Veronica: Always fun to talk scifi with USA Today Best Selling Author Carol Van Natta!
Carol: We writers of the stories for Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 are a wildly inventive lot. All the stories have romances, of course, because it is a science fiction romance anthology, but they also have some very unusual pets. They play a pivotal role in causing trouble, bringing the lovers together, and/or saving the day.
In my story, CATS OF WAR, the pets are two top-secret, genetically-engineered creatures named Novo and Boz. (For more about the ethics-challenged pet-trade industry that created them, see Pet Trade, my novella from last year’s anthology.) They are mostly feline, but with enhancements, such as wings, opposable thumbs (they can operate the can opener!), and camouflage coloring. Oh, and they’re telepathic. My own home cats insist that all space opera is better with cats, and for this story, I have to agree. See the excerpt below for the human heroine’s first introduction to the cats of war.
I asked the other authors in Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 to tell you about their story’s pets (don’t worry—no spoilers).
- S.E. Smith: HEART OF THE CAT – Cinnamon and Spice are white Bengal tigers that were recovered from an illegal exotic animal trader. They are extremely protective of their mistress, which complicates things for my amorous hero.
- Anna Hackett: DESERT HUNTER – Fiend is an alien canine of unknown origin. He’s big, scruffy and protective with a barbed tail to watch out for. He’s also hiding some dark secrets…
- Ruby Lionsdrake: QUASHI — That’s the name of the species and the real start of the story. There are dozens of them in the adventure, but only Roberta gets named and does more than trill in a cage. These are like old Star Trek tribbles except they have legs, antennae, and blue fur. Favorite food? Apple slices. (BTW, Roberta is concerned that everybody else’s critter is a predator.)
- Veronica Scott: STAR CRUISE MYSTERY DANCER: The pet is F’rrh, resembling a Siamese cat but with three eyes. F’rrh is a jenfellini, an alien spirit similar to a genie who doesn’t grant wishes but will occasionally utter a prophecy.
- Pauline Baird Jones: OPERATION ARK: Tiger is a caticorn – he has a small horse body, but his head is a cat’s with a small, single horn in the center of his forehead. He has secrets and plays a key role in resolving a crisis in my story.
- Alexis Glynn Latner: STARWAY – Strelka, nicknamed Star, is delicately built little dog with thick white fur. She’s a Wendisan Chivvier, the only dog breed native to the interstellar city called Wendis. Chivviers are bred to be very good at finding missing people and misplaced things.
- E.D. Walker: THE BAJO CATS OF ANTEROS XII – I have two bajo kittens in my story. They’re brightly coloring (like a Lisa Frank illustration come to life), and they also secrete a psychotropic substance from their fur that causes some…uh, complications in my story.
- Tiffany Roberts: HUNTER OF THE TIDE – Ikaros is a prixxir, a land and sea creature. They’re scale covered predators with sharp claws and teeth, very territorial, and are usually in packs. He’s fiercely protective of those he has bonded with and loves, who he has claimed as ‘his pack’, and will place himself in danger to defend them…despite being a pup. Prixxir are intelligent and can read body language and emotions, allowing Ikaros to be the perfect companion.
- JC Hay: SHADOW OF THE PAST – JJ is an Umbra Wolf pup. Umbra Wolves are rendered mostly invisible when not in polarized light, and develop an empathic bond with the SpecOps soldiers they’re paired with. The wolfbond benefits both Ranger and Wolf, but carries a risk as the death of one can destroy the other as well.
- Kyndra Hatch: AFTER THE FALL – H’tch and K’mi are moghas, which form a one-time bond with a Korthan biped. H’tch already has his alpha master companion, but K’mi is still waiting for one when the story starts. If it were possible to get a cross between a wolf and a fox of Earth, that’s what they generally look like, except that they have long antennae sticking up from the tips of their ears with feather-like tufts on the ends. They also have retractable fingers in their front paws that help them grab and climb.
Here’s the excerpt I promised you from CATS OF WAR. Ferra, the human main character, is in a prison of sorts, working off a restitution debt. When she discovers two creatures in the pouring rain, she feels compelled to smuggle them into her cell, despite the risks. Now that they and she are temporarily safe, she discovers what she has rescued.
Carol’s pets, Artist Nyssa Juneau
THE EXCERPT: She closed up the lab, returned the gravcart, and walked back to her cell. She closed and locked the door behind her, just like any other evening.
The bed looked inviting, but first, she had to look after the cats. She could feel their presence in her mind, even if she couldn’t see them. She used the wallcomp to turn up the lights and darken her only window.
The female oozed out from under the bed, followed by the male.
Now that she saw them in better light, she didn’t know what she was looking at. Wide, cat-like heads and ears, with narrower muzzles, and nose flaps. Mottled dark fur with a faint rosette pattern, and folded, bat-style wings with fine downy fur. No orange stripe on the female’s wing, so that must have been a trick of the light. Their front paws had sharp-looking claws and opposable toes. Their tails were long and ovoid.
We are cats. That was the female.
We were made for war, thought the male.
Food? asked the female.
Ferra didn’t know what to do with cats designed for war, since the Central Galactic Concordance government had kept the peace across the galaxy for the last two centuries, but she could do something about food.
She reached up to the top shelf of her closet to retrieve the mealpack she’d stashed there two days ago. She triggered the heater and put it on a narrow counter that served as the cell’s desk and table to warm.
She sat on the bed and pulled off her clammy shoes and tossed them onto the drying mat by the door. “Do you have names?”
The female’s tale twitched. Yes.
Ferra laughed. The cat was just like some AIs Ferra had known, unhelpfully literal and disdainful of imprecise questions. Ferra tried again, this time forming the words in her mind and projecting them to the female cat. What is your name?
My call sign is Novo Seventeen Alpha.
I am Bozlurian Four Delta, volunteered the male.
“I’ll just call you Novo and Boz, if you don’t mind.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Read more in CATS OF WAR, one of eleven new, original stories in
Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3
10% of the first month’s profits goes to Hero-Dogs.org
Story blurb for CATS OF WAR:
A repair technician must convince a disgraced military sub-captain to help her save two special cats before trouble engulfs them all.
Military Subcaptain Kedron Tauceti counts the days until he can leave the rare metals factory and his current duty station as the liaison to the Criminal Restitution and Indenture Obligation system. The post was protection—and punishment—for exposing a theft ring in his previous assignment. He’s more than ready to get his career back on track on a new base halfway across the galaxy, even if it means leaving behind the one person who makes him want to stay. Not that he’s told her, because technically, he’s her warden.
Former financial specialist and current indenturee Ferra Barray, hiding from her past, only has three months to go on her restitution sentence. She’s lucked into a tech repair job, and If she keeps her head down, she’ll be free to figure out her future. Unfortunately, the local boss behind every illegal scheme in the facility wants her to steal for him, and she’s running out of excuses. And now the heroically handsome Tauceti, who she hoped could help, is transferring out.
Everything changes when Ferra discovers two genetically modified cats. Saving them takes incredible risks. She doesn’t know what she’ll do if she can’t convince Tauceti to take them with him and keep them until she’s free to come for them.
When trouble erupts at the factory, it might just be the cats who save them. Find out what happens in this exciting stand-alone novella from Carol Van Natta’s award-winning Central Galactic Concordance space opera series.
Anthology Blurb for Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3
Pets in Space is back! Join us as we unveil eleven original, never-before-published action-filled romances that will heat your blood and warm your heart! New York Times, USA Today and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, Anna Hackett, Ruby Lionsdrake, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Carol Van Natta, Tiffany Roberts, Alexis Glynn Latner, E D Walker, JC Hay, and Kyndra Hatch combine their love for Science Fiction Romance and pets to bring readers sexy, action-packed romances while helping our favorite charity.
Proud supporters of Hero-Dogs.org, Pets in Space™ authors have donated over $4,400 in the past two years to help place specially trained dogs with disabled U.S. veterans and first responders.
Open your hearts and grab your limited release copy of Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3 today!
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About the Author:
USA TODAY bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Carol Van Natta shares her Fort Collins, Colorado home with a resident mad scientist and various cats, all of whom would love to travel to the stars.