By Hal Aetus, November 16, 2023
I’m proud to be releasing my second novel! I uploaded it to Amazon just tonight (November 15, 2023) and it should be available for purchase in a few days. I will also have copies for sale at my dealer’s table at Midwest Fur Fest in Chicago, November 30-December 4.
So, what’s it about?
This book was written for those who LOVE the idea of being able to turn into a bird. My first novel, The Sky Calls, was about a man turning into a bird in a slow, medically-realistic way. This book throws more towards the side of fantasy and is more akin to werewolf fiction (and, slight spoiler, werewolves may also show up too!). Phil Adler is a professional American football player for the Pennsylvania Bald Eagles (aka “The Baldies”). He worked hard to get into the pros and loves the sport. But he lives a double-life as he, and most of his relatives, can change, at will, to the forms of birds. Phil’s species is the bald eagle so he can become an “anthro” (human-like) or feral (natural, wild-type) bald eagle. Others in his family can become other species, such as ravens, magpies, ospreys, golden eagles, condors… you get the idea. For centuries they have disguised their abilities but it has become increasingly difficult with the evolution of technology and loss of privacy in the modern world.
And that’s where we come to the major problem facing Phil. Something happens that forces him to transform to an anthro-eagle, right in the middle of live, televised gameplay. The shock to his team and the public is electric, but Phil’s greatest concern is that he may never be able to play pro football again. As an investigation unfolds, though, threats come to light that go far beyond himself and endanger other werebirds and all of humanity.
The Journey to Publication
The Adler Chronicles started as a commission request by my fellow birdfriend, Pheagle Adler, who has blessed the furry community for years now with awesome transformation art that he gets commissioned, most of it featuring his original character, “Phil Adler.” He wanted a book-length story that would fill in the mostly blank backstory of Phil and it would have to have lots of transformation.
I started the project in 2020 and worked on it off and on in the background for the past three years. It was not a continuous process as there were many interruptions from life and work, sometimes making little progress for up to a year. I wanted to do it well and neither I nor Pheagle were in a hurry. The draft manuscript was completed in fall of 2022 and I ran it through beta-readers in spring of 2023. For this stage, I had the readers fill out a detailed review questionnaire and the feedback was tremendous. I had to table the project for another four months, but was able to organize their feedback and resume work in July, 2023. Another round of beta-readers took place in October and I completed cover artwork during that time. The past couple of weeks has been non-stop editing with Pheagle’s help and, well, here we are. It feels like I’m crossing the finishing line of a marathon and I’m ready to celebrate!
Personal Notes and Easter Eggs
Phil Adler plays pro football, a sport that I respect and sometimes enjoy watching, but not a subject that I knew much about. Because of this, I started out by reading a book by Tommy McDonald titled “They Pay Me to Catch Footballs.” Tommy was a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960s. It was a dated book, but by browsing the Internet, I could easily find contemporary information on how professional football worked. What the book gave me that the Internet couldn’t was a glimpse inside a person that played the game. It gave me some idea of what inspires them to keep going through years of torture to become the best of the best. In the case of the lead character Phil, it would be important to justifying why he would struggle to hold on to his career when everything is turning against him. I put a bit of Tommy into Phil and I hope my respect of his legacy comes through. There’s also an homage to him in that Phil’s coach, “Hatch” Haskins, has a signed picture of Tommy on the wall of his office, obviously inspired by the Hall of Famer.
The novel takes place in Pennsylvania where Phil grew up. I built the world map largely from what already exists with some personalized touches to make it work better for the story. One day, while pouring over Google Maps, I made an amazing discovery. One of the families in the book are named “Boones.” It just so happened that near Catawissa, which was already part of the story, was a place named “Boons Dam,” right on the edge of Bloomsburg. I almost fell out of my chair at the coincidence. So, naturally, I had to place the Boones Estate close to that spot.
As I wrote the characters, I often pictured people I knew in real life, or characters from movies, mostly as a template for how I would expect the person to speak and gesticulate (e.g., not to dictate their decisions they’d make in the same circumstances). I’ll tell you that Doc Schumacher, Robert Boones, and Gramps are inspired by characters in popular media made in the past 30-40 years. It’s not too on the nose (I hope) but they definitely provided inspiration, at least clearly in my mind. See if you can spot the influences and drop me a line to let me know your guess.
Transformation, Flight, and Bird Words
Yes, Phil flies. Both as a natural bald eagle and as an anthro. I’m a pilot myself and have dreamed of flying like a bird for over 40 years of my life. So, I put in as much realism as I could pertaining to flight. If some of the terms are a bit out of your vocabulary, no problem– I included a glossary in the back of the book. It’s not too heavy, but some concepts just require their own words. Same goes for bird anatomy. You might learn a few new bird terms along the way, including some that are unique to the furry fandom (e.g., “underfluffies”).
Did I mention this book is about transformation? I tried to pack in at least one transformation scene per chapter and describe it such that you can see it in your own mind’s eye. With so much body-changing happening, it would easy for it to start sounding all the same. But I think I succeeded in keeping it a little different each time so you won’t get tired of it (as if that’s possible for the TF-lovers out there!).
The Ride’s Not Over!
As I write this page, I’m exhausted. And I still have preparations to make for the con in two weeks. I’m going to make more posts in the coming days and keep you updated on this journey, but let me just say now that this has been a hell of a ride this past month, but well worth it. I’m really excited about the book and I’d love to talk about it! Stay tuned for announcements of livestreams, book-signings, and cons where I’ll be selling copies. Please leave comments below too as I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Where Can You Buy the Book?
The soft cover is now available for order on Amazon or direct from me if you want a signed copy: