Why I Wrote My Alien Empath #SciFi Romance Novels

ALIEN EMPATH SCIFI ROMANCE SERIES!

Today I’m going to talk about why I wrote the four books in my alien empath series, starting with Star Cruise: Stowaway, which was originally written for the first Pets in Space™  anthology (and is now available separately).

stowawayFrom the beginning I knew I was going to place my Pets story in the Sectors, an interstellar civilization where most of my scifi romances occur. What kind of pet would be logical in a spacefaring world? Of course –  cats go anywhere, any time, right? Not to mention that my own Jake the Cat is a strong advocate for more feline presence in my stories LOL.

I also wanted to have an alien pet involved, just for fun.

At the time I was writing Star Cruise: Outbreak and had a scene take place in the cargo hold. It occurred to me that even on a spaceship there might well be vermin, so I gave Moby the white rescue cat to the Cargo Master, Owen Embersson.  Since he had the pet, Officer Embersson would have to be the romantic hero of the short story. What kind of a woman could he naturally become involved with? How could I write a plot for them that involved more than just everybody enjoying cats, feeding cats and playing with cat toys? Owen wouldn’t normally interact with the Nebula Zephyr’s passengers and I felt I’d done enough ‘crew member falls in love with another crew member’ stories for now…but he’d be the first person to interact with a stowaway!

Once I knew Tyrelle the heroine was going to be a stowaway, the rest of the plot elements fell into place for me.

star trek the empathI was always fascinated by the Star Trek episode “The Empath,’ and although my story goes off in its own direction completely, that was the original moment when I started thinking about a heroine who had this set of abilities. The Urban Dictionary defines empath as “a person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation.” Of course Tyrelle can do so much more, including forcing unsuspecting people to act on feelings they may not even realize they harbor. But there’s a cost to her…

I also enjoy the way Nalini Singh writes and uses Empaths in her Psy-Changeling series – my favorite book in the series is Shield of Winter, where Ivy Jane and the other empaths play a large role in saving their civilization. (No spoilers.)

Plenty of room in the creative universe for each of us to write our own version of empathy as a gift/curse/power/temptation!

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Artist Nyssa Juneau

Star Cruise: Outbreak features an alien pet, Midorri, who is kind of a cross between a tribble and a red tailed panda (my favorite animal after cats). I decided to keep her on board the Nebula Zephyr after the events of Outbreak so she could be involved in this Stowaway adventure too, and then as pets and secondary characters often do, she kept becoming more and more integral to the plot and revealing new capabilities I didn’t know about before. I got really fond of my furry little green friend with the six legs!

I realized after I finished the Star Cruise: Stowaway novella that I wasn’t done with the subject of these beautiful, empathic women and their predicament with the Sectors’ organized crime syndicate. I decided to tell a much longer story for Miriell, who is the sister of the Stowaway heroine. For Danger in the Stars I put her in the heart of the Amarotu Combine operation, at the mercy of her violent ‘controller’, and when I asked myself who would be her hero, Conor Stewart appeared. (To be clear, Conor is not the controller.)

DangerInTheStarsFinalShe sees good in him, well hidden under the façade of the dangerous hitman and crime boss. He goes out of his way to help her when he can and cautious attraction blossoms between them. Not to give spoilers but there’s much more to Conor than meets the eye. He is a hero!

I made great efforts to ensure I didn’t stray into Stockholm Syndrome territory – where a victim may start to feel affection or emotion toward the captors as a psychological survival strategy. I tried to ensure that both Miriell and Conor stayed clear headed and genuine at all times about what the situation was and that their emotion was trustworthy true love, not an outgrowth of her captivity. Miriell was a high ranking priestess on her own planet and remains pragmatic at all times about those who hold her prisoner, including Conor. But her powers tell her he’s keeping secrets and she can’t help but wonder if her god Thuun has sent him to help her.

It’s not my usual Sectors spaceships and blasters scifi story (although there certainly are some of both elements in the action scenes) but I was really intrigued with telling this tale and exploring a few things about both the empathic priestess (which brings in my element of mysticism that I always like to incorporate) and the stone cold mob hitman, who has to fight his deepest instincts to preserve and protect. When it comes to Miriell, he can’t stand by and let her remain a pawn of the Combine. This is a romance, so the Happily Ever After ending is guaranteed, even if perilous for my couple to attain.

TwoAgainstTheStarsFinalFor the next book, Two Against the Stars, I thought it would be interesting to write about one of these captive empaths who manages to get free of the crime syndicate on her own and then is on the run from them and the authorities. I wondered what she’d do if confronted with a situation that required her to risk her own hard-won freedom. Of course that begged the question what the dire situation could be, and it had to involve a hero in jeopardy, since I’m writing romance.

Here’s the description of the eventual story (more about why I wrote certain parts below):

Empathic priestess Carialle has escaped the evil Amarotu Combine, but she’s hardly out of danger. Not when she risks everything to rescue a drugged man from a crooked veterans’ clinic. By lulling the clinic staff to sleep, she reveals her powers. And once again, criminals are after her and her rescuer.

Marcus Valerian, a wounded Special Forces veteran, never expected to have his life threatened by the clinic that’s supposed to help ex-soldiers like him. But when he wakes from a drugged state to find a lovely woman urging him to run–he does. In his family’s remote fishing cabin, he suffers the agony of withdrawal, soothed only by her powers.

In their idyllic hideaway, the two also discover a nova-hot attraction flaring. But can they stay alive long enough for it to become more? Not if the Combine has anything to say–they are not giving up until Marcus is dead and Carialle is their weapon.

Notice in the description that eventually the couple flees to a cabin deep in the woods? When I was a kid, we lived in upstate New York and my family had a vacation place on a lake nearby. The cabin was built from scratch by my grandfather and some of my best childhood memories center around that cabin and the lake, fishing, boating, swimming and hiking. I can even remember bits and pieces of when there was no cabin or even a road at all on our land – we had to hike in through the forest and sleep in tents. (I was really little then.)  So I decided to write a version of the cabin into the book, as a safe haven for Carialle and Marcus. The real family cabin was only accessible via a very rough, unpaved road added later, so I exaggerated that situation a bit for the book. And of course my grandfather wasn’t a Special Forces veteran. Actually he worked for Nestle International at that point in time as an executive and wow did he get great gift baskets at the holidays! Despite being in an office nine to five, he had mad skills as a builder and wilderness scout and all round capable guy.

But the cabin, Marcus’s memories and some of the events that transpire there are my tribute to a very happy part of my own childhood. Of course a lot of what’s in the book is purely fictional LOL. To my knowledge our cabin lacked an Artificial Intelligence, a force shield and any subterranean facilities!

TheFatedStarsFinalWhen it was time to write the fourth book, The Fated Stars, I wanted a really unique situation. I always feel I owe it to my readers to write a different take on each novel, not just repeat the same setup every time. I started pondering what would have happened to a male empathic priest from their planet of Tulavarra if he’d been kidnapped and forced into working for the crime bosses. My daughters have been challenging me to write a female soldier for several years now and I thought this book was my golden opportunity to write a really kick ass woman mercenary.

Cover artist Fiona Jayde created an alien carnival for me, although you have to look closely to see it on the cover, but I thought that was a fun touch…when I was little we used to go to the county fair and the volunteer firemen’s field days and I especially loved the merry go round. I pulled on those memories a bit when writing about the place where Samell is held prisoner. Of course I never met any aliens – to my knowledge! – at any of the rural fairs I attended as a kid (we did bring home a live duck named Cleveland once but that’s another story), but it was a fun concept to translate to the far future and the rim worlds of civilized space. Very different than anything I’d ever written before.

Writing Larissa, the tough heroine, was exciting because up to that point my major military characters had always been guys. There’s a unique fight scene in the book where she takes on one of the alien Shemdylann in hand to hand combat – no spoilers – and that was a lot of creative fun to think through. I’ve made the Shemdylann so imposing and invulnerable (except to blasters) in all the Sectors novels that now I had the challenge of saying “yes, but Larissa can win this fight because…” and make it believable.

There’s also an interlude where she and Samell have an encounter with an ancient, sentient tree (and its pets, the Amusing Ones) and I drew a bit on how I felt many years ago when my late husband and I took a vacation amidst the giant Sequoias.

I don’t know if I’ll feel the call to write another empath novel but never say never. I do have a plot in mind thanks to my busy Muse…

For the full blurbs and all the buy links, here’s my blog page for the series 

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Note: Portions of this post appeared previously on the Whiskey With My Book Blog and Pauline Baird Jones’s blog.

 

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SFR Brigade Presents THE FATED STARS What’s Your Fortune? #SciFi

SFRB Showcase

Once a month the SFR Brigade does a blog hop where authors share excerpts, cover reveals or other fun posts related to their scifi romances. Check here for the list of all the participants this month.

TheFatedStarsFinalThe excerpt from my latest release:

A bored human attendant indicated a glowing circle on the floor. “Stand there, one at a time, and the seer will give you your fortune.”

There was inevitable good natured, drunken pushing and shoving between the high testosterone members of Larissa’s party. Fluffing her purple and teal hair, Pamila stepped around the others, using her sharp elbows freely to make a path. “Rude boys. Ladies first.”

Colored lights played along the floor, walls, and ceiling. Iridescent bubbles floated from small vents under the platform holding the throne. Larissa held her hand over her mouth to avoid laughing at the cheesiness of the effects. Maybe the local colonists in this frontier Sector found this awe inspiring, but for a well-traveled person like her, who’d actually been to a few of the genuine wonders of the galaxy, this setup was pathetic. Although, of course, in the military she’d rarely had time to enjoy the marvels of any particular hotspot. Fight the battle at hand and move on, summary of service in the Special Forces. Life as a mercenary was even more of a grind.

An amplified voice emanated from the general direction of the ‘seer.’ “A romantic encounter with someone you admire will lead to unexpected consequences.”

“Are you blushing?” Larissa asked Pamila as her friend stepped out of the circle. She poked the other woman in the ribs and winked while tilting her head toward the mercenary she knew Pamila fancied. “Better take precautions tonight.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Pamila sniffed and shifted her focus to a shelf full of gilded statues.

Devlin swaggered into the designated spot and received his prediction of fame and fortune. The other two men took their turns and received similar generalized good news.

“Are you happy now? Can we go?” Reluctance to approach the dais kept Larissa rooted to the spot.

“You haven’t had your fortune told,” Pamila protested.

“I’m good. No need to tell me about my coming good fortune or the tall, dark and handsome guy I’m going to meet.” I think I’m staring at him now, and it’s not doing either of us any good. I wonder if he ever takes a break. She held up both hands with a laugh. “Let’s get out of here and find the nearest feelgood vendor. My throat is dry.”

“You paid your credit and the all-seeing giver of prophecies is waiting,” said the attendant in a bored voice. “No refunds.”

Devlin shoved her forward, and Larissa stumbled into the spot.  She straightened with a curse to find the seer’s eyes were open and he was staring at her, as he hadn’t done with any of the others. His eyes were emerald green, glowing, with glints of gold. She found she couldn’t avert her eyes.

A warrior of Thuun? Here? Have you come in answer to my prayer? The voice in her head was deep and resonant and she knew it was him speaking.

Inside the bubble, the man shifted restlessly, as if attempting to rise, to step down and meet her. Larissa realized he was held in place by force bonds, and she gasped, her adrenaline spiking. Slavery was illegal in the Sectors—what the hell kind of shady operation was this sideshow? She rested her hand on the blaster riding at her hip.

The attendant made an adjustment to a control panel at the side of the platform and the prisoner subsided, sweat beading his brow with the effort he’d made. His eyes closed and the enhanced voice sounded in the chamber. “You and your friends will journey far and reap great rewards. Widespread fame shall be yours.”

But in her head she heard his true voice, faint and desperate. I beg you for help, warrior.

Reacting to the prophecy, Devlin clapped her on the shoulder. “Now that’s more like it—widespread fame is good stuff. Let’s you book more jobs and hire your friends to watch your back, eh?  I think you got the best fortune, Larissa, so you can buy the next round of drinks.”

She allowed her companions to pull her from the tent, only briefly glancing over her shoulder, to see the seer once more completely immobile on his elaborate chair, eyes closed.

Maybe I imagined the whole thing. Too much cheap local whiskey. Shaking her head, she stepped over the threshold and tried to ignore the quiet please echoing in her head in the alien man’s deep voice.

The story:

Larissa Channer, a tough no-nonsense mercenary in the Sectors, is celebrating success on her last job and a big bonus, with no slightest thought of taking on another assignment anytime soon. Out for a night of carousing with her friends at a third rate carnival on a backwater planet, she walks into the tent of a fake fortune teller and finds herself confronting the most intriguing man she’s ever seen. But something’s wrong, ominous currents lie beneath the surface of their encounter and Larissa can’t leave well enough alone.

Samell, a powerful, high born empathic priest, has been kidnapped from his own primitive planet along with a number of his people, and sold to the shady operator of an interstellar carnival. Kept enslaved, pretending to be a fortune teller while forced by his captor to steal information from the minds of all who come before him, Samell despairs of every breaking free.

Until Larissa walks into his tent and he recognizes the warrior who might mean the difference between life and death.

The situation becomes dire when Larissa and Samell come to the attention of the Shemdylann pirates who kidnapped him in the first place and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the empathic alien noble, and derail the Mawreg plot against the Sectors? And will the soldier end up with her prince when all’s said and done?

Buy Links:  Amazon     Kobo     B&N     iBooks     Google

canva alien empath series 4 books

 

Not the Cause of the Problem Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedHere’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

The snippet is from Two Against the Stars (story below the excerpt), my latest release.  Continuing on from last week where Carialle tries to help her elderly landlady. Edited slightly from the published version to fit into our rules here.

“My late husband planted this tree when we moved in here, all those years ago.” Mrs. Galaganos sighed, “He was such a romantic—he carved our names into the trunk, with a heart, in honor of our love. This tree is my last link to him—he died a year ago. I’ll be devastated if it dies too – I feel close to him when I’m out here gardening in the shade of the tree,” Her voice quavered and Carialle feared the elderly lady was on the verge of tears.

She peered more closely at the inscription and could barely make out two names and several slashes resembling a date. The carving was old and clearly not the cause of the tree’s current health problem.  “Bugs, living deep within the trunk, feasting on the rising sap.”

“How—how can you tell?”

“I know a lot about plants – I’ve studied them,” Carialle improvised. The tree was attempting to tell her what course of action might help it fight off the infestation.

Next week I’ll continue with this scene..

twoThe story:

Empathic priestess Carialle has escaped the evil Amarotu Combine, but she’s hardly out of danger. Not when she risks everything to rescue a drugged man from a crooked veterans’ clinic. By lulling the clinic staff to sleep, she reveals her powers. And once again, criminals are after her and her rescuer.

Marcus Valerian, a wounded Special Forces veteran, never expected to have his life threatened by the clinic that’s supposed to help ex-soldiers like him. But when he wakes from a drugged state to find a lovely woman urging him to run–he does. In his family’s remote fishing cabin, he suffers the agony of withdrawal, soothed only by her powers.

In their idyllic hideaway, the two also discover a nova-hot attraction flaring. But can they stay alive long enough for it to become more? Not if the Combine has anything to say–they are not giving up until Marcus is dead and Carialle is their weapon

Buy Links:

Amazon     iBooks     Barnes & Noble  Kobo  

3 empath covers canva

Who Could Predict Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedHere’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

The snippet is from Two Against the Stars (story below the excerpt), my latest release. I’m continuing on from last week although I’ve skipped ahead a bit. After leaving the hotel and pawning Dobkin’s watch, Carialle rides the city’s mass transit all day, working her way into the seedier areas of town. She leaves the transport, buys lunch and studies the situation. (Edited somewhat from the published version.)

After finishing her meal, surprised at how healthy her appetite was after the traumatic events of the day, she wandered through the area, which boasted small shops with the proprietors’ living quarters above. The neighborhood was crowded and lively with street musicians playing for credits. Carialle kept her eyes open for any signs of Combine activity but detected none. Oh, there were scammers and pickpockets, but when she touched them lightly with her highly attuned senses, the petty crooks had no thought of the Combine.

Reassured she’d made a good choice, she strolled further, observing the mix of older, poorly maintained buildings and the newer, refurbished places. She encountered no police, which for her was just as reassuring as not seeing Combine enforcers. Who could predict how the mysterious authorities would view what she’d done as a Combine tool? And she’d probably be suspected of killing Dobkin, which was another huge problem.

High in the azure sky, the glint of an ascending spacecraft drew her attention for a moment. Averting her gaze, she blinked away tears – this planet was going to be her home for the rest of her life.

twoThe story:

Empathic priestess Carialle has escaped the evil Amarotu Combine, but she’s hardly out of danger. Not when she risks everything to rescue a drugged man from a crooked veterans’ clinic. By lulling the clinic staff to sleep, she reveals her powers. And once again, criminals are after her and her rescuer.

Marcus Valerian, a wounded Special Forces veteran, never expected to have his life threatened by the clinic that’s supposed to help ex-soldiers like him. But when he wakes from a drugged state to find a lovely woman urging him to run–he does. In his family’s remote fishing cabin, he suffers the agony of withdrawal, soothed only by her powers.

In their idyllic hideaway, the two also discover a nova-hot attraction flaring. But can they stay alive long enough for it to become more? Not if the Combine has anything to say–they are not giving up until Marcus is dead and Carialle is their weapon

Buy Links:

Amazon     iBooks     Barnes & Noble  Kobo 

3 empath covers canva

 

 

 

Not Going To Be Used Weekend Writing Warriors

Warriors logo revisedHere’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…a fun way to sample new books and find new authors! (Also welcome to the Sunday Snippet visitors!)

NEW RELEASE! The snippet is from Two Against the Stars (story below the excerpt):

Her handler lay sprawled on the cheap imitation tile floor, a pool of blood spreading from the back of his head. He’d evidently fallen or passed out from the drugs he’d done, striking his head on the commode as he toppled. His sporadic breathing was labored and halted on a harsh exhale even as she stared at him. His head lolled to the side and his entire body went limp.

Her heightened senses confirmed Dobkin’s lifeforce had fled.

The handler’s death left her numb. He’d never assaulted her, nor beaten her, as some of the other handlers did with their charges, but he’d been casually cruel since they met. He clearly didn’t see her as a person in her own right. Indeed, not as anything but a tool to use for the Combine’s profit and his own advancement.

“I’m not going to be used for anyone else’s purposes ever again,” she said.

TwoAgainstTheStarsFinalThe story:

Empathic priestess Carialle has escaped the evil Amarotu Combine, but she’s hardly out of danger. Not when she risks everything to rescue a drugged man from a crooked veterans’ clinic. By lulling the clinic staff to sleep, she reveals her powers. And once again, criminals are after her and her rescuer.

Marcus Valerian, a wounded Special Forces veteran, never expected to have his life threatened by the clinic that’s supposed to help ex-soldiers like him. But when he wakes from a drugged state to find a lovely woman urging him to run–he does. In his family’s remote fishing cabin, he suffers the agony of withdrawal, soothed only by her powers.

In their idyllic hideaway, the two also discover a nova-hot attraction flaring. But can they stay alive long enough for it to become more? Not if the Combine has anything to say–they are not giving up until Marcus is dead and Carialle is their weapon

Buy Links:

Amazon     iBooks     Barnes & Noble  Kobo

 

 

 

SFR Brigade Presents DANGER IN THE STARS

SFRB ShowcaseOnce a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new work, WIPs, cover reveals or other fun things. The link is here for all  the participants.

I’m doing excerpts from Danger in the Stars, which is at the formatter this week and will hopefully be released next week, but certainly by the 11th of April.

dangerinthestarsfinalThe story:

Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.

Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.

The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?

VS Note: This is the story of the sister who is mentioned in passing in Star Cruise: Stowaway, my story in the award winning PETS IN SPACE anthology. The new novel is completely standalone.

The excerpt – Miriell is required to demonstrate her powers to Opherra, the crime boss she’s been brought in to assist. Opherra is speaking. Jareck is the thug assigned to ‘control’ Miriell:

“I want a demonstration of what the performer can do. Prove to me you can be of assistance in what I need.”

“Can you give me a few more details on what you want me to make her do?” Jareck asked.

Miriell felt nauseated as her muscles tensed while she waited to learn what atrocious act she’d be required to perform now, what perversion of her Thuun-given gifts would be demanded.

“The end game is to help me attract a particular influential gentleman who’s been curiously resistant to my charms,” Opherra said, her lips twisted in annoyance. “I need him in thrall to me for our plans here to move forward. In too deep to back out when I reveal my true agenda. No names, but he’s key. My boss is tired of waiting for the standard ploys to yield results.”

“Is he here?”

She shook her head. “Of course not. I need to see these abilities in action before I risk my entire operation on an unknown.” Glancing around the restaurant, she laughed. “Oh yes, an excellent target for the demonstration I want. You see that blonde woman, the one with her husband, the older couple and three children? I’ve never seen anyone less likely to commit suicide. Make her throw herself off the balcony, and I’ll be a believer.” She drummed her talonlike red fingernails on the tablecloth. “Now.”

Miriell’s heart sank. The target was clearly happy, surrounded by her family, and had been casually targeted by Opherra to die just to prove a point. She gathered her power, which was curiously difficult to do, perhaps because she was so repelled by the task, and hummed the death song under her breath. Reaching out with her senses, she found the tiniest gray in the unfortunate woman’s vivid colors. Each sentient had their private sorrows and constant worries. Miriell worked to expand the gray, suppress the other colors. The woman’s companions were oblivious to her sudden silence, because the lively children were laughing and talking so happily. Suddenly, there were gasps as the target of Miriell’s attack rose abruptly from the table, knocking her chair into the person next to her. Face blank, the woman strode toward the edge of the dining area and the observation platform that built over thin air. It had safety rails, but nothing robust enough to stop a determined adult from pitching headfirst to the ground hundreds of feet below.  Her husband raced after her, but she had a head start and was increasing her speed as she went.

Hoping no one would notice what she was doing, Miriell continued her pressure on the woman but began to subtly affect one of the waiters carrying a huge load of dishes until, at literally the last second, he backed away from a table and collided with the suicidal woman, sending them both reeling and collapsing to the floor, tangled together, covered in food and broken crockery. Miriell released her hold on both sentients and fell back in her chair. Hand shaking, she reached for her glass of water and sipped, although her throat was nearly closed from stress. Please let that be enough of a demonstration for Opherra.

Buy Links: Amazon      iBooks    Kobo     Barnes & Noble

VS: In my post that I did for Liza O’Connor’s blog, discussing this book, I mentioned one of my influences was the original Star Trek episode “The Empath…” I always loved that episode and the idea of how powerful an empath could be remained with me.

star trek the empath