Last week, I opened my iPad and to my delight look what I found. During the night, Pets in Space 5 had dropped in. The marvel of pre-ordering.
I've read each of the previous Pets in Space anthologies and thoroughly enjoyed them. Such diverse pets. A bat, a frog, a holographic cat, rats, and more, some out of this world.
My friend, Veronica Scott, is here to tell us a little about the anthology and her story, STAR CRUISE: RETURN VOYAGE
From the Pets In Space® 5 Anthology by Veronica Scott
Every year it’s a fun challenge for me to figure out my alien pet. I’m a cat person here on Earth but I’ve written a cat, an alien cross between a red panda and a tribble, an eagle, a songbird, and a small dog for the various editions of the anthology. Some years the choice of a pet is driven by a plot I already have in mind and other years the plot arises from the development of the pet and its attributes.
This year I went into the whole process fascinated by the Afghan hound. I’d seen snippets of the big national kennel show on the news and watched an Afghan hound prance by the camera. No offense to the aficionados of this dog breed but I find them to appear a bit alien just the way they are, so the animal made a good jumping off point for a PISA pet. I decided Verlaine the Tajikka Hound would have some vaguely equine characteristics as well, like black hooves and a somewhat horselike face. Our artist did his usual fabulous job in creating Verlaine for me. (The animal just seemed to require an aristocratic name, doesn’t he?!).
I like to make my PISA story into my annual entry in my STAR CRUISE series as well, located on the interstellar luxury liner Nebula Zephyr. I enjoy revisiting some of my characters from previous STAR CRUISE stories and I feel the concept of a huge cruise ship gives me plenty of latitude for telling a variety of stories. My next challenge for 2020 was what would bring such a sizable animal onto the ship as a pet? This past year there had been so many true stories about people bringing odd animals onto airplanes as service animals and I read about someone who had a miniature horse they wanted to travel with! Since I visualize Verlaine as being about the size of a very small horse that seemed perfect to me. So he became a genuine service animal of the far future.
But who would need such an animal to support them on a trip on a big luxury liner?
Enter Gianna Nadenoft, who survived the wreck of the interstellar cruise liner Nebula Dream in my very first published scifi romance novel. She was a (precocious) child of three at the time of the events in Wreck of the Nebula Dream so I felt it was a safe assumption she’d have had post-traumatic stress symptoms of various kinds and might have needed a service animal to help her cope with life after the wreck. Now she’s determined to travel the stars to her brother’s wedding and reunite with old friends but hasn’t left her own planet in the twenty or so years since the wreck. So of course she travels with Verlaine on my new cruise ship, Nebula Zephyr. (I had to be so super careful not to mix up the names of the two ships when I was writing. Dream =destroyed, Zephyr=still sailing the stars.)
Here’s an excerpt where the hero, Trevor, meets Verlaine for the first time. He’s been sent by his captain to meet her at her home and escort her to the ship.
Gianna Nadenoft stood on the threshold, dressed in a flowing pink garment, with an animal by her side. The pair moved forward toward him in unison.
He was positive it was her, having looked at the few photos available in the historical databases Maeve had found. Her face had the same shape, although now she was an adult and her hair was still a riotous explosion of ebony black curls, held under minimal control today by a pink headband. She had a splash of paint on one cheek and sparkling green eyes.
She came to stand next to him, studying the painting as if she hadn’t been the one to create it. “I’m in a more hyper realism phase now actually.” With a smile she offered her hand, “Gianna Nadenoft.”
He introduced himself, wondering what he’d gotten himself into. Her subtle perfume wafted around him in a beguiling manner which he was positive she didn’t intend and Trevor lectured himself sternly to treat this as a business meeting, not a blind date. He might be assigned to be her escort but there was nothing personal between them, nor likely to be. Personal protection couldn’t be done right if the protector had feelings for the protectee. Best to stamp out any slightest surface attraction to the woman now. He stiffened his spine.
Unaware of his personal struggles, she continued to make conversation. “And this is Verlaine, my Tajikka service animal,” she said, stroking the creature’s back. Verlaine was the size of a small pony, with a vaguely equine face and legs, but a more canine body and tail. Verlaine’s fur was a long, shimmering white, with hints of gray here and there.
Moving away from Gianna, the doglike creature sniffed his hand, eyed him up and down, gave him a tentative lick and sat at his mistress’s feet. “He likes you,” she said, based on the scant evidence. “He never takes to anyone so quickly. A good sign for sure. I’ve been searching for signs and omens ever since the subject of this damn trip came up. I wanted my brother to be married here, on Brumel Three but of course his fiancée insisted on being married on her homeworld. I guess I’m not only an eccentric artist, I’m rather demanding too. Spoiled since I was a kid, or so people say when they don’t think I’m listening.” Gianna laughed at her own self-deprecating humor and the warm sound reached a place inside Trevor’s heart he’d thought was long frozen, if not dead. “I’m taking a break from working on my latest commission and I’m starved,” she said. “We can talk outside while I refuel. Painting is hard work.”
“I’ve never painted anything,” he said, as she led him outside through a set of doors at the far end of the library. “When I was a cadet, the upper-class students used to make us swab the decks of the training battlecruiser by hand though.”
“Not remotely the same thing,” she said with asperity although he could tell he’d amused her by the glance she gave him, those huge green eyes brimming with mirth.
PETS IN SPACE® 5 ANTHOLOGY BLURB:
It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you out of this world. The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to Hero-Dogs.org, a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone!
STAR CRUISE RETURN VOYAGE blurb: Gianna Nadenoft is a reclusive survivor of one of the worst interstellar cruise ship disasters in the history of the Sectors. Now a renowned artist, she hasn’t left her home planet in decades, not since returning there after the wreck as a traumatized three-year-old. With her service animal at her side, she’s going to attempt to travel across the star systems to attend her brother’s wedding and reunite with her fellow survivors.
Trevor Hanson is a security officer aboard the cruise liner Nebula Zephyr with his own traumatic past as a former Special Forces soldier and prisoner of war. He’s assigned to provide personal protection to Gianna during her time aboard the ship but soon finds his interest turning from professional to romantic.
Onboard the Nebula Zephyr, powerful enemies are watching Gianna and making plans to seize this rare opportunity to gain access to her and the secrets they believe she’s still keeping about the wreck. Can Trevor overcome his personal demons and rise to the occasion to save Gianna from the danger waiting on his ship, or will she slip through his fingers and suffer a terrible fate deferred from her last disastrous voyage?
Pets in Space® 5 authors are:
1. S.E. Smith
2. Michelle Diener
3. Veronica Scott
4. Pauline Baird Jones
5. Laurie A. Green
6. Carol Van Natta
7. Regine Abel
8. Alexis Glynn Latner
9. JC Hay
10. Kyndra Hatch
11. Cassandra Chandler
12. Leslie Chase
Author Bio and Links:
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. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances!
She read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the official audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”