Monday, January 22, 2018

Thank You Pets in Space--and Godspeed

As I previously announced, my run with the Pets in Space anthologies has now ended. I've opted out of writing for a third collection in 2018, in favor of working on more books in my own series. I found the time commitment involved in launching a major campaign to promote the anthology plus produce more of my own work is just a bit too overwhelming for this writer.

So even though it was a tremendously rewarding experience--not to mention nabbing me a USA TODAY bestseller status--I had to make a choice to do one or the other. And my choice was...the other.

So the time has come to part ways with the wonderful world of PISA, because a decision was made to cut the run shorter than the original anticipated April 2018 end date, so the print book will be going off sale any time now (it may have already been pulled as of the time this blog posts) and the digital book will disappear forever *poof* by the end of January.

(That's a not-so-subtle hint that this is your last chance to grab a copy if you're so inclined.)

Apart from all the knowledge and experience I gained in marketing and promotion, thanks to the wonderful Narelle Todd of, my two stories in this pet project (heh, see what I did there?) actually put a spectral shift on my entire series.

Back in late 2015, when I was asked if I wanted to be a part of an anthology built around the central concept of pets--in spaaaaaaace (Oh, heck yes, I did!) it actually turned out to be a couple of parsecs beyond "the right decision." I'm super happy I took part in the grand experiment, not only because it was so well received by readers, but also because it allowed me to create actual stories out of some of the backmatter that only existed in my head.

The two stories I ended up penning in 2016 and 2017 evolved into Inherited Stars Series books, and allowed me to give readers an expanded view into the fictional universe, as well as reveal a few surprises. Here's a couple of major things that happened in the course of writing the stories.

And Then There Were Four: Revealing the Unexpected

The established "quo" in the novel, Inherit the Stars, suggested that there were only two known surviving Mennelsohn prototypes--Specter and the ship designer's-slash-visionary's final product, Spirit. Since Zaviar Mennelsohn is deceased in the novel's timeline, it's clear there will be no more vessels of their kind produced in the future.

But that didn't eliminate all the options from the past.

Get it on Instafreebie
StarDog in the original Pets in Space collection allowed me to expand on a storyline that was only briefly mentioned in the novel: Whatever happened to Jaeo Gant's original ship?

In Inherit the Stars readers learn that Jaeo Gant is actually a Mennelsohn--Zaviar's brother. More importantly, like his niece, Captain Drea, and nephew, Admiral Ry, he once had a Mennelsohn prototype of his own. In fact, it was a "P" class vessel, just one generation removed from Specter and Spirit--the two state-of-the-art "S" class ships--though her name was later changed to help disguise her...and her new captain.

I should slip in an aside here and mention that although Pets in Space 1 is no longer available, StarDog as a standalone short is still currently offered on Instafreebie, but the promotion will end in the very near future. Originally slated to run with Pets in Space 2 until the end of April, the decision to end the PISA2 sooner means the StarDog free promotion will also end. With approaching 2000 copies downloaded, it's been a popular offering.

In the second Pets story, Courting Disaster: StarDog 2 in the just-about-to-end collection, readers are let in on another secret. There's a fourth surviving Mennelsohn craft, a much earlier prototype that was discovered in ship's graveyard and brought back from the dead. (This was actually a bit of a surprise for the author as well, since this facet hadn't originally been a planned part of the series, but one that evolved organically in creating Courting Disaster.)

In fact, this vessel is a "B" class--the original working prototype--has a long and colorful history of her own. A history that just might be explored in future books. *winkwink*

In time, the significance of both of these newly discovered Mennelsohn ships will be brought into much sharper focus.

The StarDog Effect

I recently had a reader ask why there were no StarDogs in Inherit the Stars. I had a good chuckle at that.

The simple answer is because the role of the StarDog wasn't originally planned although some form of StarDog-ish pet was always a part of the arc. Creating these two anthology stories with a futuristic pet as a focus helped evolve this generic shipboard mascot into the remarkable little bio-engineered beastie it became.

Adding StarDogs to my universe led to a few series-altering changes. For example, how does the heroine come by such an exotic animal? Surely they’d be expensive. What was the backstory of my StarDog?

As those ideas began to unfold, the entire series evolved with it.

New characters appeared, such as the scientist who bio-engineered StarDogs and his covert affiliation with an organization that played an important role in the companion novel, Inherit the Stars--the Network. (That affiliation ended up putting the hero and heroine of StarDog in great jeopardy.)

Fresh conflicts sparked; StarDogs were employed as spies on enemy ships.

Lurking dangers threatened; those enemies sought to wipe out the StarDog lab.

The finished StarDog story was one I was truly proud of but that also added some unexpected twists and layers to the whole storytelling arc behind the series.

Courting Disaster: StarDog 2 wasn't a prequel to the novel, but a sequel--picking up where StarDog and Inherit the Stars left off and allowing me to take readers three calendars (years) into a brave, but uncertain new future beyond the close of the novel.

And to introduce a new StarDog to the series.

So don't be too surprised if at least one more StarDog turns up in a future work. Yup, StarDog Effect. :)

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Both of the Pets in Space works allowed me to open the door a bit wider into the Inherited Stars universe, as well as lay the foundation for future books. Both novellas will be expanded and re-released as standalones because the stories have now become important components in the overall series.

Working on the two anthologies also gave me an opportunity to get to know a host of other SFR authors much better, including a few bestsellers and at least one former idol. The peer relationships have been golden. I'll very much miss the daily background conversations that have been so much a part of my life for the last two years, and I'm sure I'll keep in close touch with several peers going forward.

So thank you Pets in Space for being the amazing experience that you were. I'll miss being a part of the next collection, but I have other stories that are waiting to be told.

Have a wonderful week.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Greetings from my cave.

It’s nice and warm in here, if a bit confining. I have all I need, at least for the moment—food, drink, entertainment, husband, cats. I’m good in here until I’m forced to take out the garbage—and forage for cat food.

Outside, the third snow of this winter of our discontent covers the slopes of the mountain. It’s been well below freezing for more than a week (and don’t even ask about the wind chill factor), so the few inches that fell on Tuesday night haven’t yet begun to melt in the thin sunlight. This kind of winter wonderland would be situation normal in Wisconsin or Michigan or Maine. But here in North Carolina, well below the Mason-Dixon line, we just aren’t used to slogging through the snow to get to our ice-encrusted vehicles, or driving over the snowpack to reach the grocery store. 

In the south, as the rest of you probably know from watching the nightly TV news, we have two options when the winter weather turns bad: hunker down in our caves and wait until it warms up (my choice), or take our lives in our hands out on the slippery roads with our fellow citizens who don’t know how to drive in these conditions, resulting in massive pileups in three inches of snow. Even NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wrecked his car in North Carolina this week, in less snow than the residents of Montana see come down in an hour. The story was he was stopping to help someone else who had slid off the highway. No good deed goes unpunished.

But the weather is not the only reason to stay inside until spring. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, this year’s flu season is already shaping up to be “moderately severe,” though some states, like California and Texas, are suffering an unusually high number of cases. The more virulent H3N2 strain is widespread across the entire United States (except Hawaii), accompanied here and there by pockets of H1N1 and Influenza B. This year’s flu vaccine is said to be no better than a 30 percent match for the predominant strain, though vaccination will reduce the severity of the disease no matter what strain you catch.

As usual, young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to the deadly complications of flu (pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis). But the highly publicized flu deaths of a ten-year-old boy from New Jersey, a healthy young bodybuilder in Pennsylvania and a middle-aged marathoner/mother of three in California have captured the public’s attention. In all three cases, the victims had sought medical attention early, but succumbed anyway.

Between this very scary flu and a killer cold that has been sweeping through the Marshall community sickening people for weeks at a time, I’m afraid to leave my cave at all. And with the howling wind blowing snow into sparkling drifts outside my (double-glazed) windows, I just don’t see the need to do so. At least until the kibble runs out. Maybe in April.

Cheers, Donna

*Information for this post taken from "Questions and Answers About This Year's Flu Season," by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. The NY Times, January 18, 2018.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A brand new book

It has been a while since I've written a book. In the last six months or so I've done a fair amount of traveling and when I travel, I record the journey in blogs on my own website. They take a fair amount of work, because I research what I write, giving links to the history of places, and links to confirm I'm not making things up. I also incorporate my photographs (and some of Peter's, when he's taken pics of things I never thought worthy of pointing my camera at them).

But the thing about writing is that it's like an addiction. I won't say I find writing easy - I don't. Picking the right words, recomposing a bland sentence, getting the tone right. The hardest part, though, is coming up with the story. That's the thing that makes people continue to read after lights out, using a torch in their blanket fort. I used to do that. You don't do it for blah books that you can pick up tomorrow.

The last book I wrote was For the Greater Good. I've promised to write a sequel, and I will. But I figured it would be nice to have a headstart. I had two unfinished docs where I'd run out of steam, and thought maybe I could refurbish one of them for Puss, Tian, and Brent. I'd gone a long way with making changes before I realized I was enjoying the story (from three years ago) just the way it was. So, I'm sorry Puss, but you'll have to wait. I'm writing a sequel to Kuralon Rescue.

The book will be stand-alone, but I won't deny it will help if readers have read Kuralon Rescue. Three of the four main characters are introduced in that book. It's a kind of 'origin' novel, like the movie Wonder Woman showed how she became a super hero. I'd always intended to write more than one book about Morgan's Misfits (my three main characters) but my ideas have shifted since I wrote that first book. Still, essentially the three main characters are misfits within the strictly structured social system of the Morgan Selwood universe. They're not supposed to get along, but they do. And while they're doing that they actually demonstrate the strength of their rigid social system - because each of them has different skill sets which make up a greater whole. It's only when the rules become cages that the system falls apart.

Anyway, that's what I'm writing. For now, you can catch up with the background - or the origin story, if you like - by reading a bit from Kuralon Rescue.

Kuralon Rescue

Follow your heart. You never know where it might lead you.

Jirra’s on the run, Siena’s rescuing her lover, Toreni wants Master Chef status and Chet wants her reputation back. Four women, four goals, and one very small ship. Add a fleet request to free a rebel, the promise of little to no help and a caste-defined society simmering with discontent on the edge of explosion.

Now, on their own, they’re staging an escape from a backwater prison planet and navigating the murky terrain of dreams forbidden by the rigid caste system underpinning their culture.

Success demands more than team work. They’ll have to jettison their own prejudices and forge relationships free of the rules and caste lines.

There’s more than just lives at stake. There’s dreams and a possible tomorrow more fragile than gossamer.

 Here's a snippet where the four women in the adventure first get together. They've thwarted an attempt to steal their ship, docked at a space port.

"So how did you get involved with us?" Jirra asked. "Was Toreni involved?"
"I met Chet on the way down the spoke," Toreni said from the galley. "I asked her where she was going, and she said she was following our little friends. So I asked why and we worked out we were headed for the same place. Then we had to find a way to get in without warning them, because the bay door locks behind people."
"How did you?" Jirra asked.
Chet cleared her throat. "Shall we say I collected a few souvenirs from my police days? Like an all-purpose key to the bay doors?"
Delectable smells drifted out of the galley. Jirra's stomach rumbled. "So how did you realize Gundar was going to steal our ship?"
"I've come across Rison and his fine friend before. Rison's a dodgy pilot who hires out, no questions asked. They were in a pub last evening, a place I go to now and then." Chet rubbed her mouth. "They seemed to be very pleased with themselves, so I nursed my drink and eavesdropped." She grinned. "I have some little helpers for that sort of thing."
"Like what?" Siena asked.
"Tiny robots. They look like insects. You fly them to land somewhere close to the target. In this case, on the edge of their table." Chet pointed at her ear. "I wear an ear piece."
 "Anyway, Rison mentioned Gundar and a job, and I got interested. I heard enough to know it was an APSS-50, and much gloating over a couple of additional assets. The hit was going down tomorrow some time. I still know a few people. I found out where any APSS-50s were in dock, and where they were. I figured Gundar would be doing engineering on the ship, he always does the work himself when it's a grab for a ship. That way, his regular workers don't know anything about his illegal activities, and he can still run a legitimate business. I waited for him in the food hall, then followed him down the spoke to the bay. Once I knew which ship I went back to the access doors to wait for Rison and his mate. Toreni must have caught the travelator just after me, because she caught up with me."
"Like I said before, I've known Chet for a couple of years," Toreni stood over the stove, stirring. "I'd heard what happened to her, and the talk was she'd been set up. I wondered where she was going, so I caught up with her. I've come across Rison, too. And his buddy, Grelf. Grelf's a real piece of work. Spends a lot of time in the brothels and the girls have told me he's kinky, and he's rough."
Jirra shuddered again. Grelf's words rang in her ears. 'We can have a little taste while we're underway.'
"Well, I have to say I'm delighted you followed the skike." Siena scowled. "But I'm sorry I lost a thousand credits to him."
"We kept his toolkit," Jirra said. "I haven't had time to look in it yet, but from what I saw when he was working on the engines, there's some pretty classy gear there."
Siena looked down her nose. "Is it worth a thousand credits?"
Jirra grinned. "Probably not. But he did do the service as required. My guess is he's a good engineer."
"He is." Chet turned to Toreni. "That smells wonderful. I didn't know you could cook."
Toreni cocked an eyebrow. "How 'bout that? It'll be another half hour."
"Let's celebrate with a glass of wine." Siena jumped out of her seat. "Everyone happy with red?"
"I'll pass," Chet said. "But I'm happy to drink a glass of water."
Siena turned to look at her. "Oh, come on. One glass. We have beer and some brandy if you'd prefer."
Chet shook her head.
Siena shrugged in that 'suit yourself' way, and poured three glasses of deep red wine. She handed one to Jirra, before taking one herself. "Toreni?"
"Can you bring it here? I can't leave this sauce."
Siena pursed her lips.
Jirra picked up the third glass and set it on a bench close enough to Toreni for her to reach. Stirring the steaming pot with one hand, Toreni lifted the glass and sniffed. "Nice." She sipped a mouthful, holding the wine in her mouth, her cheeks ballooning in and out. "Good choice, Siena. You can taste the fruit, and it has a lovely finish."
Jirra concentrated on her glass while she worked hard at containing her amusement. Toreni was full of surprises.

 You can buy Kuralon Rescue at iBooks Amazon Kobo  B&N

 I'll be sure to let you know how I'm getting on with the sequel. I might even share a few bits here and there.

And here's a picture of a flying osprey. Yes, I took it.

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