Saturday, February 27, 2021

Final Reminder! Pets in Space 5 is Leaving Us!

*tick tick tick tick*

I don't want to panic anyone, but it's almost THAT TIME! 

It's been another fantastic run with Pets in Space, this year with volume number 5. 

This year's collection earned several #1 spots on Amazon as well as other vendors, and garnered over 380 reviews, the vast majority 5 STARS!

But after today, February 28th, it's gone forever...

   and will never be offered again!

So here's a huge thanks to all the wonderful Pets in Space readers and fans who keep coming back year-after-year to support Hero Dogs with their purchases while enjoying a ton of great reading!

So one last time...

12 great Science Fiction Romance stories

12 different award-winning and bestselling authors

12 different SFR series

ONE DAY to grab it before it goes * POOF * into the shadow universe forevah! 

Grab a bit of SFR history for the price of a cup of coffee before it's gone!

Available at most vendors here: Pets in Space Antho

(P.S. CaSandra the StarDog of Juggernaut bids you all a fond farewell!)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Settings in the Stars

M24 - Small Sagittarius star cloud

I was a science fiction reader before I dipped my toe into the vast ocean of romance. More than that, I like space opera. Yes, I'm a Star Wars fan, despite the rather ordinary science. What attracts me is the aliens and the space ships and the amazing different worlds out there. And after all, with current estimates for the number of habitable worlds in the Milky Way – those with liquid water – at up to five billion (New Scientist Nov 2020), why not?

Although my Ptorix Empire series and Morgan Selwood series are set in an indeterminate part of the galaxy, when I decided to write stories for the Dryden franchise, I wanted somewhere real in our very own Milky Way. My Dryden stories had an Empire and a number of sentient aliens, some space-faring, some not. I wanted a region of real space where the planets were closer together so that a cohesive Empire could form.

Accordingly, I did some homework on star clusters. Globular clusters, it seemed, were not the best fit. The stars are very old first generation, and gravitationally bound to each other. Current knowledge suggested that mitigates against planetary systems, both because of the forces, and also because the material from which planets (and we humans) are formed comes from supernova debris, and these clusters are poor in such material.

However, open clusters are very different. The stars are younger, without being too young for planetary systems to have formed. They form in the usual stellar nurseries like the gas clouds of the mighty Orion Nebula. From there, they remain in a more 'open' gravitational relationship until they leave home on their own. Our sun was probably part of an open cluster when it was a teenager. You can find out more about open clusters here.

I eventually settled on M24. According to the article in the Messier objects website, M24 is in the constellation Sagittarius and it's pretty big - ten to sixteen thousand light years across. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of stars in there, relatively close together, so it seems to be an ideal place for an author to set up a civilization. Yay me.

But then I discovered that M24 isn't any sort of cluster. It's a window. This 8 minute video explains it better than I could (well worth a watch if you like astronomy).

So my Dryden Universe books are set in somewhere a lot like the previous understanding of M24. It's fiction, after all.

NGC 1980 *

 I used another open cluster for my Ptorix Empire book, The Stuff of Legend. For the purposes of my story I wanted the gas clouds that you see around Orion as part of the legends associated with my cluster. I went back to research, and discovered that an open cluster that had been thought to be part of the Orion Nebula, was in fact a different entity, situated in front of the nebula. Here's the story of NGC 1980.  It was perfect. So my story takes place with regard to a star cluster that has some similarities to NGC 1980.

I love astronomy.

* NGC 1980 photo By Donald Pelletier - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Friday, February 19, 2021


In today’s science lesson, boys and girls, we’re going to review some basics that the writers of television science fiction seem to have forgotten. The shows I’m going to rant about are generally categorized as space opera—adventures set in space, sometimes with a military framework—and are among my favorites, but in a few cases, the writers just went too far with poetic license. That’s okay if you’re writing fantasy or paranormal, but in science fiction, the science should be a little more rigorous, even on TV.

Let’s start with The Expanse, the fifth season of which just concluded on Amazon Prime Video. There’s a lot to love about this series, based on the books by James S. A. Corey, starring Stephen Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham and Shohreh Aghdashloo. The ongoing political and shooting battles between three factions in the near future: Earthers (which include colonists and others on the moon), Martians (long-time colonists who are now independent of Earth) and Belters (independent spacers who make their living among the asteroid belts and outer planets of the solar system) are constantly entertaining and full of marvelous worldbuilding detail.

Why, then, do we always have to “hear” the roar of ships’ engines in the blackness of space (that is, from the external shots)? As the tagline to ALIEN so famously put it, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Vacuum can’t transmit sound; there aren’t enough molecules to vibrate to a level where humans can hear it. Those engine sounds would only be heard from inside the ships, if at all. Yet, every time we see those thrusters light up against the backdrop of black space, we hear a roar. No! They would be completely silent. Explosions: silent. If I remember correctly, even Classic TREK in the Sixties got this right, and certainly 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY did.

The writers on The Expanse just plain have a disregard for the dangers of vacuum. They insist on issuing projectile weapons to their crews despite the problems a wayward bullet would cause in a pressurized hull. It’s the future, after all! Give them lasers or proton pistols or something that won’t put a hole in your ship.

The Expanse is excellent, but tends to ignore vacuum.

Things finally came to a ridiculous head this season when somebody got the bright idea to send one of the main characters (Naomi Nagata, played by Dominique Tipper) out an airlock without so much as a rebreather or a light jacket. It was her idea, too, mind you, an escape to a ship tethered alongside the one where she was being held captive. O-k-a-a-y! Someone must have read the research that says an astronaut once lasted 14 seconds in near-vacuum in a testing situation when his suit sprang a leak. Wow! Plot bunny! So they shoved Naomi out an airlock with nothing, had her cross a catwalk to the other ship, open the other airlock and repressurize, all with few effects. No boiling eyeballs or saliva, passing out from lack of oxygen, “bends” from pressure changes, frostbite on various extremities from the extreme cold, etc. Sure, I believe that.

I guess the writer who researched the effects on the human body in a vacuum neglected to note that the astronaut who survived his accident was still wearing his suit (it just had a pin-sized hole) and had a team to revive him. The last thing he remembered before passing out was the saliva on his tongue boiling. Naomi was on her own—and, outside of a few aches and pains, was just fine!

This kind of thing makes me crazy, mostly because The Expanse offers itself as a science-based show. Star Trek, on the other hand, has always pushed the boundaries of what is considered acceptable science. It is true space opera, in that there is an element of the old “Buck Rogers” serials in it, and always has been. Still, the science in TREK has less of fantasy about it than some franchises, and a separate fandom has even arisen around the military structure of Starfleet (with fan groups organized in ships and in cordons of Starfleet “Marines.”)

This third season of the latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: Discovery, gave fans a lot to think about when heroine Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the U.S.S. Discovery leapt 930 years into their future to protect the secrets of the “spore drive” and time travel. They found a galaxy much changed from the one they knew. A galactic disaster called “the Burn” had rendered dilithium crystals inert, destroying all dilithium-dependent ships in a single stroke. As a result, Starfleet and the Federation all but crumbled overnight, leaving systems and planets prey to slavers and opportunists like the Orion-run Emerald Chain. Burnham had to find allies and connect with what’s left of the Federation, but first she had to find the Discovery, which somehow hadn’t followed the same flight path into the future as she had.

Though I missed the characters that drew me to the series in the first place—Captain Christopher Pike (the delectable Anson Mount of HELL ON WHEELS) and Spock of Vulcan (Ethan Peck)—this third season had plenty of new features (and characters) to keep me intrigued. The writers, though, made a couple of boneheaded mistakes that belong more in fan fiction than on national television.

The gentle Kelpien Saru (Doug Jones), for example, may be a fan favorite, but he is NOT captain material, as he showed multiple times this season. (Remember that episode of Classic TREK when Kirk was split into Nice Kirk and Evil Kirk and Nice Kirk made a lousy captain? Yeah. That’s Saru.) The writers did fix this mistake by the end of the season, in a very satisfying way (I won’t tell you how in case you haven’t seen it.)

But they allowed another major error to stand. You can never, ever, make an ensign First Officer, as they did here. As most of us know who have a military background, there is a command hierarchy that must be followed. People advance in their careers through the ranks. And an ensign is the lowliest officer rank aboard ship. Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has been an ensign for the duration of the show and saved the ship multiple times. (In that way, she’s the very definition of a Mary Sue, the minor female character in fan fiction that takes an overblown role.) I’m sure she’s a fan favorite. Please, for God’s sake, promote her. But don’t make her the First Officer, who answers only to the Captain.

At least that captain is now Michael Burnham, who, despite her flaws, has a commanding presence.

Cheers, Donna






Thursday, February 11, 2021

My Own Worst Enemy: Pantsing a Mystery #scifi

My writing style has always been chaotic. I don't write linearly, I don't plan, I don't even have a central theme in mind. I just write. Usually it's a handful of random scenes that may not even be the start and/or finish. These give me the bare bones of the story, which I then flesh out, which may involve swapping scenes around.

Bearing this in mind, a mystery running on a countdown to a fixed event may not be the best thing to attempt. However, my muse is as chaotic and capricious as my writing style. Back when I was trying to write some holiday themed stories while battling my own resistance to the concept of Christmas in Spaaaaaaace!, I switched to the idea of using astronomical events since so many were the basis for our pagan holidays that were later adopted by religion. Solstice on Vintro was meant to be a scifi romance...but it didn't work out that way. While it does have a love story at its heart, it's not what I would classify as a true romance. Instead, it became a mystery. Which was fine, except my writing method doesn't work particularly well when trying to build clues and deaths to a set finale. I'm not sure I could have made it much harder on myself!

So perhaps it's not surprising that completing the story has taken a mind-boggling seven years for a 30K novella. Yes, you read that right. SEVEN. YEARS. I have an email discussion with the cover artist dated 7th December 2013. That's what happens if you don't plan and don't write linearly and decide to write a damn mystery!

But if the pandemic had a bright side, finally completing this marathon of a story was part of it. After copious rereads with lists of what happens where and to who or what, it finally runs in a smooth chronological order.

But I'm never doing this again!

Vintro. The planet that had stolen all her dreams.

Melandria Solei has always dreamed of commanding a starship and exploring the universe. When her own dark-eyed older lover steals the position she's worked for, she never expects to go chasing after him in a stolen ship to a world colder than revenge...

Writing Update
The next side story in the Redemption series is due to release on the 20th of March this year, and the main book three is scheduled for edits in June. Eep! I still have a lot of unfinished pieces lying around that I'd like to get done, but although I'm currently off work again due to the pandemic, I am supposed to be working from home. So that's going to take priority...
Chook Update
While us humans are in lockdown, so are my girls due to avian influenza. So even though I'm home, the girls are confined to barracks. However, I am due to be having three new girls delivered in March/April - more bantams but this time a special breed that will lay eggs through the winter (unlike my current madams other than Pixie with her beautiful pale blue eggs), so I'm looking forward to that. Frankly, there's not much else to get excited about right now. Sigh.

Stay safe!

Friday, February 5, 2021

There's a New Captain Aboard! Carol Van Natta Takes Charge of the Pets in Space® Dynasty

If you've been keeping up with Science Fiction Romance news, you're probably aware that author Carol Van Natta will be taking the helm of the wonderfully successful Pets in Space® SFR franchise for 2021 and into the future. Carol is well known in the community and among readers as an established and popular author with several wonderful sci-fi romance series.

I wanted to ask Carol a few questions about this big transition and she graciously agreed to do an interview. Read on to hear what the new PISA Captain has to say and if you have anything special you'd like to ask her regarding Pets in Space®, be sure to post them in comments. 

Carol, first of all, many congratulations and kudos on assuming the reins of the Pets in Space
® dynasty. Can you talk a little more about how this all came about?

Thanks for your kind words. I'm excited and a bit intimidated at the same time. I have some very stylish shoes to fill.

The transition owes largely to serendipity and friendships. Pauline Baird Jones and Jean Walker (who writes as Veronica Scott) came up with a fabulous concept for Pets in Space®—even the name makes people smile. Add science fiction romance goodness and the excellent charity component, and it's a winner.

In the past (crazy) year, Pauline and Jean began looking for someone to take the helm, as it were, and my name came up via a mutual friend. I love the anthology, the charity, and the possibilities. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. Besides, my cats insisted the world desperately needs more stories with felines. Please don't tell them about the stories with non-cat heroes.

As a writer for three of the past five volumes of Pets in Space
®, what's your vision for the franchise going forward? Any surprises in store?

Pauline and Jean built a strong foundation and a devoted fan base. I've managed plenty of projects in my career, but never an anthology, so I know I have a learning curve. My plan for Pets in Space® 6 is to keep all the things readers love—favorite and new authors, brand new stories, pets, adventure, and science fiction romance.

I do have a few ideas for the future, but if I told you now, they wouldn't be surprises. 😸

Do you plan to continue with the usual involvement of 9-12 authors and the regular schedule of October releases for future Pets in Space® volumes, or will there be some "changing up" in the usual process? Do you also plan to continue to support the Hero Dogs charity with future releases?

Yes, I will be inviting 9 to 12 authors to participate in each anthology. As with the previous anthologies, some authors will be returning favorites, and some will be new. That number gives readers a nice buffet of stories to choose from without being overwhelming.

Unless the 2020 Calamity Fairy hangs around like a grumpy guest overstaying their visit, Pets in Space® 6 will release in October 2021. The October time frame has been good for the anthology. It will still be a limited edition, too, meaning it will leave the galaxy forever after a few months. It helps us maximize the donation amount for the charity, and quickly returns rights to the authors so they can do whatever they like with their stories.

And we will most definitely keep our relationship with the Hero Dogs charity for as long as they'll have us. Its mission to provide trained service dogs to disabled veterans and first-responders is a perfect match made in the stars for Pets in Space®. As a side note, I understand that you, Laurie, recommend the Hero Dogs charity and support them yourself, so kudos to you, too.

Pets in Space® 2: Embrace the Romance was the only volume ever released in a print version. Do you think any of the future collections might also be produced in a print version?

I am sentimentally fond of my only paperback copy of Pets in Space® 2, but it's a monster. Print books have a page limit, and every subsequent Pets in Space® volume has exceeded it by a goodly amount. I suppose we could print in tiny type and hand out magnifying glasses with each one, but I'm not sure how we'd package that. And the purchase price might be prohibitive, too.

All in all, I won't say "never," but I will say a future print version is unlikely. 

Is there anything else you'd like to say about your new role or the future of Pets in Space?

Please send black tea for me and cat toys to distract my felines. I have a feeling I'm going to need them.

Carol, I have a feeling you and Pets in Space® will have a long and happy voyage ahead. Many congratulations on taking the helm of this dynamic Science Fiction Romance anthology series, and thanks for chatting with us about its no-doubt bright future. 

Thanks for stopping by the Lounge today. 

If you'd like to learn more about Carol Van Natta, visit her website here: Carol Van Natta

You can also follow Carol at these book-centered sites:  

Goodreads         Bookbub

If you have any thoughts or questions for Carol, 
please post them in comments below. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

StoryBundle Offer – Including Pets in Space 5 and For the Greater Good

The OUR HEROES SCI-FI BUNDLE will be available for a few more days -- then it's gone!

See it here: The Our Heroes Sci-Fi Bundle – Curated by Melissa Snark

The hero is at the core of every great story—facing fierce foes, defying death, fighting for the greater good… 

The Our Heroes Sci-Fi StoryBundle celebrates the men and women who undertake an epic journey, sacrificing so that others may be spared pain and suffering.

Our collection features a robust range of science fiction books from subgenres ranging from space opera to time travel to galactic exploration. These novels have been handpicked based on their excellent reviews, professional editing and covers, and, of course, superior storytelling—all curated especially for you, our loyal readers.

Keeping with our heroic theme, a portion of our proceeds goes to benefit, a non-profit corporation that “improves quality of life for our nation’s heroes by raising, training, and placing service dogs and other highly skilled canines, free of charge with lifetime support of the partnerships.” – Melissa Snark

* * *

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. 

For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.
  • For the Greater Goodby Greta van der Rol
  • Pets in Space 5 edited by Pauline Baird Jones and including Juggernaut by Laurie A. Green
  • Command Decision by S.E. Smith
  • Star Cruise: Outbreak by Veronica Scott
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more! That’s 11 books total! 
  • One Two Punch by Pauline Baird Jones
  • Central Galactic Concordance Boxed Set by Carol Van Natta
  • The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren
  • Archangel Project by C. Gockel
  • Apocalypse How? by Galen Surlak-Ramsey
  • Abendau’s Heirby Jo Zebedee
  • The Auriga Project by M.G. Herron
This bundle is available only for a limited time via It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other e-readers via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books, and .pdf for half of them!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to gift cards which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Hero Dogs!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for and

For more information, visit our website at, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

Friday, January 29, 2021

BUILDING CHARACTER – Bringing People (And Aliens) to Life Through Words - Part 3

In Part 1of my Building Character blog posts, we discussed how a character’s unique traits will determine how they react to anything and everything in the story. I gave a list of 14 things that make a character unique. You can read that post here. In Part 2, we dove deeper into three of them: experiences, perspective, and beliefs. You can read that post here. In Part 3, let’s discuss the unique ways our characters can sense their world.  


Whether on Earth, another planet, or in a spaceship, your characters will sense their worlds differently. Everyone is familiar with the five basic senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But did you know there are other senses?  

Proprioception is the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. Dancers and athletes can be very in tune with where their body is in space.

Intuition is the ability to know something without any proof. It’s sometimes referred to as a “gut feeling,” “instinct,” or “sixth sense.” Right-brain people seem to be more intuitive because the right brain is visual and processes information in an intuitive way. Left-brain people processes things in an analytical or logical  way.

Sometimes, people don't even perceive senses the same way most of us do. People with synesthesia (si·nuh·stee·zhuh) can see sounds as colors or associate certain sights with smells. There’s a plot bunny for you!

Other senses your animal or alien characters could have are: 

Thermoception - the sensation and perception of temperature.
Magnetoception - ability to detect a magnetic field to perceive direction, altitude or location. In the Survival Race series my telepathic aliens are sensitive to EM Fields. It scrambles their brainwaves.
Echolocation - ability to determine orientation to objects through interpretation of reflected sound (like sonar).
Electroreception - ability to detect electric fields.
Infrared Sensing - ability to sense infrared thermal radiation
Hygrorecption - ability to detect changes in the environment’s moisture content.

I’m sure you can research even more. The point is to think about your characters and make them unique in how they sense the world around them.

How do your characters see their world? Do they notice geometric shapes and patterns? Do they notice color? Do they notice light and shadow? Do they see its beauty or the ugly in it? This can also stem from their perception, which we discussed in the earlier posts. Does your character not see the world at all?

Are your characters touchy/ feely? Do they hug everyone or touch others when they talk? Are they tactile or kinesthetic learners? Kinesthetic learners need to move. They wiggle, tap, swing their legs, bounce, and can’t seem to sit still. They learn through their bodies and their sense of touch. They have excellent “physical” memory. They learn by doing. They are often gifted in physical activities like running, swimming, dancing, and other sports. They are often coordinated and have excellent proprioception.

Do your characters have a heightened sense of smell? My daughter loves fragrance, essential oils, and men’s cologne. Some people don’t. If your character has animal traits—like a werewolf or dragon does—or your character is an animal, you’ll want to be sure to incorporate their strong sense of smell into their characterization.  

Have you given thought to your character’s taste? We tend to like the foods we grew up on because we’ve grown accustomed to those flavors. For example, Americans consume a lot of sugar. Japanese don’t. Therefore Japanese candies and cookies are not as sugary and sweet as American treats. I noticed this difference on my travels to Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa donuts are not as sweet as ours. Can your characters taste things that are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, savory, or maybe they can’t taste anything at all? I lost my sense of taste and smell when I had Covid-19. It was an odd sensation, but thankfully I got it back. Some people have more tastebuds than average and are called supertasters. What kinds of foods would your alien race eat if they were supertasters? What would they eat if they had no taste buds?

How does your character hear things? Let’s take music as an example, and I’m not referring just to what is pleasing to your ear or the kind you like: classical, rock, country, heavy metal, rap, reggae, etc. Did you know people listen to music differently? I didn’t learn this until my drummer son, who is 22 now, was a teenager in high school. He loved heavy metal music and wanted me to listen to some with him. After a few minutes this was our exchange.

Me:  “These lyrics are terrible.”
Son:  “Oh, I don’t listen to the lyrics.”
Me:  “You don’t hear all this swearing?”
Son:  “No.”
Me:  (Assuming he’s fibbing because he doesn’t want to get into trouble with Mom.) “Then what are you listening to?”
Son:  “The beat.”
Me:  (Surprised) “You really don’t listen to the lyrics?”  

Nope. He wasn’t. He enjoyed the exciting rhythm of the double base drum and the snare and symbols and toms.

I’m a story teller. I love words. I love lyrics, which is why I get irritated when song lyrics don’t make sense or I can’t understand the lyrics and have to look them up and realize I’ve been singing my own mondegreen (a misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from mishearing song lyrics). So I then asked my daughter, a ballet dancer, what she hears to when listening to music. She replied, “The way the song as a whole sounds on the ear. And then I listen to the words.” It makes sense a ballet dancer would hear the melody as I believe ballet arm movements (port de bras) move with the melody. A tap dancer would be very beat oriented.

Keep in mind the best way your character would express something based on how they sense the world.

I hear what you’re saying. (Character may be an aural/ auditory learner)
I see what your saying. (Character may be a visual learner)
I know what your saying. (Character may be a logical person or shows cognitive intelligence)
I feel you. (Character may be an intuitive person or shows emotional intelligence).

Understanding how our characters sense their world allows us to write richer characters. 

Miscommunication between characters who don’t understand how their partners sense their worlds can be fun. However, be sure to help them learn to understand how their partners sense the world by the end of the story, as better communication will lead them on the path toward their happily-ever-after. 



Romance with a rebel heart


About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.