The construction of a series is always a complicated task, involving a growing ensemble cast and a multitude of bit players. My SFR Interstellar Rescue series has certainly been no exception, the world I’m building becoming more detailed as I go along. I’m discovering, too, that some of my newer cast members need more than a little bit of “wrangling.”
My latest novel, Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Book 4 (on pre-order now on Amazon), stars some familiar characters from my previous books in addition to my new romantic couple, Rescue agent Rafe Gordon and home care nurse Charlie McIntyre. That was difficult enough to pull off. But a few unique secondary characters in this book took special handling to get just right on the page.
Happy, the therapy dog. I introduced Happy in a previous blog post here on Spacefreighters. He was a lot of fun to write, but he was a character in his own right, too, with his own consistent personality and behavior based on his breed and background. I wanted to make sure Happy acted like a real dog, not a Hollywood idea of a dog. I asked my friend Beki Weight, who has years of dog training and fostering experience, to read my manuscript. Her input was invaluable in molding Happy into a believable character.
Del Gordon, father of the hero. The premise of Not Fade Away is that Rescue agent Rafe Gordon must bring his father, legendary alien fighter Del, now suffering from dementia, to Earth to hide him from alien assassins. Depicting Del in a respectful, yet realistic, way was not easy.
I was acutely aware every minute I spent with Del that many of my readers deal with this challenge every day in real life, caring for mothers and fathers, husbands and wives with the heartbreak of Alzheimers, of other forms of dementia, or of traumatic brain injury. To get it right, I did as much research as I could on the specific form of dementia that affects Del (Lewy Body—characterized especially by hallucinations, which figure in the story), and I drew on my years of experience teaching chi gung to dementia patients and assisted-living residents.
BiN, a sentient computer. At least for Happy or the elderly Del I only had to worry about characterization from the outside. That is, I didn’t attempt to write from either the dog’s POV or the elderly Del’s. (There is extensive flashback material from Del’s younger perspective, though, from a time when his mind was intact.)
Building a POV for the character of BiN, the sentient computer, was necessary, since no one else knows what BiN knows of the story. The creature/machine doesn’t become sentient all at once. Like a child, it develops a sense of itself gradually as it accumulates information. And as it accumulates even more information and becomes more curious, it acquires a sense of ethics and morality, a development that was never contemplated or expected by its creators. That’s a major twist in the plot, so must come from BiN’s POV. I had to make it believable, which I just have to hope it is. Not being a programmer, I faked it pretty hard, but real programming language would probably have sent every other reader to sleep within seconds!
The good thing about writing challenges is that they make for an exciting reading experience in the end. Pre-order your copy of Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4 today so you’ll be ready to experience it June 12!
Earth shielded his secrets--
Until her love unlocked his heart.
Rescue agent Rafe Gordon is human, though Earth has never been his home. But when his legendary father Del becomes the target of alien assassins, Rafe must hide the dementia-debilitated hero in the small mountain town where the old man was born—Masey, North Carolina, USA, Earth.
Home care nurse Charlie McIntyre and her therapy dog, Happy, have never had such challenging clients before. Del’s otherworldly “episodes” are not explained by his diagnosis, making Charlie question everything about her mysterious charge and his dangerously attractive son. Rafe has the answers she needs, but Charlie will have to break through his wall of secrets to get them.
As the heat rises between Charlie and Rafe, the deadly alien hunters circle closer. The light they seek to extinguish flickers in the gloom of Del’s fading mind—the memory of a planet-killer that threatens to enslave the galaxy.
Available for pre-order now on Amazon.