Thursday, June 21, 2018

What do you do in a series after the HEA? #snippet


The trouble with romance books is once the HEA has arrived, where do you go from there? If you write about the same couple having other adventures it's no longer the traditional romance where boy meets girl (I don't write gay, so I'll leave it at that) sparks fly, things happen, and there's an HEA at the end. I've written a couple of those, most recently in For the Greater Good. But for my Ptorix Empire series I took the other tried and true approach of another couple in the same Universe as the Iron Admiral with conflicts involving the Ptorix, my decidedly non-humanoid aliens.

The third book in the series is Starheart.

The first scene in this book was actually the easiest to write. I'd decided on my heroine. Jess Sondijk, is a freighter captain skimming that line between legal trade and smuggling. Jess is a single mother with a daughter in her early teens, so she has responsibilities, and she needs the money to pay for her daughter's education. Enter Admiral Ullric Hudson's Confederacy battle cruiser Defender, which stops her ship to search for contraband. I had my two main characters and the beginnings of a story.

Unlike Saahren in The Iron Admiral, I wanted Hudson to be a bit of a womaniser, sort of like James Bond. He would chase Jess, who would try to keep him at arm's length. From there, the story became a mystery/thriller involving the mysterious death of Jess's husband – and the starhearts of the book's title. They are stones coveted by the alien Ptorix. A lifeform is trapped in molten rock, creating a brilliant display perhaps a little like an opal. "The heart of the stone blazed, pulsing beams of red and orange and yellow, with shots of purple and blue."


Hudson explains to Jess. "Starhearts have only been found on Ptorix worlds. The Ptorix prize them; the translation of the Ptorix name is something like 'windows of the soul' because they resemble Ptorix eyes. I would very much like to know where the starhearts came from; if from the Ptorix, what goods or services were sufficient to buy them?"




I had a lot of fun writing Starheart. Here's an excerpt.

Hudson has had Jess's ship stopped as it set off for a nearby mining platform. He has just returned to his ship to speak with her.

****
Tomas was waiting for Hudson when he disembarked. "Where is she?"
"In an interrogation cell, Sir." His adjutant's eyes twinkled. "The same one the Militia used last time she was here."
Hudson grinned. How would she have reacted to that? "Have her brought to my office."
"Sir."
He hardly had time to make himself comfortable in his chair when his clerk said via his implant, "Captain Sondijk is here, Sir."
He sat back in his seat, watching the door when she entered. Her grey ship suit was unzipped at the front and the scoop-necked white shirt she wore underneath revealed a tantalizing expanse of breast. The last time she'd been brought aboard she'd dressed for the occasion but this time she probably didn't even realize. Her eyes blazed with fury as she barged into his office, flanked by a lieutenant and two troopers. No, intimidation didn't work on Jess Sondijk.
"What in blazes is this about? Annoyed I stood you up?"
"Thank you, Lieutenant, you may go," Hudson said.
He waited until the door closed behind the troopers. "I admit, I'm not accustomed to being stood up."
She slammed both her palms on his desk and leaned toward him, affording him a lovely view of her cleavage. "You are not the fucking center of the universe."
His gaze slid down to admire the swell of her breasts. Nice. Exquisite. Two delicious handfuls. His mouth watered. The prospect of a close and personal encounter with that body was enough to give a man a hard-on.
She pushed herself upright. "Oh, for fuck's sake. Do you ever think about anything but your cock?"
He leaned back, grinning. "If you flaunt your assets, my dear, you can hardly blame me for looking."
Scowling, she zipped up her suit.
"Very good. Now sit." He pointed at the visitor's chair beside her.
"Go to hell. You have no reason, no right to stop me and impound my ship. I've done nothing wrong and I've other things to do apart from some … some sort of verbal foreplay with you." She folded her arms, staring down at him.
"You're supposed to be having dinner with me at Aristides in a few hours' time. Instead, you've careered off Nordheim as if all the demons in hell were after you. Where are you going and why?"
"None of your business."
He held her gaze. "We can continue with this for as long as you like. But you will not be moving out of this office, let alone off this ship, unless you can give me a good reason."

****

(Starheart is set in the same universe as the Iron Admiral but the events occur a little before the Iron Admiral books)
Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk thought she had her life under control until Confederacy Admiral Hudson stops her ship in search of contraband. Although he’s taken with the lovely Jess, Hudson’s after bigger fish than a small-time smuggler; somebody’s trading with the alien Ptorix – and offering them a large enough prize to induce them to part with their beloved starhearts, the jewels they call the windows of the soul.

Hudson’s questions open old wounds for Jess. She decides to investigate the circumstances of her husband’s not-so-accidental death. Soon her life’s headed into an increasingly dangerous spiral – for her, her friends, and her family.

Only Hudson can help. But in this deadly game of political intrigue, murder, and greed, one false step will cause inter-species war. Hudson is forced to make difficult choices – Jess, starhearts, war, and his commission.

Buy the book at  Amazon B&N Kobo iBooks

Monday, June 18, 2018

Story Bloopers That Make You Go *Headdesk* -- Part II #amwriting #snippet

Last week, I posted a blooper (Part I) from the original manuscript that's the basis for my upcoming release, StarDog. This week I'm posting Blooper Part II.

If the StarDog title sounds familiar, it's probably because this book had a previous life as part of the acclaimed, but no longer available, Pets in Space 1 collection.

My goal is to soon release StarDog as a standalone book in The Inherited Stars Series. But first, I felt the story needed some special attention -- expanded scenes, re-worked passages, all-new material, and an added epilogue to better resolve the ending and tie it into Inherit the Stars, the novel that takes place six months after StarDog. In addition, it will have even stronger ties to the follow-up book, Courting Disaster, which will also be expanded from the original debut as a novella in the 2017 Pets in Space 2 collection (no longer available) to a novel.

But as I was reworking StarDog, I discovered a couple of....well...minor issues. (Gasp!)

I felt a little better when I realized no readers had apparently caught these missteps, either. In fact, readers might find these gaffes just a bit funny. So I decided to do an authors version of a Blooper Reel. Hopefully, you can laugh along with me.

As I mentioned last week, one of the reasons these bloopers are so ironic is that the story went through multiple passes by me, my betas and my editor--and yet, none of us caught these little treasures. I think that shows they weren't enormous blunders--but my goal is to make a great story even better, so they hadda be fixed.

And with that said, may I present...

Blooper #2

To set it up, here's the story blurb and scene description:

Blurb

Navigator Taro Shall’s captain assigns him an unexpected mission–find a way to eradicate deadly vipers that have infested starship Calypso. He never expects to find the solution to his problem in the hands of Adini, a charming street vendor. But the bio-engineered StarDog he acquires turns out to be a galactic hot potato, and both Taro and Adini are soon fugitives on the run.

Adini Kemm can’t deny her fascination for the honor-bound navigator, though his past and her present seem to null any chance of a shared future. Until her father’s capture as a spy catapults both her and Taro into a desperate bid to save him…and straight into the clutches of a brewing insurrection.  

Scene Set-Up: Adini's father has been taken prisoner as a spy by the Ithian Alliance. Adini believes her one chance to save him may lie with a friend of her father's who she can find on planet Banna, and Taro convinces his captain to take her on as a paying passenger. But when Taro's captain learns the name of the man Adini is seeking, things get complicated.
___________________________


“Who is this man?” the skipper began without preamble. “The one who can help your father?”

Adini straightened in her seat and cast a questioning look at Taro, who nodded for her to answer. “His name is Jaeo Gant.”

Captain Jordan stiffened, thrusting out her chin. “Did you say Jaeo…?”

“Gant,” Dini repeated, rushing to add, “He’s with the Network.”

“Yes.” She spat out the word with clear contempt. “He’s no one I care to cross paths with.”

“He’s a good man, Captain Jordan.”

“No.” The skipper’s jaw muscles flared and her eyes went cold and distant. “He gets people killed.”

“Captain, I have nowhere else to turn. No one else would go head-to-head with the Alliance. He may be my only chance to save my father.”

The captain scuffed the heel of her boot against the deck, as if mentally regrouping. “I said I’d take you to Banna, and I always stand by my obligations. But I’m doing it on one condition. I don’t need this man meddling in my life. So the deal is that you never disclose how you got to Banna. Not a word. Me—my ship—we don’t exist. Do I have your promise?”

“You have it, Captain Jordan.”

The skipper’s gaze cut to Taro, and her eyes flashed like pulsebeams. “Her word had better be good, for both your sakes.”

The bite of unease hit Taro in the sternum. Was this a mistake? His instincts had let him down before, and the last thing he wanted was to draw the wrath of Dava Jordan or jeopardize his gig on Calypso. Being navigator of this exceptional ship meant a lot to him.

***
Adini prayed Jaeo Gant would honor his obligations. Lords knew he owed Carbin Kemm more than a few favors. Just last month, her father had secured a Network shipment brought in by Captain Jagger, a hotshot Carduwan officer who’d run afoul of Ithian intelligence. When Jaeo Gant arrived to procure the booty and smuggle it off-planet, he’d been lavish with his praise to her father.

Her dad had always been steadfastly devoted to the cause. Now Adini would find out if the Network would be equally loyal in return.
 
Calypso’s air jets blasted, bringing the ship to hover just above the well-maintained landing pad. Three ground tugs scuttled over to ferry the ship to her assigned bay, which turned out to be at the extreme outer fringes of the spaceport. Clearly, the captain was attempting to slip her remarkable vessel into a quiet berth, unnoticed.

At least Banna was a safe haven from Ithian interference. No Ithian tactical squad would be storming the hangar to arrest Captain Jordan for the non-authorized launch back on Carduwa.

But that stunt might well catch up with her one day…

With the rear atmospheric drive still winding down, Captain Jordan and Taro appeared in the portal room. Adini’s heart fluttered at the sight of him, looking so handsome and capable in the fresh black uniform. His gaze touched hers briefly before dropping to his deck boots. She regretted the shadow of unease she saw in his deep russet eyes.

Katrina chattered a happy greeting, now returned to her familiar spot, balancing on Adini’s left shoulder.

“Package delivered,” the skipper said. “Time to settle up so we can be on our way.”

Captain Jordan seemed more than eager to depart, and nothing about Taro’s expression said he would do anything other than leave with Calypso. And why shouldn’t he? What they’d shared together had been crazy-impetuous, not binding.
 
“Twenty thousand replas, Captain.” Adini transferred the data from her wristchip to the captain’s receiver.

“Pleasure doing business, Miss Kemm,” the skipper replied. “Good luck to you.” Captain Jordan nodded toward the airlock.

“Captain,” Taro interjected. “I’m going with her. I want to be sure she finds this Gant fellow.”

Adini sucked in a silent breath. This she hadn’t expected.

The captain quirked an eyebrow and studied him a full tempa before she looked away and answered, “That’s your call to make, Nav.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I know she’s in good hands.”

Adini eased out her breath when Captain Jordan gave her wave of dismissal. She glanced at Taro, but he’d already turned back toward the airlock.
 
What Went Wrong?

Again, this blunder was subtle but it's clearly there on the page. Captain Jordan makes it painfully clear she wants nothing to do with the man Adini is seeking for help in rescuing her father--she doesn't want her name or her ship so much as mentioned.

"Me--my ship--we don't exist."

Captain Jordan is not happy Taro wants to escort Adini to find the man, but she allows him to go.

And that's where the problem lies.

Why?

Because: "Adini’s heart fluttered at the sight of him, looking so handsome and capable in the fresh black uniform."

Another forehead-smacker.

How invisible is Captain Jordan and her ship going to be if Taro escorts Adini to him wearing his Calypso navigator's uniform?

Whoopsie!

The scene required some editing to have Taro change back into his street clothes, so he wouldn't be identified as belonging to the crew of a captain who obviously knows Jaeo Gant and wants to ensure the man knows nothing about her involvement. Taro showing up in his uniform clearly didn't work.

And here I pause to laugh at myself for not catching that in the original story.

I hope to have more snippets or bloopers soon, but in the meantime, you can catch up on these two previously posted scenes from the coming book if you haven't yet read them:

All New Scene: Nebula Encounter  A newly written scene

Meet the Hero: Star Navigator Taro Shall  Introduction to the hero and his background


Have a great week!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

RELEASE DAY: NOT FADE AWAY!


The wait is finally over! You can officially order your copy of Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4 from Amazon TODAY in both Kindle and paperback versions!

Here’s a little taste from early in this story of the challenge “retired” Rescue agent Rafe Gordon faces when he must hide his legendary father Del from alien assassins—in the last place anyone would look, a small town on Earth.

     Rafe stood awkwardly in the kitchen, trying to stay out of the way while Charlie put things on a tray for Del. He didn’t dare leave her to her thoughts about what Del had said about the psoros. But how to approach it? Damn it, he was no freaking diplomat.
     Just before she picked up the tray, Rafe put a hand on her forearm. “I, uh, I heard what Del said as I was coming in—about the things—whatever he calls ’em?” He wouldn’t reinforce the alien word in her mind; he hoped she’d forget it.
     “Yeah, what was that all about?”
     The bright, curious look she got on her face did something to him. The way she held her head slightly to one side, causing her hair to fall over one shoulder. That long, silky hair.
     Shalssit! Focus, asshole. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He gets like that. God knows where he gets half the stuff he says.”
     Her brows came together. “That’s what worries me, Rafe. The usual dementia patient doesn’t just make stuff up. Their delusions are based somewhere in their memories or experience. If he’s truly inventing creatures we’ve never seen before and making up names in his own languages for them, he might have been misdiagnosed.”
     Crap—now he’d opened up a leaky photon tube. Rafe fought to keep his voice level, his demeanor calm. He had to manage this before things got out of hand. Rayna had apparently gone out of her way to find the smartest—and sexiest—nurse on the damn planet.
     Rafe gave her his most disarming grin. “Or it could be all those crazy science fiction shows he used to watch on television. He’d still be watching every space adventure and mad scientist flick he could get his eyes on if I’d let him. I put a stop to it. Gives him ideas.”
     Her mouth opened to reply, then closed, and a blush crept up her neck to her cheeks. Her gaze met his for a moment longer than was strictly appropriate—the blue of her planet’s seas, roiled now with an emotion he didn’t quite understand. Maybe he should try smiling more often.
     “Um, okay, yes, maybe,” she said at last. She picked up the tray and took it out to the little round table between the kitchen and the open living room that served as their dining room. She set Del up there with his food and gave him his meds. Del took them from her without complaint and started in on the sandwich. At his side, the dog sat waiting for anything that might accidentally fall to the floor.
     Rafe’s anxiety dissolved. This was good, better than he could have hoped, and well worth dodging a few questions now and again. The Old Man was calm. Content. Rafe might even get used to the dog—eventually.
     If he could just stop thinking of Charlie that way, things would be perfect.
     He sighed and turned back to the kitchen to make himself some food. But what he found on the counter was not entirely recognizable, even if it had come out of his own refrigerator. The advance team had done the provisioning, and beyond cooking up some eggs this morning he hadn’t examined what was to be had.
     “Need help?” Charlie smiled at him, as if she saw his confusion.
     She was standing too close, putting his body at war with his pride. “I, uh, I don’t spend much time in a kitchen.” He could only hope what was generally true of men in his rough-and-tumble universe was also true of men on Earth. Though he suspected most of them could probably accomplish lunch.
     Her eyebrows shot up. “Um, okay. Why don’t you keep your dad company while I make you a sandwich? Mind if I join you?”
     “What? Oh, sure, help yourself.” It hadn’t occurred to him that she might be hungry. Though her dog was certainly making it clear he was eager for a taste of the Old Man’s lunch.
     Charlie noticed, too. “Happy! Quit begging. Lie down.”
     The dog huffed and lay down. He put his head on his paws and pretended to take no more interest in the human proceedings.
     Rafe smiled. “You spoiled his fun.”
     “He’d eat constantly if I let him.”
     “You seem . . . attached.” The relationship was a mystery. He’d seen people who were fond of their pet cats (or ships, or home planets), but he’d never understood it. It seemed like a waste of emotional energy to him, and he had none to spare.
     “I don’t know what I’d do without him.” Her voice had dropped; he had to lean in to hear her. “He’s a rescue dog—got him from the pound down in Masey—but I always say he’s the one that rescued me.” She lifted her chin and smiled. “And you see how he is with people like your dad. They all love him, and he loves them back. He makes my work so much easier.”
     He caught the attempt to divert him. “He rescued you? From what?”
     She let go a breath. “Huh. Well, that’s a long story for another time.” She handed him a plate with two “sandwiches”—meat and vegetables between two slices of bread, with two kinds of sauce on it, one white, one yellow. He realized again how hungry he was.
     “Thank you.” He met her gaze. “For everything. I guess you’ve decided to take the job.”
     She glanced at the table, where Del was feeding the last of his sandwich meat to the dog, and laughed. “Yes. I don’t think Happy would allow me to say no.”


Cheers, Donna

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