Thank you so much for having me as your guest today to talk about the inspiration for The Captive Shifter (Magic of Claddare Book 1)! I’ve said this before but I regard coming to your blog to tell the “story behind the story” of each new book as a good luck charm for my new releases.
This novel is my first foray into writing fantasy romance, featuring witches and shifters in an alternate world. I actually wrote the kernel of the story back in 2010, as an attempt to sit down and seriously aim for publication, versus ‘just’ telling stories for myself and my family to enjoy. I’d been writing stories since I was seven years old (princesses, cats and flying horses) and made a few attempts to submit things to magazines (there was a classic girl and matador story that TEEN magazine somehow passed on when I was in high school LOL) and even sent stories over the transom to publishers once or twice. Lots of polite, form letter rejection slips. Prior to 2010 I really wasn’t connected to the romance writing community and didn’t know what I didn’t know about the craft elements.
The original, shorter version of this novel flowed from my pen (well I clacked the keys on the laptop LOL) in late 2010 and I was so proud of it. I handed it over to my already-trad-published daughter and asked for feedback. With my permission, she gave me a professional critique with both barrels. I was pretty much violating all the rules of everything (remember this was a first draft 7 years ago!) – from head hopping to show vs. tell and a lot more besides. I had the bones of a good story but more is necessary to successfully publish and give the readers a quality novel. So I buckled down and started learning the necessary craft.
I studied, I read blogs, I watched videos of workshops, I got endless wonderful advice from my author daughter. I worked really hard to improve and make revisions.
Along the way, I got sidetracked from this manuscript by a 2011 submission call from Carina Press for romances set in the ancient world and ended up publishing Priestess of the Nile with them. My first published story! And they plucked it from the slush pile…That book had paranormal and fantasy elements and sent me down a path of writing more stories in the Gods of Egypt series (no relation to the awesomely awful movie of the same name starring Gerard Butler!). At the same time I self-published my first science fiction romance novel, Wreck of the Nebula Dream, and really found a home in the SFR world. That one garnered an SFR Galaxy Award, a Laurel Wreath Finalist award and a good solid B review from the Dear Author blog. I don’t say any of that to boast, but rather to show I was getting demonstrably better at the craft, to go with the story telling.
I’ve concentrated primarily on the SFR genre ever since, with a few forays to ancient Egypt along the way.
But The Captive Shifter was always there in the back of my mind because I really loved the characters, Kyler the leopard shifter and Caitlyn the witch. Periodically I’d return to working on the story and had sent it to my professional freelance editors, so by this year it was 90% ready to go. When my current SFR novel experienced schedule delays in editing, I thought this was my perfect moment to finish the final edits on Shifter, get a gorgeous cover from Fiona Jayde and see if readers might enjoy my venture into fantasy romance. I have all kinds of sequels lined up in my head, depending on whether there’s a demand from anyone other than myself to know more about the magical world of Claddare and its people.
I was partially inspired by Andre Norton’s Witch World series, loving the way she mixed magic and mysteries. Claddare, by the way, is the name of the overall world I’ve built. Caitlyn is from the south, a territory called Ordlathus, and Kyle is from the great northern forests, which have no set name. They meet somewhere in the middle, in a city state named Azrimar.
I was also inspired by the classic movie “Ladyhawke” (who isn’t, if you love fantasy?), although my world is entirely fictional, not tied to anything in the actual Earthly Middle Ages.
And of course “Lord of the Rings”, the movie trilogy more than the actual novels.Used with permission.
I hope to widen the reader’s experience with more parts of Claddare in the sequels and I can’t wait to continue the journey.
Concealing her own considerable magical powers, Caitlyn enters the service of the northern Witch Queen masquerading as a simple healer. Under order from her goddess, she’s searching for a magical gem stolen long ago from her own people, believed to be hidden in the massive castle. The task is daunting but Caitlyn is sure she can locate the gem and escape, bringing the prize back to the temple where it belongs. Until she meets the captive shifter and her loyalties become dangerously divided.
In payment for her past services to his people, Kyler the leopard shifter has entered into a life of servitude far from his forest home, allowing the Witch Queen to tap his magic to power her ever darker spells. Factions at Court are threatening to turn the Queen to the Shadow. Her increasing demands for magic will cut short his nearly immortal lifespan. Kyler’s resigned to his fate until the day he crosses paths with the new arrival, whose secrets and magic entice and attract both man and leopard. Has he met his mate at last?
The Queen will never willingly release him from captivity. Caitlyn’s goddess refuses to grant her any delay in accomplishing her own task. Can they locate the magical gem, fight the Shadow and win free of the Witch Queen to earn the right to be together?
The excerpt – Caitlyn and Kyle run into each other in the forest park outside the Witch Queen’s castle and he tells her why he’s a captive in Azrimar:
“No duties today?” Caitlyn teased as she walked closer, chose a smooth spot and plunked herself on the rock.
With feline grace, he sat cross legged next to her. “Later. And you?”
“I can’t make myself care about studying the history of queens who ruled before Queen Margred.” Shading her eyes with one hand, she watched a flock of birds chasing insects above the stream.
Eyes narrowed, he studied her face. “Yet you wish so desperately to be here. Don’t all aspects of the Court fascinate you?” The question was mocking.
A slip I can’t afford. I’d better shake off the effect this man has on me or put my reason for being in Azrimar at risk. She needed to focus this conversation on him, not herself. Caitlyn fished an apple out of her plain cloth sack and studied the pale red fruit, casting him a sideways glance. “I was surprised to find a shapeshifter at the Witch Queen’s Court. Legend says your people never leave the forests of the North.”
“We don’t. Usually.” Staring over the stream, his jaw clenched and the pulse beat hard in his neck.
“I wasn’t trying to pry,” she said. “I can see I’ve ventured on a touchy subject.”
“My presence in Azrimar is no secret.” He shrugged. “If you’d been here longer, someone would have explained it to you, no doubt thrilled to share the gossip. My Pack had need of the Witch Queen’s help a long time ago. There was a price to be paid.”
Astonished, she forgot the apple halfway to her mouth. “You were the price?”
“Margred wanted a shapeshifter to use in her magic.” He glanced at Caitlyn briefly, unsmiling. The green eyes were flat, hard. “You’ve tasted a small portion of power we can add to a spell.”
“I’m so sorry.” What he was telling her was unheard of—Caitlyn could hardly believe it. Distressing was too mild a word for the idea of a captive shifter. She wished she’d never broached the unfortunate subject.
“The Witch Queen agreed to help my Pack in return for the services of our Alpha.” He built a little pyramid from loose stones scattered on the ledge. “I’m sworn to protect him, to die for him if necessary, especially since I hold the rank of captain in the Pack. How could I allow him to waste years of his life here, functioning as nothing more than a magic talisman? My sister is his mate and they’ve been blessed by our gods with cubs. I have no mate, no cubs. I took his place.”
Surely it’s not as simple as he makes the situation sound. She detected his stress and unhappiness despite the calm words of explanation. Caitlyn found her voice. “For how long?”
Face blank, eyes hard with a hint of a golden glow, he gave her a bleak look. “Forever. There’s no end to this servitude. Death will set me free someday.”
She didn’t know what to say. What words could possibly ease the sting of this fate?
“The Witch Queen agreed to take me instead of my Alpha.” He stared into space, but Caitlyn had the impression his gaze was locked onto visions from the past. “Margred may be cold, hard, consumed with protecting her people and her lands through magic, but she’s not evil.”
He sounds like he’s trying to convince himself. “You speak as though you admire her.”
“Not especially. But I can’t allow myself to regret my choice. At least I know my magic isn’t used for purposes of the Shadow.” He frowned at some private memory. “There is evil here though….”
Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.” You can find out more about Veronica online by visiting:
I’m always excited to have you visit, Veronica! Love your books and can’t wait to read this one! (Yes, I have it on my kindle!) I know some readers stick to their genre, but Veronica tells a great story no matter what genre she writes. Hope you’ll give this one a try!
Do you ever stray out of your genre? What might make you stray?
I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value). (And don’t forget that once a quarter I’ll be tossing in something fun from the Perilously Fun Shop!) Recipient is announced the first blog post of the new month.