Once again this year I have the honor to be a part of the science fiction romance anthology Pets in Space. Part of the first months sales, including preorders, will be donated to Hero Dogs, a charitable organization that provides service dogs at no cost to veterans of the U.S. military and first responders. In this guest post, fellow Pets in Space 4 author Veronica Scott talks about that. She also gives us a suspenseful excerpt from her story.
Back when Pauline B. Jones and I decided to create the first Pets In Space® anthology, we wanted to find a charity to support that had a strong connection to serving military veterans. We decided on Hero-Dogs, Inc., a small nonprofit doing great work providing service dogs to veterans (and first responders). Over the four anthologies, including this year, we’ve had many authors with military ties in the family and at least one who was a veteran herself.
My father and my uncles served hitches in different branches of the military so I grew up with a great respect for the job soldiers do in support of our nation and our freedom. My late husband was on active duty in the USMC for three years and then rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant in the Reserves at the time of his death (which was not related to his military service). I was a military wife in the early years of our marriage!
I also typically write at least one of my main characters in every book as a Special Forces soldier, either active duty or retired. Their strong ethos or character, rock solid belief in each other as a team, and lethal combat capabilities, combined with their ability to crack a joke at the worst moments, and to be tender and caring to their loved ones really appeal to me. Respect must be earned in SOF circles and huge sacrifices are often made, by the service member and/or by their family.
So for all those reasons, I felt very strongly that our efforts with PISA needed to benefit the veteran community in some real fashion.
Pauline and I loved the idea of putting together a fun set of stories including pets and scifi romance but we very much wanted to have a higher purpose as our guiding principle for whywe were doing the anthology.
For my story in this fourth anthology, I have three military veterans involved – Third Officer Steve Aureli of the Nebula Zephyr (my interstellar luxury cruise ship), his Aunt Dian and her alien ‘dog’, Charrli. Of course Dian and Charrli have a lot of backstory and aren’t what they seem on the surface. They’re veterans of the Sectors Special Forces Z Corps, which means Charrli is very smart and telepathic with Dian. I liked the idea of making Charrli a darling little dog who could be carried around in a purse but who actually has all this ferocious military style training and abilities. He’s not afraid of anything, not even alien idols!
Usually I start with the concept of the pet for my Pets In Space® stories and develop the plot from what the animal ‘suggests’ to me but this time my jumping off place was legends about tourists having bad luck after removing rocks from national parks as souvenirs.
Of course since I’m writing science fiction, I then took the entire topic a step further and gave my ‘rock’ some scary attributes, the ability to do real harm and a bit of carving to justify referring to an idol’s curse in the title.
It seemed to me the idea of tourists and souvenirs fit in very nicely with my interstellar luxury cruise ship Nebula Zephyr, and then since an entire deck of the ship is devoted to recreating a beach from the planet Tahumaroa Two, it was logical for the rock or ‘idol’ in question in my story to have come from that planet and need to go back there. This led me to ponder who in the crew would be likely to become involved with returning a rock and I decided it was time for the Cruise Director, Juli Shaeffer, to get her story.
Who was going to believe her, without a vid from the Ship’s Artificial Intelligence monitors to prove she hadn’t suffered a hallucination? Charrli had obviously seen the rock too but even if he was a retired Z Corps asset, no one but Dian was likely to believe him. “We’re screwed,” Juli said to the dog, stroking his silky ears. “I’m glad you saw it too though or I’d doubt my sanity right now.”
A breeze ruffled her hair and then a gust of wind blew sand across the beach in a glittering spray. Juli stood and picked Charrli up. As she turned, she realized Dian and Steve were bearing down on her.
“We thought we’d better come check on you,” he said. “Are you sure you’re ok?”
Handing the unresisting dog to his owner, Juli said, “I—we— saw something odd and we came to investigate.”
Dian was staring into Charrli’s eyes. “I’m getting a mental picture.” Jaw dropping, she pivoted to gape at Juli as another wind gust blew her skirt around her knees. “He’s sending me a projection of what appears to be the rock you showed us in the groundcar when we gave you a ride. Did you bring it up here? Because Charrli is concerned about it.”
USA Today Best Selling Author Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything.
Grab your copy of Pets in Space® 4 today! For a limited time, Pets in Space® 4 brings together today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors to help Hero-Dogs.org, a non-profit charity that helps our service veterans and first responders. https://petsinspaceantho.com