I’d like to start with a big “Thank you!” to Morgan for having me here today to celebrate the July 3 release of The Night Owl and the Insomniac, the third book in my Shifter U paranormal series. Shifter U is what the local paranormal population in Cody, Wyoming call Cody College because of the large number of, well, shifters.
One of my favorite parts of writing a shifter series, especially when I get to play with an assortment of different kinds of shifters, is the research. With each book I get to learn little (and big!) things about different animals. In The Night Owl and the Insomniac, the main character, Joey, discovers that not only do shapeshifters exist, but that he is one. Turns out the mysterious autoimmune disease he’d been fighting for years was really his inner Asiatic lion trying to get out. Asiatic lions are really cool animals.
The Asiatic lion, a subspecies that split from the African lions about 100,000 years ago, once roamed across Asia and the Middle East. They were hunted nearly to extinction, and now they are an at-risk species whose last remaining members live in the Gir Forest in India, in a heavily-protected reserve. Once down to barely a handful of cats, they are a wildlife conservation success story—still at-risk, but now with a population of a several hundred rather than dozens. They are the only wild lions that live outside of Africa.
Here are some interesting facts about the Asiatic lions:
1. They are found only in the Gir Forests of Gujarat, India. There is no other place int eh world where a wild population exists. However, because of the success of conservation efforts, they are out-growing their location, which is causing trouble both for the human and the lion populations. Translocation efforts are being discussed to relocate portions of the lion populations.
2. They walk on their tip-toes! Their heels do not touch the ground when they walk.
3. They’re smaller than their African lion cousins—adults ranging in weight from 300-500 pounds. The males also have shorter manes, larger tail tufts, and more prominent ears.
4. Belly folds! Asiatic lions have a very unique longitudinal fold of skin that runs along their belly that is absent from African lions.
5. Social females, solitary males—Lions are the only wild cats that live in groups (called prides). However, unlike African lions, a male Asiatic lion does not live with the females and cubs except during mating season.
So, just for fun, if you could shift into an animal, what would you shift into and why?
**GIVEAWAY** I’ll be giving away a digital copy of Stalking Buffalo Bill or Chasing Thunderbird to a random commenter who shares with me, if you could be a shapeshifter, what kind would you be (and why!). Giveaway will close on July 15.
A Shifter U Tale
Long nights lead to intrigue… and infatuation.
Chronically ill with a mysterious condition, Yusuf “Joey” Franke escapes his smothering family and doctors by moving halfway across the country to enroll in Cody College. Not long after arriving on campus, some of his symptoms disappear, only to be replaced by debilitating insomnia. Joey spends his nights wandering the halls of his dormitory and hanging out with gregarious and affable Owen, who works the night shift.
When he suddenly shifts from a sick college kid to a massive Asiatic lion, Joey discovers another side to Cody College—it’s a haven for shifters like himself… and like Owen, a part-time great horned owl. And being a shifter is hereditary, which means his parents have some explaining to do.
When Joey and Owen investigate, they discover more than they bargained for—a family deception, a dangerous enemy with international connections, and a love that might be too new to survive the backlash.
It was like someone shone a spotlight on the grass and walkway in front of Matthison Hall. Every blade of grass, every ant inching along the sidewalk came into clear focus. I could see everything. Lines were cleaner, sharper, colors truer than ever before. Shadows didn’t fuzz the focus in the least.
I turned toward Owen, Anxious Girl, and Cocky Boy and immediately wished my vision were not suddenly so acute. Their faces were pale, and Owen looked on with wide-eyed shock. Anxious Girl, a slim blonde with a long ponytail, looked ready to faint from horror or panic. I recognized Cocky Boy from lunch the other day. He’d been sitting next to that Jonah dude. He didn’t look so cocky now. In fact he stumbled back when I swung my head in his direction, and he tripped on the sidewalk much like I had earlier. He landed on his ass, then crab-walked until his back came up against brick façade of the dormitory.
I took a step toward him, or tried to. My legs didn’t seem to know how to follow the directions from my head. Like intent and muscle control no longer worked together. My limbs lost all strength, and I collapsed into a heap on the grass.
Owen lunged forward as if to help me out, then jerked back, apparently thinking better of it.
I shook my head to try to clear it. Which is when I caught a glimpse of a reflection in the glass of the main entrance.
Holy shit. There really was a lion—or something that looked a bit lionish—on campus. It sprawled in the grass like an awkward house cat that had just slipped on polished marble floors.
I tried to push myself up so I could run, get away. Even as I did it, the lion-thing stood from its sprawl.
I sidled to the left.
It matched me, stumbling step for stumbling step.
And that’s when I finally understood. I had passed out and was stuck in some kind of demented dreamscape. Either the stress of independence or the trauma of the pain I’d experienced had landed me in this nightmare. I went to pinch myself awake, but the claws at the end of my paw—holy crap, I had paws! And claws!
“Yusuf?” Owen took a cautious step forward, holding his hand out.
“Are you crazy?” Cocky Boy whisper shouted.
The tone grated, but more than that, I didn’t like the accusation against Owen. I snarled. I seriously snarled at someone. The sound ripped through the tension, ratcheting up the alarm in the air.
Owen moved back, placing himself in front of Anxious Girl. He gestured behind him, indicating Cocky Boy should back up. “Hey, Gene?” He barely moved his mouth and clearly tried to keep his voice soothing, but the apprehension dulled the effect a bit. “I need you to go to the front desk. There’s an emergency locker beneath the counter. The code is 5-5-6-3-2.”
“Code?” Cocky Boy asked weakly.
“5-5-6-3-2,” Owen repeated. “There’s a tranquilizer rifle for emergencies. Bring it and the packet of shifter tranquilizer darts.”
“You’re going to shoot him?” Anxious Girl asked.
Oh hell. He’s going to shoot me?
“I’m going to knock him out so he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else.”
My fight-or-flight instincts were at war. I wanted to run, to get away from this psychotic situation. Even if it was a hallucination or some kind of coma-induced dream, I knew I didn’t want to be here, not like this. But I was too scared to run, and a soul-deep protective instinct had me ready to defend myself against… whatever the hell this was. I paced in a looping figure-eight pattern, wanting to run, unable to leave.
“What’s wrong with him?”
Owen shook his head. “I’m not sure. I don’t think he knows what’s going on.”
He had that right. I had no idea what was going on. I had a tail. A fucking tail!
Movement in the reflection caught my attention. Cocky Boy—er, Gene—rushed out carrying some kind of rifle-shaped gun.
That was all it took for the flight combatants to defeat the fighter soldiers in my inner battle. I spun, crouched, and sprang away. It didn’t matter that I thought this was some messed-up dream. It didn’t matter that I had no idea where I was going. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to survive as some kind of animallike creature. I had to flee, to escape. So I ran.
For about three seconds.
A muffled pop sounded, quickly followed by a stinging pinch at my haunch. Then, three strides later, my knees—were they still called knees on a lionlike creature?—buckled. Two seconds later, I was out.
j leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending. For upcoming releases and appearances information, sign up for her newsletter at https://t.co/FfL9gFVJLQ.
Social Media Links