I might be between big projects, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing literary achievements to celebrate!

Take, for example, the release of my good friend Mark J. Engels’ coming-of-age urban fantasy novel Werecats Emergent.

I’ve known Mark, a fellow Wisconsin author and purveyor of the paranormal, for more than a decade and have had the honor to be one of the beta readers for his fledgling Forest Exiles Saga. Last month’s paperback and ebook release was a milestone: now the rest of the world can meet Pawly, Ritzi, and the rest of his extraordinary cast of characters.

Because Mark has been a constant source of support during my own “author journey,” serving as a beta reader, partner in brainstorming, cheerleader, and shoulder to cry on, as needed—and because I’m a big fan of his fiction, of course—I’m dedicating this blog post to the worthy cause of spreading the word about his new book.

Let’s start by sinking our teeth into the back-cover blurb:

Afflicted, exploited, and deadly…

Teenaged Pawly discovers her secret werecat heritage after unexpectedly morphing one Halloween night. Desperate to find an outlet for her and her twin brother’s growing bloodlust before they go feral, Pawly’s blended human-werecat family begs a Chicago-area drug cartel for help.

Her uncle Ritzi, meanwhile, scrambles to develop an alternate way the twins might satisfy their lethal urges. Resuming his deported father’s scientific research, Ritzi draws notice from an elder werecat representing a rogue state keen on the twins’ potential. When a cartel enforcer is found savagely mauled following the twins’ first job, Ritzi insists Pawly and her brother enlist in the rogue state’s service to ensure their safety.

But their father, a Navy sailor critically wounded in recent combat, would rather die than risk being separated from his children again—which Pawly soon realizes is no idle threat.

Quick Q&A

Mark was good enough to take some time in between promoting Book 1 and producing Book 2 to answer a few of my questions:

If you had to describe your story in a single sentence, what would it be?

“A family saga series opener featuring the modern-day remnant of an ancient clan of werecats, torn apart as militaries on three continents vie to exploit their deadly talents.”

What inspired you to write this book?

“This is one of the books I had in my heart to write, the sort of book I wanted to read and couldn’t find. Inspired by my beloved anime, manga, and anthropomorphic fandoms. And by favored parts of my Michigander upbringing, including ice hockey, traditional Korean martial arts, and ‘boatnerding.’

“I write (as I believe many other authors do) both out of the abundance of my heart and out of the deep, aching longings within it. Parts of my book depict the life I’ve lived; other parts, the life I wish I had. I leave it to my readers to discern which parts are which, if they’re so inclined.”

What was your favorite scene to write (avoiding spoilers)?

“There are several, actually, but what they have in common is taking place in one of two settings. First, the Katczynski family cabin is a portmanteau of my own family’s Michigan Northwoods lodge and a neighboring cottage fashioned from a retired lighthouse. Second, the tugboat owned and operated by Pawly’s great-uncle Bobby is based on a vessel I worked aboard during my college internship many moons ago with the US Army Corps of Engineers at the Soo Locks—the best job I’ve ever had.”

What was the most challenging part of releasing this book?

“Uhm, all of it? I knew that it would be up to me to figure out how to get my book in front of the eyeballs most likely to go ‘oooh!’ upon seeing the cover, then clicking the ‘buy’ button after reading the book description and reviews. Amazon categories, keywords, cover image, typography, book blurbs, sending out advance reader copies, soliciting editorial reviews: figuring out just how to do all these things and how to do them well so as to attract the very sort of reader I wanted to attract and entice them to buy the book required enormous investments of time and mental energy.

“I am grateful to Reedsy and Kindlepreneur for their helpful blogs, including articles breaking down how to do all the above and more. Grateful all the more to Kindlepreneur for their Publisher Rocket tool—Rocket helped me streamline many of my research tasks and build my confidence in implementing them.”

When can we expect to get our claws on the sequel?

“Soon, very soon! My goal is to get both the next book, Werecats Convergent, and series finale Werecats Resurgent published yet this year. So grateful to you and to all the others being eager to read them. And the best way others can keep current as to release dates, live appearances, and other goings-on is to join my author mailing list (sign up using the “Subscribe” link at the top of my author web site and filling out the short form).”

My mini review

Because reviews remain one of the best marketing instruments in an author’s toolbox, I made sure to add mine to those on Amazon and Goodreads.

The Start of Something Special

Innovation is a virtue. I believe that to be true not only for what I write, but also what I read. And I can confidently say you’ve never read a book quite like Werecats Emergent.

Genre mashups, such as this, allow authors to cherry-pick ingredients from well-established recipes, combine them in unexpected ways, and serve up exceptional creations with a flavor all their own. Werecats Emergent combines the wonder of urban fantasy and furry fiction with the intrigue of military fiction and family drama. The result is a complex yet fast-paced story that delivers on both cerebral and visceral levels.

Werecats Emergent overflows with action, intrigue, and above all passion. It takes the best of what its inspirations have to offer, defies genre conventions, and goes all in on telling you a story you didn’t know you needed to read. Every character—from precocious Pawly to pragmatic Ritzi to an extensive supporting cast—feels real, exhibiting nuance and conflicting motivations that reduce terms like “hero” and “villain” to a matter of perspective.

While I’m eager to continue this adventure in the forthcoming sequel, I have plenty of excuses to reread this first installment of the Forest Exiles Saga in the meantime!

Whether you’re looking forward to some exciting summer reading or keeping an eye out for gifts for the bibliophiles in your life, consider worthy newcomer Werecats Emergent. Those who want a sneak peek can read an excerpt on Amazon.com.

And don’t worry…curiosity only kills the cat.