Friday, September 17, 2021


After much longer than usual, I’m finally approaching the end of my working draft of King of Pain: Interstellar Rescue Series Book Five. The story of Thrane Hunter-turned-Rescue agent Trevyn Dar and shapeshifter Lael Saphora was a tough one to craft during a worldwide pandemic—for a lot of reasons—and it will need plenty of revision. But at least I’ll soon be able to put a tentative “The End” to the first draft. Hallelujah!

Why has this book, which will probably be the final novel in my Interstellar Rescue series, been such a bear to write? Well, I don’t think I’m the only author who has struggled during the pandemic to focus on my work. Even well-known professionals have noted how difficult it’s been to write while the world burns. (The pandemic isn’t the only disaster we’re dealing with, after all.) Fiction, like other forms of creativity, requires emotional space, which is pretty hard to come by when you’re busy thinking about lockdown, full ICUs, politics, climate change, wildfires, hurricanes, floods and all the rest of it. I’d like to think of my work as an escape to another world, but it just doesn’t work that way.

Then, too, I set myself a major challenge in several ways with this particular story. For the first time, I set the story on an alien planet, rather than on Earth or in space. Thrane is the home planet of the humanoid telepathic species I’ve introduced in previous novels, so I had a head start on developing the alien culture. Still, I’m more comfortable here on terra firma or on a starship.

My hero, Trevyn, was a good bad guy in Book Two of the series, Trouble in Mind. The alien half-brother of the hero of that book, Gabriel, he suffered under the abuse of his brutal older sibling, Kinnian, until he broke free and helped Gabriel kill Kinnian and save the heroine, Lana.

So, Trevyn is not your usual kind of alpha male hero. He’s carrying more than the normal amount of baggage—guilt, self-loathing, a fear of his family’s inherited darkness. The challenge for me as a writer is to help him carry that load without crippling his confidence. He still has to kick some serious ass, after all, and fight the good fight, too. He made a start on transforming from a bad guy to a good guy in Trouble in Mind. But in King of Pain, Trevyn finally has to overcome his past and rise above it, not just at the end of the novel, but throughout, so we can love him as the romantic hero.

My heroine, Lael, is a snowcat shapeshifter.

My heroine, Lael, too, is a challenge. I’ve never written a shapeshifting character before, though I’ve read plenty of books featuring shapeshifters. (Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling series is one of my favorites.) I wanted to make sure to be consistent with the features of the Hinarr culture Lael comes from, the details of shifting (like, what happens with clothes and weapons?) and so on. What aspects of her character transfer to her snowcat Companion? And, how, exactly, do you translate the thinking process of a sentient, but non-speaking, creature, like the Companion, without making it sound like a Disney nature voiceover?

There will be pay-offs, of course. These two are meant to be together, like all my Interstellar Rescue couples. They meet the criteria for fated lovers, enemies to lovers and even a kind of Romeo and Juliet-type story, though with a happy ending. Trevyn and Lael are just making me work for their Happy Ever After!

In fact, they have enough problems of their own, you wouldn’t think they would need a villain to make their book life difficult. But, no, every hero and heroine need a good villain (or two). King of Pain has been a challenge in this way, too, because it started from a Big Idea. (Science fiction as a genre suffers from this problem—the concepts, or the technology, often overshadow the characters.) My Big Idea had to do with the telepathic Thranes who rule the planet and the shapeshifting Hinarr, a severely oppressed minority who lack telepathic skills. The Thranes call them “Ghosts,” due to their lack of telepathy, and consider them mentally deficient. They believe the Hinarr are inferior, useful only for menial labor, and a legitimate prey for hunting in their snowcat form.

The Hinarr, however, are no longer content to play the role of the downtrodden of Thrane. They are fighting back via an underground resistance movement, the Uprising, of which Lael is a leader.

This makes for great conflict, but only in a general way. Just like STAR WAR’s Empire needs Darth Vader, my Ruling Houses of Thrane (and the murderous Blood Legion behind them) need an actual person to embody their evil intent. That person should have goals in opposition to those of my hero and heroine. He (it happens to be a he) should have a clear motivation beyond just “power” or “hatred of the Hinarr.” Given those things, the conflict between my central characters will arise naturally.

So, yes, the Primary Ruler of Thrane, Mennon, is one villain of the book, as is a Brother of the Blood Legion named Avet Van-Del, who hunts Trevyn and Lael through most of the novel. But, as I’ve discovered in the act of writing, the biggest villain, the one who should receive the most attention, is the one pulling the strings of these lesser bad guys. And, as some critics of my last book have pointed out, when it comes time for this villain’s demise, I really have to beat him flat. My readers need the satisfaction of seeing that bad guy get his just deserts.

So, you see, I have lots to work on in the next few weeks. And that’s not even accounting for finding the right images for the cover. Or honing the dang blurb. Oy! Wish me luck!

Cheers, Donna


Friday, September 10, 2021

Going like a rocket...

 As it was my 50th birthday last month and hubs' plan to take me to Iceland was scuppered by COVID - something on my to do list - he instead bought me a gliding experience. Now, I love to fly. Going up in an aeroplane is one of my favourite things to do. It's the closest I'll ever get to going up in a spaceship - alien abduction or a $300000 ticket both being unrealistic. 

So I was really excited about it. We went to a local airfield and spent some time watching the gliders being launched via a 'catapult' - a long tether pulled at speed which took the glider up at 45 degrees before releasing at some 1500 feet. 

When it was finally my turn, all strapped in at the front with my very own parachute, I was almost bouncing in my seat. They took up the slack on the tether, the helpers took the wings to keep the glider upright on its single wheel, and then we were off 

Not going to lie, I. Was. PETRIFIED! I was paralyzed, couldn't breathe. I really thought I was going to die from the fear. All the more of a shock because right up until that moment I'd been really looking forward to it 

And then the clunk of release, a sudden dip of the glider's nose, and we were flying free. And I could breathe again. The panic had gone, and I was giggling like a four year old.

The flight was quite short - normally 6-8 minutes, but I'd asked to have a go at actually flying which meant we came down a bit sooner. I got to take the controls and hold her steady as we glided above the world with nothing but the sound of the wind and the pilot's voice. It was amazing.

The landing was bumpy but not as bad as I'd anticipated having seen the others come down. The pilot praised me on the steadiness of my hand while taking control, before it was my eldest's turn. She loved it, including the take off but she's much more of an adrenaline junkie than I've ever been.

In all, I loved the experience but the utter inexplicable terror at take off means I'm not going to be rushing back. The only thing I can think off is that it reminded me too much of traumatic fairground rides - a thing of terror for me but much enjoyment for my daughter. Do I dare myself to try it again to see if familiarity will have lessened the fear or simply made it worse? Maybe I'll stick to imagining spaceflight instead of trying to attempt it...

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Recruit: Part Four

Here's Part Four of the ongoing short story that's a companion to Draxis (WIP).

This one comes with a major TRIGGER WARNING!

This snippet involves a life-or-death situation with hunting beasts of prey and somewhat graphic descriptions of the struggle. If you are a sensitive reader in regards to animals (even monstrous predators who love to eat humans) then please don't read on.  

If you prefer to read the entire story to date, including this installment, please click here:

The Recruit (All Parts Posted to Date)

Otherwise, here's a brief refresher from the last post:

From Part III:

It crept up on the recruit from the forest gloom. I knew from experience it would launch without warning from heavy-muscled haunches and twist its head mid-flight, driving upper and lower saber-toothed fangs into the recruits back, crushing or severing his spine. Then, he would lay paralyzed as the beast began to feed and the rest of the pack closed in to tear him apart.

This recruit would pay the price of overconfidence, and Gallin would have his prize. But more than that, a burden would be lifted from my shoulders and a threat eliminated. I might yet see my ninth season.


 The Recruit: Part IV

So why this troubling feeling I was not in the right? The Duumarrakhan was doomed to die anyway. What did it matter how and when?

Because there was something about the man…

“At your back,” I wolfed, but he was already in motion.

The man bounded sideways the moment the farratora lunged, planted a foot on a massive trunk as he drew Gallin’s prize from its scabbard. He kicked off the tree, inverted horizontally over the surprised predator, and drove his blade down through the beast’s opposite shoulder. Gravity pulled the man back to the ground, and the embedded sword sliced down diagonally like a paper blade, severing the beast’s spine. The farratora collapsed in a heap and lay still, pike-like fangs still bared. It was a mammoth male, probably the pack alpha.

I rose to my feet, heart-pounding. Farratora forgotten.

I knew I had just witnessed something few alive had seen. The kill of a Duumarrakhan.

And I was not going to see my ninth season.

A chorus of growls in the darkness confirmed that thought. The dead alpha’s pack was preparing to charge.

I drew my blade and used the tree to thwart a rear ambush. From my peripheral, I saw the recruit edging in my direction. His artful blade pierced deep through the eye of one large male, dropping him. He stepped to the side, blade humming low, to severe the legs of a smaller, charging female. She tumbled head-over-tail with a look of confusion when her stride shifted to missing paws.

From out of the blackness to my right came a flash of fang in flame-red jowls as the first of many rushed me. Four more came behind him. Big pack of them! I couldn’t fight them all with a mere sword. I reached for my belt, glanced at the recruit, then hit the pulse button. The four dropped from the shock wave, and I finished them off before they recovered.

The recruit fell to his knees, hit by the fringes of the concentrated energy ring, and knew what I had done. Shock weapon—cursed and taboo. A religious abomination. If he was a Duumarrakhan, and a farratora didn’t finish him first, I was dead. He’d never let me live after committing such an atrocity. He didn’t yet understand the rules. Most Tahila Death Rangers were capital criminals already, and breaking religious laws to survive was of little matter.

My moment of distraction allowed a farratora to reach me. He made one pass, raking his claws down my sword arm, before turning back to finish me. I hit the button at my belt again as I shifted the sword to my offhand and ran him through where he fell.

The recruit had dodged out of the range of the energy ring, but then he was beside me, scowling down at my belt. Blood flowed down my arm, and my head was spinning. The wound was bad. In a moment, I’d lose consciousness, and the recruit would finish me. Beheading was the price for my crime—by guillotine or blade.

He didn’t have a guillotine handy. His sword would do.

To be continued...

Friday, August 27, 2021

WILDE TEMPTATION - My First Shared World Novel

I am super excited to share my new release WILDE TEMPTATION with you. 


Writing small-town contemporary romance has been a fun and exciting change from my usual alien abduction science fiction romance and paranormal romance. However, I couldn't resist mixing a little taste of both into this story. The heroine, Faith, owns a New Age shop called Witchy Woman, where she reads tarot, palms, and apple peels (yes, you read that right - apple peels). She also has visions, but isn’t quite successful with them at first. There is also a hint of sci-fi as my plant geneticist hero creates a genetically modified apple that increases happiness. Read the blurb to find out what happens when New Age meets genetically engineered. :)


The Candlewood Falls series (named for the fictional small town of Candlewood Falls, NJ) is a shared-world series in which two other authors (Stacey Wilk and USA TODAY Bestselling Author Jen Talty) also write in. Our characters and businesses show up in each other’s books which is super fun! This was my first time writing in a shared-world series and I had a blast collaborating with Jen and Stacey. 


Would you be tempted?

Plant geneticist Sam Wilde has spent his life savings engineering a unique apple variety that increases happiness. But when fortune-teller Faith Shields mixes Sam's new apples into an Old World recipe, the result does more than make people happy—it makes them hot for love!

As the small town of Candlewood Falls hungers for the forbidden fruit, Sam and Faith experiment with their arousal hypothesis and soon discover their test subjects aren't the only ones tempted by desire. Is the impassioned pair’s attraction a byproduct of the aphrodisiac or do they have true chemistry?

Add into the equation the only investor who could save Sam's orchard from foreclosure—Faith's jealous ex-boyfriend—and Wilde Orchards is about to live up to its name.


Enjoy this excerpt from Wilde Temptation:


Sam knocked on Faith’s door half an hour before his normal tutoring time, as requested. What did she want to discuss in person that she couldn’t over the phone or in front of Lily? 


She opened the door, breathless, her cheeks pink and glowing. Wisps of long brown hair that didn’t make it into her braid curled around her face. She wore the same pretty floral shirt she’d had on in the shop that morning. 


Did she have any idea how beautiful she was?


The tightness in his chest reminded him to breathe. “Hi—” 


Faith grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the apartment. “I’m glad you’re here. There’s something awkward yet important I need to tell you.”


Was she interested in him? Did she want to tell him she liked him? He bit down on a smile and repressed the urge to confess his feelings before she did.


“It’s about the chutney.”


As if stuck in mud, his body suddenly grew heavy. Of course, it was. Beautiful women weren’t interested in lanky, redheaded apple nerds. He was an idiot for even entertaining the thought. “What’s wrong? Are you ill? You look a little flushed.”


“No. I’m fine. Come with me.” 


He followed her into the kitchen, pausing at the refrigerator to check out Lily’s artwork and homework stuck to it by glass stone refrigerator magnets. Something spicy permeated the air, making his mouth water. “Smells delicious.”


“I’m cooking chutney.”


“Great. Everyone at Wilde Orchards Market wants more.”


“That’s not all they want,” she muttered. 


“What do you mean?”


She flitted around the room, getting out a small bowl and a spoon, and ladling a scoop of chutney. She didn’t meet his eyes when she blurted, “They’re all horny.”


“What? Who?”


“The customers. They’re all horny. It’s an aphrodisiac.”


Did he miss a part of the conversation while distracted with her beauty? “What is?”


“The chutney. It’s an aphrodisiac. That’s why it’s such a hit. People are eating it and getting turned on.”


He laughed. “That’s ridiculous.” 


“That’s what I thought at first, but it’s true. Did you eat any?”


“Not yet.”


She thrust the small bowl and spoon into his hands. “Try it.”


“Uh, okay.” He slid a heaping spoonful into his mouth. Delicious sweet and spicy flavors danced across his taste buds, without a trace of bitterness. He swallowed and licked his lips. “This is really good.”




“I mean it. Nice texture and taste.” He took another spoonful. No wonder it sold out at the market. It was a flavorful product and a welcome change from all the sweet goods they made at the orchard. 


Her hands clasped in front of her mouth, she watched intently, as if waiting for him to turn into the Hulk or something. “How do you feel?” 


“I feel fine.”


“I mean, are you turned on?” Her brown eyes sparkled with anticipation, and his mouth dried. 


If he wasn’t before, he was now. “I, uh. Is this a trick question?”


“No, it’s a straightforward question.”


It was forward all right. She was a unique woman, but this was odd, even for her. “I don’t understand what’s going on here. Are you… flirting with me?”


Her head flinched as if he’d jumped out of the closet yelling surprise. “Of course, not.”


Too bad. A little flirting could’ve been fun. 


“I told you. It’s the chutney. It makes people horny. Are you horny?” 


Well, damn, when a woman you have a crush on asks—with breathy eagerness—if you’re horny, your penis can’t help but answer the question for you.


WILDE TEMPTATION (A Candlewood Falls Novel) is available now in paperback. And releases 9/1/21 on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!


Amazon US

Amazon CA

Amazon UK

Amazon AU


USA TODAY Bestselling Author Jen Talty's Candlewood Falls book RIVERS EDGE and Stacey Wilk's Candlewood Falls book TAKING ROOT are also available on Amazon.


Stay safe out there!



Romance with a rebel heart


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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.