Always fun to return to Paranormal Romantics as a guest! Thanks for having me today, to talk about the fifth annual Pets In Space® scifi romance anthology and my novel in the collection! When Pauline B. Jones and I came up with the idea in 2016, we thought it would be fun to have a group of authors take the story prompt along the lines of “Lassie in space” and add a romance for the main characters. This fifth year we have ten other authors besides ourselves in the mix and the range of pets is so wide it’s amazing.
When I was trying to come up with my alien pet for PISA5, I just happened to catch a bit of the national dog show (cat person here) on TV and was fascinated by the Afghan hound. The elegant animal made a good jumping off point for a PISA pet. As I looked over my inspiration photos and thought about how to make the dog more alien, I decided Verlaine the Tajikka Hound would have some vaguely equine characteristics as well, like black hooves and a somewhat horselike face. Our artist Adrian did his usual fabulous job in creating Verlaine for me. I have no idea why my Muse decided the pet’s name was Verlaine but right from the beginning that was what came to me. Kind of debonair!
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. (I had to be so super careful not to mix up the names of the two ships when I was writing. Dream =destroyed, Zephyr=still sailing the stars.)
I’ve already written one sequel to the first book a few years ago, Star Survivor, about two secondary characters which my readers demanded to know more about, after the original story. It’s always wonderful when readers become invested in the characters. So now I had to think hard about how to revisit the disaster one more time through the eyes of a survivor without becoming repetitious. Viewing it all through the eyes of a woman who’d been a young child at the time was a terrific perspective. Note: I don’t retell the original story, never fear. And this book and Star Survivor can be read as standalones.
I’ve done so much research on the sinking of the Titanic, which the first novel Wreck of the Nebula Dream is based on, which included many survivor accounts and articles and biographies of survivors and how the rest of their lives proceeded to unfold, that I had a good solid basis for this take of my futuristic catastrophe and its aftermath.
Here’s an excerpt where the hero, Trevor, has been sent by his captain to meet Gianna at her home and escort her to the ship.
“I never discuss the events of my childhood,” she said suddenly, not in a challenging way but more as a flat statement of fact.
There was silence for a few more moments. He knew she was staring at him but he was watching a pair of incredibly fluffy ground rodents chasing each other in a highly amusing fashion, quarreling over a nut. “I don’t discuss my past either,” he said finally, meeting her gaze, “So I’d say we’re even. Now we’ve covered that, what shall we talk about? Your home here is quite lovely.”
“Yes, we’re even as far as what events we keep off limits. I like the concept. Of course now I’m curious to know what it is you don’t discuss. My history is unfortunately searchable and legendary, whether it should be or not.” She compressed her lips tightly as if cutting herself off from more comments relating to traumatic events of the past. In a more superficial, social voice, she said, “Thank you for the compliment on the house—this estate has been in my mother’s family since early times on this planet. She was extremely wealthy and my father was a precious gems merchant. He made jewelry on occasion too, which must be where I got my artistic bent.”
He visualized the paintings in the library. “Do you sell your works? You mentioned a commission—”
“I’m quite famous,” she said with a demure smile. “For more than having been in the wrong place at the wrong time as a child. My paintings are in high demand. Would you like to see the one I’m working on?”
The sheer range of styles and subject matter he’d seen in the library had been intriguing and although he was no art connoisseur he found he was curious to see more. His hostess had a unique way of viewing the world and interpreting it for others. “Very much.”
With no further discussion she rose and set off along one of the garden paths, the Tajikka keeping close to her side. Trevor took a hasty swallow of the remnants of his coffee, reflecting he was going to get spoiled having so much of the real stuff in such a short time, between Gianna’s hospitality and the captain’s generosity. He hastened to catch up to her, his longer stride covering the distance easily.
“I have my own studio,” she said, pointing at a small, trim blue-and-white building they were approaching. “I also paint in a large room in the house. It depends on my mood and the light.”
“You carry the work in progress back and forth?” he asked in surprise.
Laughing, she opened the richly grained wooden door and stepped inside. “No, I have more than one painting going at any given time. My muse likes variety. She changes her mind by the hour as to what we’re going to paint. I have to build a lot of time in when I accept a commission, in case I get distracted.” Going to a large easel standing alone under the skylight, she yanked the cover off and pivoted. “What do you think?”
He thought he was mesmerized. Scarcely knowing what he was doing, he walked forward until he could have touched the nearly completed canvas, although of course he didn’t. It was an amazing abstract view, a nebula in deepest space, done in dark colors with pops of bright hues here and there. The scene transported him out of himself and he felt as if he was floating peacefully.
Eventually he realized he’d been silent for a long time and turned his head, looking for his companion. Her Tajikka was standing at his side, pressing against his leg, which was oddly comforting. Trevor found himself stroking one ear, allowing the long silky fur to run through his fingers. “I’m sorry—I got lost in the painting. This is astonishing.”
“You’re good for my ego,” she said. She was curled up in a huge chair, ensconced among pink-and-green floral pillows and resembling the young girl in the old records. “I’d never painted but one day after we got home, I picked up a brush and drew all over the walls in my bedroom. Rather than being punished for it, I was given my first set of real brushes and canvasses and I’ve painted every single day since. My father used a couple of my paintings in his marketing materials and those generated inquiries. He had high end clients, Inner Sectors generational billionaires, planetary royalty and the like, so I launched right into a pool of people with tons of credits to burn. And of course, the fact of who I am, helps a little, even I must admit. ”
He shook his head. “The art is phenomenal. It has nothing to do with—with—”
“The wreck,” she said helpfully. “Although since technically we didn’t crash on a planet, it shouldn’t be classified as a wreck precisely but that’s what the media called it and the term stuck.”
The Tajikka left his side and went to her, pushing its nose against her hand until she started petting the silky ears. Concerned, remembering this was a service animal, Trevor wondered if he’d upset her after all.
“My father never left this planet again after we got home. I don’t leave this compound myself, with rare exceptions. My brother Paolo is the brave one, going off to the Star Guard Academy and then going into combat and having all kinds of adventures, as he’d always said he would. I admire him. My father cut him off because he wouldn’t stay here and learn the gem and jewelry business but Paolo wanted to be just like Nick Jameson in all respects and drove himself to succeed. I’m glad he did.”
“Do you run the business then?” Trevor asked.
“Oh no, when my father died, the business was liquidated. He couldn’t imagine me taking it over and I had utterly no desire to do so either. I sent my brother his half of the proceeds. My mother’s fortune came straight to me but was in trust until I attained my majority.” She raised her chin defiantly. “I don’t care what my father’s will specified. He forfeited the right to tell us what to do when he abandoned us as kids on that damn ship. He sure didn’t get to tell me what to do after he was dead.”
PETS IN SPACE® 5 ANTHOLOGY BLURB:
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!
STAR 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?
Pets in Space® 5 authors are:
1. S.E. Smith
2. Michelle Diener
3. Veronica Scott
4. Pauline Baird Jones
5. Laurie A. Green
6. Carol Van Natta
7. Regine Abel
8. Alexis Glynn Latner
9. JC Hay
10. Kyndra Hatch
11. Cassandra Chandler
12. Leslie Chase
Author Bio and Links:
USA Today Best Selling Author
Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”