Winning at Life
'Tis in times of peril—not blithe leisure,
That we truly find a hero's measure.
What’s the essence of a true hero? Is it strength, fame and bravado, or… perhaps, it’s selflessness, steadfast faith and strength of spirit, inspired by forgiveness and compassion? These stories examine the various pressures in the social crucible of life, where, upon occasion, ‘diamonds’ are made from ‘soot and ash’.
Most of the protagonists are on a desperate journey of self-discovery, as they search for a missing piece of their soul. Sometimes they find what they seek, at other times they find something more profound and at other times still, they utterly fail and are unable to mend their ways and change.
Although none of the protagonists are human, the inner struggles they deal with are easily-relatable to us, as we have all experienced temptation, rejection, disappointment and other manifestations of fear. Put simply, this book takes you on exciting, bite-sized adventures, where you will witness ordinary characters dream big, dig deep, rise to extraordinary challenges and prevail through faith and ingenuity.
All stories are about someone accepting a challenge, succeeding and thereby growing or avoiding, succumbing and thereby becoming diminished by the experience. These stories attempt to magnify that spark of heroism that lives in us all.
Story plots (Beware—spoilers!)
LIFE OF A HEALER
Thoreen is a travelling physician with a longing to leave the dusty road behind. Alas! She is forced to speed up rather than slow down, as she rushes to rescue her sister from the clutches of a sinister, unsavoury and unhygienic menace. How will she fare on her toxic adventure?
Cleoreece Nightingale, a zealous, young inspector with the FBI (Feline Bureau of Inquisitiveness), is assigned her first independent case. Cleo struggles with her inner demons and doubts, as she is forced to curb her impatience and ambition. To resolve the case, she must first contend with the will and whims of an enigmatic ‘guest’, who knows far more than he is willing to reveal. Taming her impetuous nature proves to be quite a challenge, but this witness is her only hope of solving the case in time to undermine a ruthless witchdoctor’s insidious design. Does Cleo rise to the occasion or fold like a failed soufflé?
THE GRUMPY PUPPY
Give a dog a bad name and he’ll live up to it… right? Our protagonist was born in a small, canine settlement in the Wolfdom Bow-Wowria. Dissatisfied with mundane life, his curiosity fuelled his search for answers, despite the fact that his studies caused lesser minds to treat him with confusion and derision, labelling him anti-social. The more those around him tried in vain to affect his behaviour and change him, the more he resisted, shied away and clammed up.
Then one day, in the least likely of places, he meets a like-minded girl, the girl of his dreams, who gives his youthful life purpose and focus.
THE MILKOSLAVIAN MAULER
A brazen brigand rampages through the Milkoslavian Mangrove Forest, wantonly terrorising the inhabitants and preying on vulnerable travellers. Intoxicated by inflated pride and unabashed hubris he eventually picks on a nut that’s too tough to crack and finds himself outmatched. Oh, how he wishes that he’d let sleeping dogs lie, as he gets served his just desserts!
JINX—A HERO’S MEASURE
Jinx trained hard—both mind and body to be as fit and clever, as he possibly could. Since he won every contest he took part in, which meant that others ended up losing, rumours began to circulate that his very presence brought bad luck to others. Predictably, this kindled superstition about his jet-black fur. Folks began to shun him and even campaigned to get him to leave the neighbourhood, by tossing bricks through his windows.
Two paths lay before Jinx. He could go down the path of hatred and reciprocate in kind—lash out, oppressing those around him. He could quell their envy of him by evoking the ‘survival of the fittest’ mantra, filling them with terror—like a true tyrant would…
Instead, he does not hesitate to put his life on the line to help the same townspeople who had dedicated their existences to sending him into exile. Bystanders are awestricken by his prowess, as he rescues innocent cubs from an inferno. Finally, his skills receive public acclaim and the townspeople think better of him. Instead of gloating or revelling in his newly-found fame, Jinx puts it to good use, making his town and, ultimately, all of Poozestan safer.
WINNING AT LIFE
After her pilgrimage, spreading glad tidings of the Great Light to the unholy swamps of Paddestan (see TALES OF ANIMUS Book 2: The Light of Love), Angel settles down and starts a family with Psymon, the love of her life. Alas! She is still troubled by nightmares from her kittenhood. Will Psymon be able to contend with the fears that haunt his beloved and soothe her anxiety?
In the dizzying heights of Bow-Wowria, a shaman’s son learns the secret of leading his pack and living in harmony with nature.
A mighty warrior finally meets his match—himself—as he is engulfed by an inner conflict, forced to confront his own pride and rage. Will he quell and master his destructive nature before it masters and consumes him?
AN EPIC EPIPHANY
When a selfish prince is overthrown, his business genius awakens, fuelled by his bitterness and thirst for vengeance. He rebuilds his fortune, shuts everyone out and seeks solace in material things. Alas! His bitterness does not dissipate, rather it threatens to destroy him from within. He seeks counselling, but his relief is, ultimately, born of a mundane occurrence and reverberates all around Poozestan through his change of heart.