Guest Post by Laurie A. Green: And Then There Were Four

 Again this year I’m delighted to have a story in the best-selling Science Fiction Romance anthology Pets in Space 5.  Here my fellow PiSA 5 author Laurie Green shows us the charming pet in her story. (I want one!)

The StarDog

This is the fourth story I’ve written for an annual Pets in Space® release with each of the previous ones including a StarDog as a pet and/or working partner. Not one to give up on a theme, for Pets in Space® 5 I decided to write another StarDog adventure, but go back in time and center the action around one of the very first bio-engineered dog-cat-weasel-mongoose DNA blends named CaSandra—or Cassie, for short.

Being creatures created in a lab, the StarDog names are all drawn from their particular production series. The three StarDogs in previous stories were a K-series (Katrina from StarDog), L-series (Luna from Courting Disaster), and M-series (Maura from SpyDog), so their stories take place in later timelines. CaSandra is, of course, from the C-series and so one of the earliest StarDogs. Her story is set five calendars (years) before any of the others. She’s literally a protype and still in the testing phase.

Like the StarDogs and SpyDogs who will come after her, Cassie is extremely perceptive and intelligent. She was created to serve as an intelligence asset and is highly inquisitive and attentive. Very few details escape her attention!

In my story Juggernaut, Dekessa “Dek” Garr is the acting commander of a security team and she meets CaSandra and her handler, Telon, for the first time in this scene: (Edited for length.)


He reached down beside his chair and lifted an object onto the table by a handle set into the top. The rectangular box appeared to be made of punched polymer with wire mesh on the side facing her.

“Say hello to the commander, CaSandra,” Telon said.

Two little golden paws pressed against the mesh from the inside. The creature attached to them gave a high-pitched bark, followed by quiet chattering.

Startled, Dek backed off a step. The animal’s soft amber eyes studied her from behind the mesh with its shiny nose molded tight to the thin bars.

“What in Empora’s Hades is this?” she demanded.

“There isn’t a name for what she is,” Telon answered quietly. “She’s a bio-construct, a first-generation prototype with canine, feline, weasel, and mongoose DNA.”

Dek raised her gaze to the stranger. “Bio-constructed for what purpose?”

His eyes went dark and deep, like the ocean just before a storm. “I’m not at liberty to discuss that, Acting Commander.”

This guy was going to be nothing but trouble. Good thing she’d been trained to handle trouble in all its masculine forms.

He reached for the wire mesh screen—

“What are you—”

—and flipped it open.

Dek backed off another step and gripped the stunpulse secreted in a pocket of her field uniform. The golden creature exited its crate, eyeing her cautiously, and sniffed the air. Its pointed ears twitched before it bolted up Telon’s sleeve and perched on his shoulder, chattering quietly in his ear.

The man nodded and met Dek’s eyes. “Cassie says she’s on your side. And she’d like you to release the weapon you have hidden in your uniform.”

The little beastie squeaked again.

“Please,” he added.

Dek dropped her chin, squinting. “Is this creature telepathic?”

“Not exactly,” he replied.

The bio-construct leaned toward Telon, nuzzling the side of his face…and purred. Huh. Just like the kitten she’d had as a kid. The man reached up to stroke the animal’s head. Cassie craned her neck and closed her eyes, emitting a happy gruff-gruff.

Dek’s heart warmed a degree or two.

Gigadam thing’s adorable.

She displayed her empty hand. “Tell her if she behaves, she has nothing to fear from me.”

Telon grinned. “You just told her yourself, Acting Commander. She understands you perfectly.”


JUGGERNAUT

The Inherited Stars Series

By Laurie A. Green

A security commander must decide if she can trust a mysterious stranger and his bioengineered StarDog when the secret underground site she protects is threatened.

I hope you’ll join Cassie and company for their high-stakes adventure in Pets in Space® 5.

Author Laurie A. Green Website

illustration by Adrian

The Blessing of the Animals

Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis.  Even in this COVID year, a lot of mainstream churches held the Blessing of the Animals – possibly by drive through! And why not?  Pets have comforted so many people during shutdowns and quarantines.  Even those without pets have been made happy by seeing pictures of pets on Facebook.

Again this year I’m delighted to be in the Pets in Space 5 Science Fiction Romance anthology.  A dozen stories NYT and USA Today bestselling authors have concocted wonderful stories about space and starships, romance and adventure, and helpful, companionable, mysterious or surprising pets. I know Pets in Space 5 will entertain our readers. And I hope it helps some of them through a bad night or bad day. That’s what a good story with heart can do.

My PISA 5 story is Pastfinders, and here’s an excerpt from it:


The scratching came again, the unmistakable sound of blunt claws on tent fabric. Haze eased away from Mercury. He got his feet under him in a tense crouch and touched the flap of the tent. His heart pounded as he anticipated what he’d see, or not.

The flap opened to reveal a creature looking up at him. It was compactly dog-sized but unlike anything Haze had ever seen. Except it had the eyes he’d dreamed about, large golden eyes with diamond-shaped pupils.

He stared at the creature in wary wonder. Its wide, feathered head had long flexible ears and a hooked beak. It had wide shoulders and a thick ruff of feathers lighter in color than the rust-brown fur on the rest of its body. It stood on front paws with blunt, tent-scratching claws. It had taloned back feet. And a long tail with a feathery tuft at the end.

The strange compassionate eyes didn’t leave Haze. The creature put a paw on his knee.

His wariness melted. The reflexes of a lifelong biologist remained. Breaking off eye contact—animals consider direct eye contact potential threat—Haze slowly extended his hand, palm up, below the creature’s shoulder—animals take a hand reaching for their head as a threat.

It sniffed his hand.

He slowly raised his hand to its ruff. The feathers felt much colder than the air. This was an unexpectedly detailed encounter to be just a dream. Haze was puzzled. “Where did you come from?”

It wagged its feather-tufted tail in such a doglike, Dusty-like movement that his heart warmed.

Behind him, Mercury rolled up with a puzzled little sound. She looked over his shoulder and gasped.

“Do you see it too?” Haze asked. “Or am I dreaming?”

“What is that?!”

“I dreamed about my old dog. I had a nightmare and it led me to safety.” He looked into those strange, compassionate eyes again and some of the tension that had his nerves stretched taut eased.

She put her hands on his shoulders. “That is not a dog!”

“The eyes were the same. My old dog was named Dusty because his fur always picked up the dust in the street.”

The long, flexible ears pointed toward him. The early sun picked out reddish notes in its fur and its feathers. He heard himself ask, “Can I call you Rusty?”

The creature cocked its head as though trying to understand him.


Get Pets in Space® 5!  A portion of the first few weeks’ profits go to Hero-Dogs.org, a non-profit charity that helps our service veterans and first responders. 

 

 

Omen

Photo by Mark Montague

I spent the summer in Reno, Nevada, leaving – fortunately – just before the wildfires in California got bad enough to drop the visibility and air quality for weeks.  Nonetheless while I was still there my fiancé took this photo from his driveway.  A fire just across the state line in California created this pyroculumlus cloud above  the updraft from the fire. The fire even generated a firenado – a fire tornado – the first that ever made it into a National Weather Service forecast. On top of the terrible COVID summer, there was no way to see this cloud at sunset other than as a sign of crises to come.

 

UNDERLAND

A powerful book, this, and beautifully written.  Author Robert Macfarlane explores the caverns, crypts, mines, tombs, glacial caves, underground nuclear waste storage facilities (!), subterranean rivers, and forest root systems beneath our unknowing feet. He meets able guides in all these realms, people who know their way through the caves or mines or catacombs.  And he ponders how human technology can change the world.  The striking book cover painting represents a holloway – a road so well traveled that it’s worn way down into the ground.  Specifically, it’s looking through a holloway toward a nuclear blast.

Highly recommended.

HOUSTON, SPACE CITY USA

Texas A & M University Press 2019

Here’s a book of photographs of Houston emphasizing the connection to the Apollo program. The photos are as inevitable as astronauts, as exuberant as the space-themed murals and painted traffic signal control boxes around town, and as subtle as the Hermann Park statue of Sam Houston pointing east – toward  a full moon in the night sky.  In addition to the photos, author Ray Viator includes well-researched information about the inception of Johnson Space Center and its ties with area universities and research centers. But the images are why I leafed through the book again and again. Not sure which was my fave, but maybe the Hubble-telescope-inspired, meteor-fragment-containing window at Webster Presbyterian Church.

Recommended!

 

BECAUSE INTERNET

To the strict constructionists who think the Internet, including email, texting, Twitter, and all, is ruining the written language – this book says, “Well, no.” Author Gretchen McCulloch is a linguist who approaches Internet language as more like informal speech than like composed, grammatical writing. For once in the history of linguistics, there’s plenty of such material for her analysis. The informal, spoken word very seldom got documented in ages past.  Now it does.  She has real fun with it all and makes the reader better appreciate the casual, fluid, inventive qualities of Internet language and, for that matter, everyday speech.  Recommended!

 

Journey to Maars

 

Writing science fiction almost always involves world building. When an opportunity arose to actually see what real world building looks like, I jumped at the chance—and that’s how I found myself on a journey to maars.

To two of them, as a matter of fact.

A maar is a shallow, flat-bottomed volcanic crater, most commonly formed when hot magma close to the surface comes into contact with groundwater, triggering a steam explosion.  (There are other mechanisms:  in 1977 scientists got to watch an Aleutian maar form, over a period of a week and a half, caused by permafrost being melted, then flashed into steam, by magma.)

With water being one of the defining elements of maar formation, it isn’t surprising that maars commonly fill with water to become lakes, disguising their volcanic origins.  And so it was with the maars I saw.

A friend offered to fly me in a small airplane to view two maars near Fallon, Nevada.  I sat in the left seat and did most of the flying; although I’m rated in sailplanes, not airplanes, a wing is a wing is a wing, and I found the airplane easy to fly—if perhaps not quite as satisfying as a sailplane would have been. Speaking of flying, as we approached the maars we could clearly see the runways of Naval Air Station Fallon, better known as the home of the Navy’s famed Top Gun school.

The Fallon maars are known locally as the Soda Lakes and at one time were mined for alkaline minerals.  The region is still geologically  active:  there’s a geothermal power plant close by, and the United States Geological Survey lists the Soda Lakes as potential volanic threats, in part due to their young age:  they were formed no earlier than 6,000 years ago and possibly as recently as 1500 years ago . . . almost yesterday.

Soda Lakes are the only Nevada volcanoes listed in the annual threat assessment compiled by the USGS, but just over the state line there are many more.  It may surprise you to learn that the USGS estimates the odds of an eruption in California in the next 30 years is about one in six!  World building, indeed.

Military Connection – Guest Post by Veronica Scott

Soldiers at sunset

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.

The excerpt:

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.

Blog: https://veronicascott.wordpress.com/

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

 

How Service Dogs Help – Guest Post by E.D. Walker

Pets in Space is Back

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, and in this guest post, fellow Pets in Space 4 author E.D. Walker talks about why that’s important. She also gives us a suspenseful excerpt from her story.


One of the reasons I’m so proud to participate in the Pets in Space anthologies every year is because of the charitable contribution to Hero Dogs that has been a part of the Pets anthology ever since the very first one. Hero Dogs provides service dogs at no cost to veterans of the U.S. military and first responders with disabilities.

My family has some connection to the military: my grandfather and father both served in the armed forces. My grandfather in WWII, and my father as a marine reservist, although he was never deployed. Growing up, I was instilled with a deep sense of pride for their service, and a healthy respect for the sacrifices our armed forces and their families make.

It’s not just a personal connection to the military that makes me appreciate working with this charity, however. I also have several (non-military) friends who have service dogs, and I have seen what a huge difference it has made in their lives to have that kind of assistance available to them. One family friend is dealing with a degenerative illness, and they had lost the ability to walk across the room without their walker. With the help of a service dog they were able to do this and do it much faster and more safely than they could with a walker. Another friend has an emotional support animal that’s made a world of difference in helping them leave their house and interact with other people without suffering from crippling anxiety.

Because of their service animals, my friends have been able to get out of the house more, take public transportation when they never could before, and other things that make what were immense challenges in their lives so much more manageable.

Because I know how amazing the skills of a service dog can be, I am immeasurably proud to contribute in even some small way to helping Hero Dogs continue with their mission to place service dogs with veterans.

E.D. Walker is the author of The Fairy Tales of Lyond Series that begins with Enchanting the King. E.D. lives in sunny Southern California with her family and one of the neediest housecats on the planet.  Website: http://edwalkerauthor.com/

Story snippet:

Her kidnapper, Tatinas’s nostrils flared. “Perhaps it is time I show your father how much worse I can make things for you.”

Fear spiked in Liana’s blood, her heart racing. Her caliba Pym shifted, apparently still asleep although she knew better. She fanned her fingers over Pym’s silky feathers and, immediately, calm filled her chest. “It doesn’t matter what you do to me. My father won’t relent.” She might be signing her own death warrant, but if Tatinas planned to torture her so her father would comply then wasn’t it better if she die now?

Tatinas chortled, the sound making her shiver. “Who knows what might change a man’s mind? If you push him hard enough.” He pivoted toward the door, ready to leave.

“Am I to have my walk today?” The stale air of her room had started an itch under her skin, a worm of anxiety that was beginning to wind through her blood.

He hesitated, his head half turned toward her, then he scoffed and tossed a careless hand. “Why not? There’s nowhere to escape anyway. Is there?” He turned and held her gaze until she was squirming under his cold, reptilian stare. “Is there, princess.”

“No.” She swallowed. “There isn’t.”

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

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