Monday, October 19, 2015

The Outer Planets: From the Cutting Room Floor

I'm currently in deep edits on my second SFR novel, The Outer Planets, which  makes blogging a bit of a juggling act. The idea for this blog is the result.

Turns out the story is just a little too ambitious--by about two POVs and a secondary romance. So guess what? Time to slash and burn through the manuscript to create the new improved product, which means trashing a whole lot of word count. (Which is actually a good thing, because at over 118,000 words, the original story was just too long and complex.)

I totally understand and agree with my editors guidance, though as you writers out there know, that doesn't make it any less painful. After all, I've been carefully nurturing and growing each scene for the better part of a decade. It's really, really hard to send them to oblivion.

As a final farewell, I thought I'd share one of the cut scenes in this budding-but-troubled romance between two supporting characters.

Meet "Chief" Greg Farr, the head of security on the planetary exploration vessel NSS Robert Bradley. He's also an inspector in the RCMP--Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Yup, he's a Mountie in spaaaaaaace.

His love interest? Elena Stevens, a wise-cracking, happy-go-lucky med tech (the futuristic equivalent of a nurse-slash-physician's assistant) in the ship's Medical section, more popularly known as Med Bay. Elena is Hispanic and hails from San Antonio, Texas. (She's also a huge Spurs fan. Yeah, I'm making a gamble that the Spurs are still alive and kickin' in the early 2040s.)

Although Greg and Elena will remain as major supporting characters in the story, their personal relationship has met with a very large axe. Their love is now a funeral pyre that's been cut adrift.

Here's an exclusive look at some of the material that won't make it into the novel.


Elena gave a light knock on Greg’s cabin door. She wasn’t sure yet how she was going to broach the topic, but she’d ensure there was no misunderstanding, unlike the last time.

            The seal opened. Greg stood inside.

            “Are we still on for lunch?” she asked.

            “Of course. Come in.”

            She moved into his cabin and noted the lighting was set low. Not for the usual reasons, she was sure.

She saw the table set in his galley with an acrylic pitcher holding real flowers at its center.  She jerked her head his way. “Orange blossoms?”

            “From Biodeck. Courtesy of Carlene.”

            She knew Carlene adored Greg, but she hadn’t expected that to be a problem for her.

            She rested her hands on the back of the chair. “Nice of her.”

            “She’s a good friend.”

            And an adoring fan. That thought brought another pang. Damn, what’s up with this?

            “Do you like Brown Trout?” Greg asked.

            “Love it. Especially fresh-caught, from a cold-running stream.”

            “Best I can do is the soy-based facsimile,” he said. “You like to fish?”

            “I grew up fishing. My dad taught me.”

            “Mine, too.” He turned the swivel chair out for her. She sat and watched as he moved to the wall bench and got settled. For a big man, he had an agile grace that made it hard not to stare. She was glad he seemed more at ease than he had been in the lift earlier that morning.

            “I usually say grace first,” he said. “Do you mind?”

            “Please do.”

            He muttered a soft homily of thanks for the food, a safe mission, and for the company of a friend. 

Elena raised her eyes to his when he finished and echoed his amen. 

            She poked at the alternative Brown Trout, green beans and mashed potatoes as Greg tucked into his meal, and wondered where to start. At least he’d opened the door part way. No need to resort to a battering ram.

            “I’m sorry I dropped the bombshell on you when I asked you to my quarters. I totally misread…things.”

            “I know.” He speared more Trout with his fork. “Sorry for my knee-jerk reaction. You took me by surprise.”

            “I’m sorry about that, too.” 

            He took another bite, then laid down his fork and raised the napkin to wipe his mouth. “So why did you invite me to your cabin that night?” The look in his lagoon blue eyes told her plenty—a subtle glint of curiosity cut by the shadow of regret.

            Elena took a sip of her iced tea. “I wanted to ask you a few questions about your case.”

            “You mean the Verela Incident?”

            “Is that what the powers-that-be are calling it?” Elena poked at the Trout with her fork and took a bite. Not bad for artificial soy-based trout 400 million miles from the nearest clear-running stream. “Okay. May I ask you a couple of questions about the 'Incident'?”

“I’m sorry, Elena, I can’t help you. Any information having to do with Verela is strictly confidential.”

“I understand. You have a duty to keep information you learn as a part of your job confidential. And being a member of Med Bay, I have that same responsibility. Unless by exchanging information we can help each other.”

            His blue eyes darkened to a deep shade of caution. “In what way?” 

            Elena took a sip of her iced tea. “The subject did not have astroclaustrophobia. He did, however, pose a significant threat to the Bradley.”

            “And you know this…how?”

            “I work in Med Bay, Greg. I’m privy to a lot of scuttlebutt.”

            “You’re side-stepping my question. How do you know that for a fact?”

            She plucked one of the delicate orange blossoms from the vase and inhaled its scent, catching and holding his gaze over the table. “You realize your response just validated my suspicions.”

            Greg frowned. “You were fishing?”

            “Not exactly.” Elena eased back in her seat. “But, Inspector, I don’t believe you’re being provided all the facts. I think you’re being stonewalled. My guess is command is deliberately withholding information. Even from you, the head of Security. There’s more to the story than they’re telling you. The safety of this crew is in both our job descriptions, so I’m proposing we forge a little fact-sharing partnership.” She tucked the blossom behind her ear. “Care to hear me out?”
            He raised his ocean blue gaze to her face. His eyes were amazing. He must have been one hell of an interrogator, because she was sure he registered every nuance in her expression, every little fleeting telltale thought. She felt her cheeks heat. Hopefully not every thought.
His expression softened. His lips parted. “Okay, I’m listening,” he said.


Hope you enjoyed this brief foray onto the NSS Robert Bradley to meet Elena and Greg. Let me know what you think of one of my favorite couples-who-will-never-be. (Or will they? There's always a sequel. ::: wink, wink :::)

I hope to be back soon with a Siskel and Ebert style review of The Martian, another in the Sci-Fi movie review series with co-blogger Donna S. Frelick.

Have a great week!

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