My father had a wonderful imagination, one that took me on jungle adventures as a child, climbing mountains, escaping quicksand and crocodile infested ponds, as well as slaying dragons, dinosaurs, vampires, you name it.
Before the fall that eventually led to his untimely death, he and I had discussed my latest book. Since the paranormal/fantasy genre has been taking the reading world by storm, I decided I should try my hand at one of those. Dad’s advice? Do it.
So, we began plotting a book, tossing out ideas, trying to figure out how to connect them and make them work. Before I begin any book, I brainstorm and research. I wanted my main character to be a shapeshifter, but I needed her to be a little different from the run-of-the-mill creatures out there. While looking into the mythology of such creatures, I found what I wanted. Rakshasa, are the shapeshifter vampires in some of the Eastern religions. Considered evil creatures, just as werewolves and vampires used to be, I chose this creature to be not evil, but a defender of the righteous and a punisher of those who pursue evil. Aware of the fascination with Norse mythology and the likes of Thor and Loki, I sought my source of evil there, as well as a hero befitting my heroine. Thus was born The Tigress, The Punishers: Book One.
Melinda De Ross outdid herself on this cover and Dad would’ve loved it.
Here is the book blurb:
Paranormal Detective Ellie Taggart, a rakshasa capable of assuming the shape of a tigress, has always worked alone, searching for those responsible for her mother’s murder. When an investigation results in the death of a close friend and vampire, she’s forced to partner with handsome and mysterious peredhil, Steve Cassidy.
Like her, the half-human, half-elf uses his special talents to fight evil wherever it exists. Rogue vampires, shapeshifters, zombies, practitioners of black magic, poltergeists, ghosts—none of them can beat him. That is until someone or something no longer plays by the rules. There’s a new villain in New Orleans, one who threatens both the humans and non-humans who make the city home.
Is the enemy Draug, the wizard who murdered Ellie’s mother centuries ago? Is it someone from Steve’s shrouded past intent on revenge? Or are they facing a new enemy with an agenda all his or her own? As the tigress and her partner search for answers, trying to prevent the bodies from piling up, they have to manage conflicting emotions and desires that threaten to overwhelm them. Can two such different creatures of the light join forces to defeat the darkness, or will the powers of evil triumph?
The Tigress will be available October 30, 2019. You can pre-order your copy today from all Amazon outlets. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Z5F4VNZ.
Here is a taste to whet your appetites!
My name is Ellie Taggart, at least it is now. Over the last thousand or so years, I’ve had many names—too many to count, too many to remember—but this will be the last one I’ll need. Times have changed. Evil doesn’t hide in dark corners. It lives in the light. This world we live in is filled with more monsters than humans realize, more than one being can deal with in a lifetime, even if that lifetime does span centuries.
I’m tired. I would like to fall in love, have children, grow old, and spend the last of my days quietly sipping tea on a porch swing, surrounded by purring cats, not battling the forces of evil. But that’s not going to happen. It can’t. I’m the last of my line—maybe even the last of my kind—and that’s how it has to be.
If you saw me on the street, you might not notice me, but if you did, you would see a thirty-something woman with the golden skin and deep brown hair of her Asian ancestors. If you really looked at me, you might note my pert nose, wide mouth, pouty lips, and unusual almond-shaped eyes. What you wouldn’t see is who I am—what I am.
I was born deep in the jungles of the Indian Subcontinent, at the base of the Himalayan Mountains, during a time when few kept track of dates the way they do today. My father was a Royal Bengal tiger, the largest and most majestic of his kind, while my mother was a rare and unusual rakshasa. Don’t recognize the word? Not too surprising. So many people have forsaken the religion of their ancestors to swear allegiance to greed and corruption, the very thing that gives evil its power.
Even those who know what a rakshasa is don’t believe we exist anymore, and other than me, they’re correct. We are the shapeshifters found in Hindu, Buddhist, and countless other mythologies. We’re also known as “Maneaters”—not that I’ve ever indulged. Give me chicken or fish any day.
People have always been afraid of what they don’t understand and shapeshifters of any kind certainly fall into that category. In truth, in human form, my mother was petite, delicate, and so very beautiful, with black hair, bronze skin, and almond-shaped amber eyes—my eyes now, orbs I hide behind tinted lenses.
Sadly, like witches with warts and hooked noses, rakshasa were depicted as huge, ugly creatures with fangs and long, sharp, claw-like fingernails. They were considered cruel, growling beasts with insatiable appetites for human flesh. I’ve seen them portrayed with flaming red eyes and hair, drinking blood with their palms or from a human skull, a lot like the less than fair representations of vampires. Most of those I know these days aren’t a bit like that. They sip wine in crystal goblets and get their blood online from specialty stores.
Can I fly? No, but my mother could. She could assume the shape of any creature, even the fearsome yeti, but for lack of a better term, I’m a half-breed, with sorely limited skills. While I have superhuman strength, I can’t vanish, but I’ve learned to be an expert at camouflage. I have some telepathic ability, which makes it easy to make people forget what they saw, or imagine they witnessed something else. Afterall, who really believes in the creatures of the night? It’s the stuff of television programs, movies, and books. But the legends are real—too real.
Am I immortal? No, I’m not a god or a demi-god, but my lifespan is impressive, and like my mother who died at Draug’s hand, killing me takes a lot of work.
I lived deep in the jungle until my father passed on, and then mother moved us up the mountain to a safer place. There she taught be to survive and guided me through my first changes. Unlike the shapeshifters controlled by the moon’s power, I can shift whenever I need to, and while in that form, heal and recover from whatever damages have been inflicted on me.
When I reached my maturity, many years older than I appear, she told me that if anything were to happen to her, I needed to seek the Chou-Lan Monastery in the hidden valley. There the monks would tutor me and teach me how to use my powers.
Life was pleasant, uneventful, until that fateful day when Draug and his revenant found us. Unlearned in the art of battle, unable to defend myself, I did as Mother requested, I shifted into my tigress form, ran, and hid.
The sounds of clashing swords and tearing flesh were horrific. Four against one. In the heat of the battle, no one thinks clearly, but in the end, it was my mother’s headless body that lay upon the field. Draug’s angry cries at the loss of his prize, killed by his own hand, split the silence. That night, I vowed to avenge her, but it was centuries before I understood the real reason for his agonized screams, and that while she’d died, she’d won the battle.
When the monsters had gone, I crept from my hiding place. There was nothing left for me there. Mourning, the pain so deep it made it hard for me to retain any shape, I searched for Mother’s head, but it was gone. Claimed as a trophy? Proof that he’d killed her? To this day, I don’t know. With grief ripping me apart, I built a pyre and cremated what was left of her the way she had my father. The mountains were no longer safe for me.
Leaving our sanctuary, I made my way into the valley and searched until I found the monks she’d spoken of. Shifting into human form, I told my story. Decade after decade, century after century, I lived hidden among the holy men where I studied, practiced the arts I would need to survive, and learned of the responsibilities I carried as one of the punishers, beings with a sacred duty to fight for those unable to defend themselves. When the time came, I said farewell to the last of those who’d become family to me and headed into the world to fulfil my destiny as the protectress of the innocent, the scourge of evil.
Since then, I’ve roamed the earth and watched century after century as the powers of darkness have grown, turning the innocent into monsters almost as evil and corrupt as they are. Not all of the non-humans and undead dwelling amongst humanity are evil, just as not every human is good, but in the last century, those who foster hate and greed, jealousy and envy, and the rest of the deadly sins, have grown more powerful, more daring.
When my enemies crossed the line, I found them and dealt with them. I’ve wiped the minds of witches, wizards, and warlock who dared practice the dark art and turned their empty shells over to their authorities while I’ve dealt with the undead myself, battling those who posed a danger to humans, consigning their unholy remains to oblivion. With each battle, I’ve learned and grown stronger, for power comes from knowledge. But I still have much to learn before I can face Draug.
I serve the light, going where darkness dwells, watching it insinuate itself more completely into modern society each year. It needs to be stopped—but I’m just one.
Draug doesn’t know I exist, but I know him. I remember the sight and smell of him, and one day, we’ll meet on the field of battle. It’ll be a fight to the death, one I’ll fight in my true form—my father’s form. But until then, protecting humanity from those who would use and abuse them for evil purposes is my mission. Who am I, you ask? I’m the Tigress.