I’ve been writing since I was old enough to string together a written sentence, beginning with spy stories when I was a teenager, confession stories as a young woman, and finally several genres of romance. Paranormal romances are probably my favorites but I’ve also written romantic suspense, western romance and, most recently, a young adult paranormal novella series.
What does your writing space look like?
I have a nice-sized office at home with a mish-mash of furniture that includes a tabletop that sits on two small file cabinets that serves as my main desk. One wall is lined with bookcases, which absolutely overflow with books of all types, and I even have a roll-top desk that is currently a catch-all spot for paperwork, more books, and stuff!
What inspired your current book?
Believe it or not, a slot machine did. I was walking through a casino and spotted the Jaguar Princess. Of course, I lost a little money—I give a slot machine only three or four chances to pay—and moved on, but the name of the game stuck with him. By the time I got home from my trip, I had a pretty good plot going for a young adult paranormal novella about a teenage girl who learns she can shape-shift into a jaguar. Never Pick On a Jaguar Princess was born, and it’s turning into a series I’m calling The Jaguar Princess Rules.
Please tell us about your current work in progress.
I’m working on the second novella in The Jaguar Princess Rules series. It’s a lot of fun, and it takes me back to my own teenage days. In this book, the heroine—Juli—has to deal with the fact that someone in the shapeshifter community really doesn’t want her around.
How do you name your characters?
I spend a lot of time playing with names. If something doesn’t occur to me quickly, I’ll go online and look at baby name sites, sometimes looking at the most popular names for the specific year the character would have been born. I’ll often pick a name with a meaning that suits the character’s personality or even one that is popular in the country of his or her ancestry. I can spend a lot of time surfing for just the right name.
Tell us something strange or interesting about yourself.
I never burned myself with my fire baton in high school. LOL. I’m actually a pretty boring person. Regular childhood, married my high school sweetie, have two wonderful children and I love to watch TV and read.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three modern conveniences would you take with you?
The most powerful solar generator available, an air conditioner and an ice maker.
- Favorite food? A juicy homemade hamburger
- Favorite color? Blue
- Favorite animal? Dog
- Biggest pet peeve? Gum popping
- Dream car? 1965 Ford Mustang
|Not a Jag, huh?|
Fifteen year-old Juli Perry is new at Onca Lake High School. That’s tough enough without being unexpectedly orphaned, moving to the old family farm…and growing new freckles that aren’t really freckles. Juli has to adjust to more than she expected. You see, Juli is a shapeshifter—and not just any old shape-shifter. She’s a jaguar princess.
She can run like the wind, see farther than anyone she knows, and hear even the softest whisper. Oh, and she might be clairvoyant, too. All that is cool enough but there are features of shifting that aren’t so cool. Those freckles are really furry spots that itch like crazy, her toenails grow so fast they tear up her socks, and her hair…well, that golden-brown shade would be nice if it would stay instead of coming and going with her mood.
The freshman just wants to make a friend or two so she goes out for the track team. But the Track Pack has other ideas. A clique of four other teens who try to rule the school, they mercilessly pick on Juli until someone—or something—decides to protect the jaguar princess. Such protection, the Track Pack quickly discovers, can be dangerous.
She started itching. The sensation started at her ankles and wrists as usual, but it quickly spread over her entire body. She could almost feel that darn fur starting to grow.
Oh, why now?
Staring down at her hands, she saw spots form even though the woods were dark and full of deep shadows. Her eyesight had become that good. The golden fur was coming in, too. Her clothes started to feel tight and so did her shoes. In fact, they were painfully tight on her feet. She quickly took off her shoes and saw her feet taking on a different shape. They grew wider and shorter—almost like cat paws—and they stretched her socks sideways.
What the heck is going on? I’ve never changed this much before.
She remembered Aunt Deb saying that she wouldn’t fully shift before she was twenty-one, but her feet obviously hadn’t gotten the message. As she watched, her toenails poked through the ends of her socks and curved into dangerous looking claws.
Why is this happening now? I should have run off the stress so—
The fur growing on the back of Juli’s neck seemed suddenly to stand up. The scent she’d picked up moments earlier became stronger. A faint buzzing, like static, filled her head. An instinctive alarm went off inside her and, without understanding why—just knowing she should—she threw herself behind a bush.
Crouching there, glancing around, she spied another figure in the shadows on the other side of the clearing. Although undergrowth obscured most of the figure, she could see that it was a huge wildcat of some kind—and it was staring at her. Had she started to shift again just from being near it?
Are you the cat from my dreams? Are you another shapeshifter?
A sense of uncomfortable surprise struck her, but Juli knew immediately that the emotion didn’t belong to her. It came from outside of her…from the wildcat. Amazing. She was picking up on its feelings.
Who the heck are you? she thought.
I’m here to protect you, princess.
Never Pick on a Jaguar Princess is a young adult paranormal novel targeted at the tween and early teen girl audience. The author employs clear, direct language and doesn't load the story down with superfluous minutiae. The heroine, Juliana, is a fifteen year old girl, recently orphaned when her parents were killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. She comes to live with her aunt on the family farm in Onca lake, Texas. Juli is a nice girl, smart but on the quiet side. She's bookish, likes to play chess, but is also athletic. She's mature for her age, especially given the terrible loss she's suffered. She remains conscientious, considerate of others and even tempered throughout the novel.
As she nears sixteen, Juli's shape shifting gifts begin to manifest. She scares chickens, has strange dreams, develops itchy spots and eventually grows fur at inconvenient moments. Initially the poor girl is confused and who could blame her? She struggles to accept her feline nature and eventually delights in her newfound abilities. The younger reader will find her journey to be a fun and captivating flight of imagination. However, as a mother of three, the idea of parents not only failing to prepare but actively keeping their child in the dark strained my credibility.
Much of the plot revolves around tryouts for the high school track team. Juli seems to regard membership as more than a way of making new friends. Then team provides social validation in addition an outlet for her innate aggression and high energy. Although I was never on the high school track team, the length of time the tryout took felt too drawn out.
The story deals with the subject of bullies rather extensively when Juli becomes the target of a mean group of girls called the Track Pack. The author adopts a middle-of-the-road approach. Juli talks to her aunt about the problem but they do not go to school authorities. The heroine employs various methods of resolving this external conflict, including attempts to diffuse it and standing up for herself. I felt the matter was deftly handled.
A council of shifters who meet in their partial animal forms provides some comedy relief and also serves to advance the primary subplot. Another cat shifter in Onca Lake is actively seeking to harm the girls who are mean to Juliana. The external threat helped build tension as the story sped at a quick clip toward its resolution.
NPoaJP doesn't wrap up with a neat ribbon tying everything together but the story does offer a satisfactory conclusion. Since this story was meant to be the first in a series, the questions left unresolved were OK by me. Romance elements are sweet and limited to kissing. There is mention of teenage drinking but in way of the cautionary tale--don't do it. Violence is mild. I'd be perfectly comfortable recommending this book for an eleven-year-old reader interested in paranormal fiction.
Never Pick On a Jaguar Princess available exclusively at Amazon.
Teri Thackston—also known as T. Lynn Odom in the YA world—is an award-winning, multi-published author of paranormal romance, romantic suspense, western romance and—most recently—young adult paranormal. While storytelling is her first love, she also delves into non-fiction writing, with hundreds of articles floating around the web on topics ranging from how to choose a mother-of-the-bride dress to how to process credit cards for your small business. But she can most often be found creating unique worlds for the characters that whisper in her ear, begging to be brought to life. Her stories are known for exciting action as well as captivating romance.
Where you can find T. Lynn Odom on the Internet:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (for YA fans)