Our topic this week is whatever is on our mind. Aside from current politics and the COVID pandemic, neither of which I'm discussing here, I'm excited about the impending release of the 5th annual Pets In Space anthology! Especially since I'm the co-creator of this anthology concept and we're in our fifth year...
I recently wrote a post for my own blog on why I decided to write STAR CRUISE: RETURN VOYAGE for this year's anthology, plus an excerpt and here's that discussion:
Every year it’s a fun challenge for me to figure out my
alien pet for the annual Pets In Space® anthology. Some years the choice of a
pet is driven by a plot I already have in mind and other years the plot arises
from the development of the pet and its attributes.
This year I went into the whole process fascinated by the
Afghan hound. I’d seen snippets of the big national kennel show on the news and
watched an Afghan hound prance by the camera. No offense to the aficionados of
this dog breed but I find them to appear a bit alien just the way they are, so
the animal made a good jumping off point for a PISA pet. I decided Verlaine the
Tajikka Hound would have some vaguely equine characteristics as well, like
black hooves and a somewhat horselike face. Our artist did his usual fabulous
job in creating Verlaine for me. (The animal just seemed to require an
aristocratic name, doesn’t he?!).
I like to make my PISA story into my annual entry in my STAR CRUISE series as well, located on the interstellar luxury liner Nebula Zephyr. I enjoy revisiting some of my characters from previous STAR CRUISE stories and I feel the concept of a huge cruise ship gives me plenty of latitude for telling a variety of stories. My next challenge for 2020 was what would bring such a sizable animal onto the ship as a pet? This past year there had been so many true stories about people bringing odd animals onto airplanes as service animals and I read about someone who had a miniature horse they wanted to travel with! Since I visualize Verlaine as being about the size of a very small horse that seemed perfect to me. So he became a genuine service animal of the far future.
But who would need such an animal to support them on a trip
on a big luxury liner?
Enter Gianna Nadenoft, who survived the wreck of the
interstellar cruise liner Nebula Dream
in my very first published scifi romance novel. She was a (precocious) child of
three at the time of the events in Wreck
of the Nebula Dream so I felt it was a safe assumption she’d have had
post-traumatic stress symptoms of various kinds and might have needed a service
animal to help her cope with life after the wreck. Now she’s determined to
travel the stars to her brother’s wedding and reunite with old friends but
hasn’t left her own planet in the twenty or so years since the wreck. So of
course she travels with Verlaine on my new cruise ship, Nebula Zephyr.
It was a fun opportunity for me to revisit the original
story and to ‘see’ the events through the eyes of a child, and then to figure
out what her private agenda might be in forcing herself to travel on the Nebula Zephyr as an adult. And oh WOW,
did I have to check myself to make sure I typed the correct ship name every
time! I’d previously established that the two vessels were sister ships in
overall design, hence the similar names.
Dream was destroyed, Zephyr sails on…
Wreck of the Nebula
Dream was loosely based on the 1912 sinking of the Titanic and Titanic inspired
some of the futuristic conspiracy theories about the Dream and the Zephyr which
are a minor plot point in the current novel. There actually is a theory that
instead of the Titanic sinking on
that icy cold night, her sister ship the Olympic
sank and that everyone from the builders to the owners was covering up the
fact. Why anyone would do that, I’m not entirely sure but I came up with a
justification for my novel. After all, the essence of a conspiracy theory is
whispers about a sort of plausible explanation, right? No matter how thin!
Over the years I’ve received some snarky comments about my
original book’s title, basically to the effect it isn’t a true “wreck” because
it happened in space yadda yadda yadda. I greatly enjoyed having Gianna speak
to that very point early in this book! (And I picked the title for the first
book because it was based on an actual wreck. Plus it’s a dramatic, evocative
I also enjoyed dropping in a few references to other things
in my Sectors universe throughout this story, not enough to annoy anyone who
hasn’t read my other books, I hope, but…for example there’s a nod to the Khagrish,
who are the evil alien scientists in my Badari Warrior series.
The PISA authors try to make the pets an integral part of
the story we’re writing for the anthology, not just “and she had a dog”
walk-ons, so I had to really think through the events that would occur to make
sure I gave Verlaine enough to do to be a substantive supporting character.
Hopefully I succeeded!
He did make an immediate connection point between Gianna and
Lt. Trevor Hanson, the hero, who has PTSD issues of his own, stemming from his
prior military service. Now Trevor’s a security officer aboard the Nebula Zephyr, charged by his captain to
make sure Gianna reaches her destination with a minimum of stress.
Here’s an excerpt, with Captain Fleming giving Trevor his unusual
A yeoman was waiting for him. “Captain Fleming wants to see
you in the wardroom. This way.”
Trevor followed the other through the short corridor and was
left outside the conference room to key the arrival button and receive
permission to enter. Stepping across the threshold, he saluted. “Lt. Trevor
Hanson reporting as ordered, sir.”
The captain was seated at the head of the table, drinking
real Terran coffee from the battered mug which bore the crest of his last
battleship command. “At ease, Hanson. Get yourself some coffee and come sit
down. I have a special assignment for you on this leg of the cruise.”
He wasn’t thirsty but no one refused the captain’s
invitation and especially not when the beverage on offer was the rare and
costly real coffee. Trevor picked up a Nebula Zephyr mug, filled it, spurned
the sugar and cinna spice, preferring to drink it black, and joined the
captain. His curiosity coiled in his gut. Highly unusual for Fleming himself to
skip protocol and give orders directly to any crew member. He was a firm
believer in the chain of command and military protocol, even now, commanding a
The captain was staring at the big vid screens which showed
the planetary system the ship was fast approaching, a series of reddish tinted
jewels scattered across the black velvet of the galaxy, circling the yellow sun
in the eternal rhythm decreed by astrophysics and the laws of the universe.
Trevor sipped the strong coffee and waited.
“What do you know about the wreck of the Nebula Dream?”
Fleming asked, still watching the planets.
Pop quiz time I guess. “Worst passenger ship disaster in the
history of the Sectors, thousands of lives lost, heroics by a Special Forces
officer who happened to be aboard and saved hundreds. We had a module on it
when I was in training, sir, mostly regarding the decisions made by the
soldier. One of those ‘what would you do in his place’ type classes.”
“Nick Jameson,” Fleming said, supplying the name of the
officer under discussion. “His decisions in what regard?”
“At each point, I guess. To stay on the ship, to use what is
politely called classified means to contact rescue ships, and to fight the
enemy when they boarded.” Remembering more details as he talked, Trevor added,
“Guy was gutsy, smart and lucky. Oh and the cruise liner was way off course, in
enemy territory. May I ask why the interest, sir?”
“We’re a sister ship, did you know that? Not the exact
design but close, and of course we have different engines. No one uses the
Yeatter unstable technology nowadays, not if the shipbuilders are sane.”
Fleming sat upright. “What do you know about the survivors? The ones
specifically who were with Jameson?”
Suspecting the discussion was getting closer to whatever
point Fleming was driving at, Trevor shook his head. “Two women, a D’nvannae
Brother, couple of kids…oh and a Mellurean Mind but I believe she died on
“The main reason we’re in this system is to pick up a woman
named Gianna Nadenoft,” Fleming said. “She was a very little girl when Nick
Jameson saved her life on the Nebula Dream and she hasn’t flown in space since
her father brought her home after the rescue.”
Trevor absorbed the information and asked the obvious
question. “May I ask why she’s traveling now then, sir?”
“Her brother is getting married on Xcelon Four and she’s
agreed to attend and be a bridesmaid.”
Obviously the lady would be a celebrity passenger. The
Sectors’ fascination with the tragedy of the Nebula Dream never went away. But
what was his role in this? Maybe the Cruise Director should be here, not him.
Trevor abhorred being unclear on mission parameters and right now he didn’t see
his role in this discussion or the woman’s travel plans.
The captain stared at him over the lip of his mug. “Ms.
Nadenoft apparently has PTSD resulting from the events on board the Nebula
Dream and this trip is going to be a huge challenge for her. She does have a
Now Trevor had a sinking feeling and the captain’s next words confirmed his suspicion.
PETS IN SPACE® 5
It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth
amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction
Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories
filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you
out of this world. The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in
Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to Hero-Dogs.org,
a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you
are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are
having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone!
CRUISE RETURN VOYAGE blurb: Gianna Nadenoft is a reclusive
survivor of one of the worst interstellar cruise ship disasters in the history
of the Sectors. Now a renowned artist, she hasn’t left her home planet in
decades, not since returning there after the wreck as a traumatized
three-year-old. With her service animal at her side, she’s going to attempt to
travel across the star systems to attend her brother’s wedding and reunite with
her fellow survivors.
Trevor Hanson is a security officer aboard the cruise liner Nebula Zephyr with his own traumatic
past as a former Special Forces soldier and prisoner of war. He’s assigned to
provide personal protection to Gianna during her time aboard the ship but soon
finds his interest turning from professional to romantic.
Onboard the Nebula Zephyr, powerful enemies are watching Gianna and making plans to seize this rare opportunity to gain access to her and the secrets they believe she’s still keeping about the wreck. Can Trevor overcome his personal demons and rise to the occasion to save Gianna from the danger waiting on his ship, or will she slip through his fingers and suffer a terrible fate deferred from her last disastrous voyage?
The award winning first book Wreck of the Nebula Dream ("Titanic in space...") and Star Survivor, the sequel featuring Khevan and Twilka are available at all major ebook sellers...