter how badly she wanted to, she couldn’t. Not when she was so cold and wet. Not when she had no idea how she had gotten out there in the first place. She had to find the strength to go inside. She had to. But how?

Placing one hand in front of the other, she dragged her now almost unresponsive body across the wooden porch to the door. Those few short feet seemed an almost insurmountable distance. Every movement hurt. Every breath felt as if it might be her last. Despair threatened to drown her as she collapsed and looked up at the doorknob. That shiny brass fixture seemed so far away. Could she reach it?

She had to reach it.

Please let it be open. Please.

Mac repeated it over and over like a mantra as her arm stretched upward towards the knob. Numb fingers touched and then slid off the cold metal. Biting her lower lip to keep from crying out, she once more reached up. Her eyes locked on her hand. Her focus narrowed to her fingers. Nothing else existed in the world in that moment except her fingers, the doorknob and her need to get inside.

Shaking from the effort, Mac willed her numb fingers to close around the smooth metal globe. Time slowed, seeming to almost stop. Then, miracle of miracles, the knob turned.

With the last of her strength, she pushed the door open and tumbled headfirst inside, landing in heap on the tile floor just inside. Slithering forward on her belly, she pulled her legs inside and kicked the door shut. She was safe. Finally. Her kitchen. Her house. Safe.

* * *

I hope you enjoyed the snippet. You can find Nocturnal Origins at Naked Reader Press or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And, as with all NRP books, Origins is DRM free.

If you’re interested in winning a free digital copy of the book — your choice of formats (epub, mobi, lit, lrf) — leave a comment. You can comment on this post or about the state of the publishing industry in general. Just remember the rules — no politics. I’ll pick a winner tomorrow morning and post the winner. So keep checking back.

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