Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guest Post: Author Shelly Holt

How much of a writer's personality really ends up in their characters?  I ponder this question as I casually peruse my manuscript of my recently published debut novel Tasting Fire. 

Tasting Fire is many things. It's the story of a shape shifting race called the Pari and how discovery of their existence and that of other shape-shifters in the world changes how humanity looks at itself and its environment.  It's also a love story between Kai Tenzin, the Tibetan 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. 

As I look back over this world I created and its inhabitants, I can't help but wonder how much of their creator shows in their personalities.  My romantic hero, Kai Tenzin is brave as all alpha males are, but definitely has his own issues.  Kai as the self appointed leader of the Pari people takes on responsibility for over seven thousand people.  He does this with no assistance from any government, even his own billionaire father refuses to help the cause. 

As the oldest of four children, I can easily see that my own sense of family responsibility has helped to form Kai's character.  As my parent's health declined, I assumed the responsibility of caregiver and left my job to move to rural Nevada to care for my parents.  Kai has similarly given up his own path and dedicated himself to protecting the Pari people.  Kai also has somewhat of a temper when he gets frustrated.  O.K... I'll admit to that as well.  The last part of myself that I see in Kai is a reluctance to give up control.  In Kai this translates to his inability to sleep on an airplane.  Kai can't sleep on a plane because I can't sleep on a plane.

Dr. Rae Hales also was imprinted with a great deal of her creator.  In the beginning of the book she experiences profound grief while watching a middle age woman take care of her elderly mother.  It reminds her that her mother died at a very young age leaving Rae alone in the world.  This helps define Rae as a character and give her an emotional center.   She understands how she will never have the privilege and it is a privilege to care for her mother in her final years.  The grief Rae expresses is mine. My mother died in 2010 at the age of 69.  Rae lost her mother much earlier than I did, but the emotions have been fully expressed in that chapter. 

Nawang Wangdo is Kai's father and a very important secondary character in the story.  He represents my spiritual development.  He begins to realize that money and power are truly illusionary and the only thing you can take with you after your time on earth is done is the love you feel for others.  His long deceased mother tells him in a dream that her son must embrace his own inner light and all else is baggage and must be left behind.  As I have grown older, I too have begun to realize possessions while some of them are required to sustain human life, shelter, food, medicine.  Luxury items stay here when your time on earth is done and like baggage must be left behind.  All you take with you is that inner light that hopefully if you have lived your life with love and compassion, shines bright with infinite luminescence.

My thanks to Hanging with Bells for inviting me to visit on the blog today and share my experience 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 therehe 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 spacewhen 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.

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. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. Kai leaves his small village where the mountains touch 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.


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