23 April 2011

Today Pepper talks about Chase, Bumper and Cindy

Yesterday I promised to give some details on the tiger I used to create Chase, my heroine for my new book, Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny, which comes out on April 30, 2011 from Black Opal Books. 

Chase is half human and half tiger. The story of my inspiration for her is rather interesting. I created her from a white Siberian tiger, I’ll call Bumper, and her keeper, whom I’ll call Cindy. I encountered Bumper and Cindy at a private game reserve outside of the United States. At the time, I was working with a team researching the smuggling of wild animals into and out of third world countries. My team was granted limited access to the game reserve so we could view firsthand the suffering some of these animals go through. But as the owners of the reserve were involved in some legal battles with the country’s government, we weren’t allowed to take photos, videos, or tape record any conversations. We were only allowed to observe, ask questions, and take notes. We also signed a non-disclosure agreement, promising not to give out any information on the location of the reserve. I will say, however, that Bumper was not native to the country she was in when I met her. I’ve also had to improvise to come up with photos, but at least you’ll get an idea of what she looks like. 

Bumper was young, only about two years old, and was a newcomer at the reserve. She’d apparently been smuggled in to the country we were in and sold as pet to a wealthy land owner. The owner kept Bumper until she got too big and too hard for him to handle. Then she was turned loose in the wild to fend for herself, the man obviously assuming that since she was a cat, she’d be able to hunt for her food.

However, while it may or may not be true of domestic cats, big cats raised in captivity do not automatically know how to hunt. According to Cindy, when Bumper was brought to the reserve, she was a pitiful sight, little more than skin and bones. The vet at the reserve estimated she hadn’t eaten for several weeks, probably since the day she’d been abandoned by her owner. I can’t even imagine how terrified she must have been to be dumped out in the mountains, away from everyone and everything she’d ever known, unable to catch even small prey. It really makes me wonder what on earth her owner was thinking.

Despite what she’d suffered, Bumper was unfailingly cheerful and playful. I call her Bumper because when wanted something, she’d head butt you in the ass. Her way of saying, “Hey, pay attention. Or else.” When I met her, she’d been at the reserve for a month and had not fully recovered from her ordeal. She was still eager to please, delighted by the slightest attention, and had a wonderfully sweet nature. However, as Cindy was quick to point out, Bumper was a wild animal, not a pet. She should never have been kept as a pet, especially by someone who didn’t truly understand her needs. Still, we did get to pet her, and since my face was apparently too dirty to suit her, Bumper decided to give me a bath. Let me tell you, having a tiger wash your face is a very unnerving experience. Their tongues are like sandpaper. And their teeth are huge, especially up that close. Not to mention their saliva is sticky. Still, it was something I’ll never forget.

Cindy told us that Bumper had an indomitable spirit. She never gave up. Even sick and malnourished, when faced with larger, stronger animals, Bumper simply refused to back down or submit. Because of this, they’d had to move her to a separate enclosure to eliminate fights between her and the other big cats. Not that Bumper started the fights, necessarily, but if the other animals started hassling her, she’d take on all comers. Even getting the worst of the fights, most of the time, didn’t nothing to quench her fierce, warrior’s spirit. And as we studied this scrawny, undersized animal, there was a look in her eye that dared us to challenge her. I could almost hear her saying, “You want a piece of me? You think you can take me? Well, just come on and try!”

Tigers by nature are solitary creatures, only coming together to mate, after which the male abandons the female, leaving her to raise the cubs on her own. But Bumper was extremely gregarious. When they first separated her from the other big cats, she pined for company, finally making friends with a German Sheppard, I’ll call Bo, and a ram, I’ll call Tubby. Bo and Tubby (he was the fattest sheep I’ve ever seen) spent hours in the enclosure with Bumper, getting head butted in the ass if they stopped paying attention to her. However, neither dog nor sheep seemed inclined to retaliate. Which was probably just as well. I asked Cindy once why Bumper didn’t try to eat Tubby, and she told me that Bumper had always been fed raw meat, so she probably had no idea Tubby should even be considered prey. To Bumper, Tubby and Bo were just good friends.

Cindy was elfin—a tiny, delicate creature, who looked like she had no business handling wild animals. Shy around humans, she seemed fearless working with creatures that outweighed her by hundreds of pounds. She stuttered a bit while talking with the team, but I never heard her stammer around the animals. The animals loved her and accepted her unconditionally, which is probably why she was so comfortable around them. After all, unconditional love is pretty hard to beat.

So when I needed a heroine to go with Roman, Bumper was the first thing that came to mind. Combining her personality with Cindy’s gave me a shy American with an attitude—one who refuses to give up, no matter how hard the circumstances or how badly she’s treated by fate. Chase is basically a shy virgin (well, a virgin at the beginning of the book) willing to take on all comers. Pairing her cat with Roman’s wolf was fun, especially the first time Chase hisses at him.

For my next blog here at Sherry’s on April 25th, I’ll give you a preview of Drake. In Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny, he’s a Siberian, but in real life, he’s an Amur Tiger and one bad ass dude. I combined him with an overall bad boy human, to make a hot, sexy, pride leader. And wait till you see the photo I came up with for him!

Visit my website: http://www.pepperoneal.com
Learn more about Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at:
http:www. http://pepperoneal.com/blood-fest-series/
Read an excerpt of Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny at: http://pepperoneal.com/blood-fest-series/excerpt-chasing-destiny/

Check out Sherry’s Duty Calls as well as other Black Opal Books publications at:

Don't miss Pepper's final blog on Monday 25th


Fiona said...

I envy you the opportunity to spend time with anials such as Bumper, Tubby and Bo. The world needs more heroines such as Cindy!

As someone who defends abused animals and saves strays I want to cheer for these stories and the awareness they raise of the implications of dumb arse actions by selfish humans.

Great post!


Stacie Carver said...

You never cease to amaze me. YOu've had such an interesting life so far. The tiger face licking is definitely one to remember. I can't wait until April 30th rolls around so I can buy the book.