Veronica: NY Times Best Selling and RITA Award winning Susan Grant is one of those author names you always hear mentioned in the science fiction romance world, usually on a “Best of…” list. Many people began their enjoyment of SFR with one of her novels! When my friend, author Pauline B. Jones and I decided to put together the Pets In Space anthology, Susan was one of the first people we wanted to invite. As you’ll read in her blog post, Susan is a veteran and a pet lover, as well as a pilot and and an SFR author and….well, read for yourself!
I have always loved dogs and cats. But for someone who wanted pet dogs or cats so badly, the path to having some of my own was a strangely long and rocky road.
“Doggie” was one of my first words. “Kitty” soon followed. As soon as I could string together a sentence, I asked for a pet of my own. My mom gave me a toy dog on a leash. It had batteries that allowed it to bark and bounce, just like a real living, breathing, warm and cuddly puppy. Hmmm… Does this face look convinced to you?
Next came a stray cat named Alice. I was around 7 years old. I set out food and water for her every day and gave her all the love a kitty could want. But she wasn’t allowed in the house. I had allergies, and my allergist told my parents that if I got a cat, I would die. Or, at least this was the reason they gave me. Not wanting to die, I accepted this, and loved Alice with all my heart until she disappreared one day after about a year. My mom told me that a band of hippies stole her and drove off with her in their car. (Or, in my imagination, a baby blue VW bus) However, I recently learned, some four decades after the fact, that Mom actually dropped Alice off at the pound. I hope from there Alice found her forever home, hippies or no.
I’m nothing if not persistent. And so I didn’t give up asking to have a dog or cat. I was allowed to have fish and even, incredibly, a parakeet named Pepper that I loved to pieces, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I was finally permitted my first mammal—a bunny. Elsie lived in a pen in the backyard. The neighbor’s dog ate her within the year. We built a better pen, and this time I got two bunnies, easier, now that the mammal-barrier at home had been broken. Or, maybe, my parents just felt bad for me. Either way, I lovingly raised Peter and Elsie 2 until I left home to attend college at the US Air Force Academy.
Four more years, no pets. Because—wait for it—pets were not allowed. But then, I graduated! As a newly commissioned second lieutenant about to start USAF pilot training, I dropped my moving boxes in my rental house in Del Rio, Texas, and wasted no time getting to the local pet shop, where a basket of kittens from a nearby ranch had just been dropped off. That’s when my soul kitty came into my life. I named her Foxbat after the infamous Russian MiG-25 fighter jet. It was, after all, in the middle of the Cold War. How better to neutralize a threat than by making it seem cute and cuddly? Here she is, not much bigger than my car keys:
Foxbat was so little when I brought her home that she slept in my slipper. I had a few sniffles at first, but they passed, and I proved my childhood allergist wrong—cat ownership did not in fact kill me. Foxbat attended all the pilot parties at our house, was partial to Cheetos, and was known to lick the mouths of empty beer bottles, and stayed up until all hours; she made many a military move to new duty stations, and then some.
Foxbat was no ordinary cat. I might have had to wait my entire life for her, but she was worth every moment. She used up every one of her nine lives, surviving even a rattlesnake bite, somehow making it home before she collapsed, miraculously making it to the vet before she stopped breathing. She bounced back better than ever, and went on to live nineteen adventurous years, until a devastating disease called FIV took her down. (There is a vaccination for FIV now, but there wasn’t then.)
Since Foxbat, many other pets have padded into my life and snuggled into my heart. My home has contained as many as seven dogs and cats at a time. But I still miss Foxbat. She will was and will always be my soul kitty.
A good pet is behind the smile of many a military veteran:
This is why supporting Hero Dogs via my new anthology Pets in Space means so much
When I wrote Stray, my novella in Pets in Space, I tried to capture the essence of the unique and powerful human-pet bond. In this excerpt, Lt. Lukas Frank has just received bad news about his fiancée, Captain Carlynn Riga. Even a tough Marine needs the support of a good dog.
Bang-Bang waited by the doors, holding a sitting position where Lukas had left him during the briefing. The white tip of the dog’s tail batted against the floor, slowing as his yellowish, old-soul eyes zeroed in on the turmoil inside Lukas that the station’s staff could not see.
Lukas halted, his breath stuttering. The only other living thing capable of breaching his defenses and rendering him so transparent was Carlynn. Her eyes, the color of black coffee, had brought him to his knees more than once, turned him inside out, and showed him what love looked like when viewed in someone’s gaze.
He bent down on one knee, and Bang-Bang’s paw hooked over his forearm. “She’s missing.” He managed to get the words out. Inconceivable words. It seemed surreal that he might never see Carlynn again. Might never hold her…
The softest of sorrowful, high-pitched whines exited Bang-Bang’s throat, and Lukas almost lost it. He pressed his cheek to Bang-Bang’s. Kindred spirits. Their bond had been there from the moment they crashed into each other on the streets of Barésh, the filthy, overpopulated domed mining world around which Bezos Station orbited.
BANG BANG—two loud booms diverted his attention that night on patrol about a year ago. He had swung his weapon around, sweeping for threats, his heart racing way too fast, before he backed off and let out a shaky breath. Not Glenn-Musk. Not the attack. Not dozens of bodies tumbling into the vacuum of space, Lukas helpless to save them. No, the double bang was only a backfire from one of the rattletrap mining vehicles the Baréshtis drove. Then a street dog flew out from under a parked vehicle, headed right for him, two freakishly intelligent eyes broadcasting sheer terror. Lukas opened his hands like a pair of catcher’s mitts and caught him. The way the dog pressed close, trusting that Lukas would protect him even as his skinny body shivered and revealed his panic, got to him. Yeah, got to him good. A brush of coarse whiskers, a wet nose, and that was that. They were a team from then on.
The Blurb for “Stray”:
Interplanetary Marine Lt. Lukas Frank has a lot in common with a street dog named Bang-Bang; they both started off as scrappy orphans fighting to survive—and beat the odds. Things change when Bang-Bang leads Lukas to starpilot Capt. Carlynn Riga. The tough war hero learns what it means to surrender — his heart. Lukas’s struggles with PTSD threaten to tear the three of them apart, but nothing threatens them more than when Carlynn goes missing on a mission. Can a scarred marine and his unlikely canine partner find Carlynn and bring her home, or will he lose everything he’s finally found worth fighting for?
The Blurb for Pets In Space:
Even an alien needs a pet…
Join the adventure as nine pet loving sci-fi romance authors take you out of this world and pull you into their action-packed stories filled with suspense, laughter, and romance. The alien pets have an agenda that will capture the hearts of those they touch. Follow along as they work side by side to help stop a genetically-engineered creature from destroying the Earth to finding a lost dragon; life is never the same after their pets decide to get involved. Can the animals win the day or will the stars shine just a little less brightly?
New York Times, USA TODAY, Award Winning, and Best selling authors have eight original, never-released stories and one expanded story giving readers nine amazing adventures that will capture your imagination and help a worthy charity. Come join us as we take you on nine amazing adventures that will change the way you look at your pet!
The book releases October 11th! Pre-order links: