Wednesday, August 6, 2008

JM Snyder :: Under a Confederate Moon

Book 1 of the Between States series

Bitten as a teen, Caleb now suffers through a painful transformation from human to bobcat a few days each month. As a bobcat, he leaves behind his camp and fellow soldiers to explore the night. But a gunshot and the bright scent of fresh blood draws him to a clearing where he learns that he isn't the only one of his kind.

Wounded and hurt, Brance is a loner by nature, gruff and grumbling, who doesn't want anything to do with Caleb ... at first. The younger bobcat prevails, and starts to win Brance over, until they turn human again and find themselves on opposite sides of the American Civil War.

Publisher: Amber Quill Press (July 2007)
ISBN: 978-1-60272-075-6


The scent of man enveloped him. Each tree he sniffed, each branch, each bush, carried the smell of humans and their artillery. Dried blood and disease mingled with the smell, painful scents Caleb didn't like. The shirt on his back only confused his sense of smell, but once the camp was behind him, he took a moment to wiggle out of the torn material. He sniffed it, curious, then left it among the leaves as he hurried away, the growl still tickling the back of his throat. The sound warned anything away from his vicinity, and helped keep his mind off his churning stomach, or the bloodlust that filled his veins.

On four padded feet, Caleb crept through the forest as silently as a house cat stalking its prey. He hunted half-heartedly, not quite ready to sate his appetite and call it a night. At some point he scared up a large hare, coming onto it from downwind, but the creature caught his scent moments before he pounced and darted just beyond his powerful jaws to disappear into a hole too narrow and deep to dig in for long. Abandoning the prey, Caleb kept moving, always keeping the men and their smoke-filled camp at his back. He heard no more gunshots, and felt no urgency to hurry through the night.

Around him, the woods were alive in a way the human in him would never see. Small rodents raced over the forest floor, skittering through the moss and lichen, raising whiffs of fresh meat in their wake. Occasionally one would catch Caleb's attention and he'd give chase, toying with the frightened mouse until it disappeared into a crevice of tree roots too small for his paw to fit through. He caught a couple, nothing large, and let each one go after playing a bit. He wanted something larger, something worth the effort of a kill. Something ...

Off in the distance, along in the direction he was heading, he heard a gunshot. He stopped, ears trained on the sound, his whole body rigid and tense. Men, he thought, the word anathema to him in his current state. He waited for another sound, a second shot maybe, or raucous laughter in the night, but nothing seemed to follow. The tip of his tail twitched, waiting.

Then a volley of shots rang out, three, maybe four, all at once. Caleb dropped into a crouch and heard a wounded yelp cry out, a primal sound that tugged at his instinct. Another cat, he knew—a large one, by the sound of it. That damned growl of his started up again, and he sniffed the air, trying to smell powder or blood, but nothing came to him on the wind.

Could be Yanks, the still-human part of his mind whispered. Sensing an unprecedented opportunity, Caleb sat down on his haunches and licked one forepaw as he mulled over his options. Race ahead, get shot like the other cat. Or no, sneak in and sneak out, but learn enough of the enemy camp to bring back to his commanding officer in the morning. Major Pennock would want to know how he came about the information, but if they ambushed the Yanks, would it matter how he knew?

With a decisive flick of his tail, Caleb leapt away. On strong legs, with sure strides, he ran through the forest, dodging undergrowth, vaulting over fallen logs and large stones, climbing low trees to jump from their quivering branches when it suited him. The wind raced him, whipping around his ears and flaring his nostrils. His fangs were bared to the night, allowing him to catch the faintest of odors. Before long he found the scent of man again, and gun smoke, and blood.

He skidded to a halt. Like a knife, the blood pierced his mind and stirred his senses. Nosing around, he found a drop of dark lifeblood on a deadfall, still warm. His tongue licked out, and the taste of copper filled his mouth. A heavy scent like wet fur clung to the wood. Picking his way carefully over the rotten limbs, Caleb climbed the deadfall and, on the other side of the forest floor, found another bright patch of blood, a clump of fur clinging stubbornly to the edges of a paw print. Another bobcat, just as he'd thought. Wounded.

He wouldn't get far.

With his animal senses, Caleb could easily discern the cat's path through the woods -- here the grass bent in a certain direction, there a few branches were snapped as if pointing the way. Caleb padded on, cautious. Every now and then he paused to sniff around. The trail led to a thicket of tall grass, tamped down in the center. As Caleb approached, he heard a low growl issue from the grass in warning.

He sat back. Cocked his head to one side. Ventured another step and received a breathy hiss as a reward. In the darkness he could see two golden cat's eyes staring back at him. A guttural voice spoke in his mind. Another step and you die.

Under a Confederate Moon
E-Book Price: $4.00
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Jeanne said...

Nice excerpt, J.M.

Emily said...

Such a unique shapeshifter set in a historical time period! What's not to love?!? :-)