Wednesday, June 21, 2017



1.   Never forget that space will always try to kill you.

2.   The captain's always right, even when the captain's wrong.

3.   Spacer's tape can fix anything but a broken heart.

4.   Never go outside the ship alone. (See rule number one.)

5.   In zero gee, everything is twice as hard, takes three times as long, and is four times as dangerous. (See rule number one.) 

6.   The job isn't done until it's done and you're back inside having a beer.

7.   Work smarter, not harder, and don't forget rule number one.

8.   Twenty-four hours from bottle to throttle. (Each time we've seen these posted, this one has been heavily scratched through.

     This story takes place in the same universe as the Dragon's Bidding stories, but about forty years earlier. Because of the bug's unpleasant breeding habits, all female soldiers had been pulled off the front lines, resulting in a decimation of the male troops.  Now, two years after the end of the Bug War, the population is approximately three women to every man--many of whom are suffering from PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The story begins in a rundown, gerbat infested bar..... 

Love, like war, is easy to start but hard to end. Eric Colcheck’s war ended long over, but love hadn’t yet released its grappling hooks on his heart. Every time he closed his eyes, he could still see Katherine’s face, her eyes wide, a deep, rich brown and dead. He drained the shot glass, and the whiskey flowed down his throat like super-heated plasma. At least he could feel that if nothing else. He waved his empty glass at the barkeep for a refill, hoping there was enough left on his credit chip to pay for one more.

Technically, he wasn’t broke. His personal account was still flush with his separation bonus, and the quarterly medical stipend continued to flow in with mindless imperial efficiency, just as it always had in the two years since he’d left the Imperial Marines at the end of the Tzraka War. He’d just picked the wrong station to back-talk his captain and get kicked off his ship. The aptly named Dead End Station was so far back in the Hinterlands that they had no live banking connections with the Empire, no way to access his account. For the past two months he’d been living off the balance on his credit chip, and now that had about reached zero. The closest Imperial Bank terminal where he could recharge it was on Beckswold, over a hundred light years away. Might as well be on the other side of the galaxy.

No freighter captain with brains of a gerbat put in here, not unless he was paid to bring in a cargo to be transshipped to the Lander’s Federation. Of the handful that had docked, none were looking to hire an extra hand or even take him on as a paying passenger. Now with his financial resources so low, even that last option was closed to him. So he found himself waiting in this filthy bar feeling sorry for himself and spending the last of his money.

A salvage ship by the name of Yggsdrasil had put up a posting for a crewman with a Class-A pilot’s license on the shipper’s board that morning. He’d been careful to keep his license current—the only thing he had going for him—so he’d set up a meeting with her captain, Bru Thorsson. With a name like that he had to be a Fjordlander.

He accepted his fresh drink and took back his credit chip, wincing at the two digit balance when he palmed the display. Maybe it had the cost of a couple of meals left on it if he was careful. After that, if he couldn’t find a job moving cargo on the docks or cleaning up in one of the station’s dozens of bars, he would be eating out of recycle cans, but that was preferable to signing on with one of the mining outfits. Open space mining rated only one step above a trip out an airlock without a vac suit.

He hoped Captain Thorsson turned out to be as desperate as he was.

A tall woman in nondescript spacer’s coveralls strode into the bar, a large tri-color Kaphier cat trotting at her side. His gaze followed her as she stepped to the bar and spoke to the rat-faced woman behind the counter. The newcomer had that lean rangy look he’d always admired in women—hard muscled, small firm breasts and a killer ass. Like Katherine. He squeezed his eyes shut, retreated into his own darkness and sipped his drink.

“You Erik Colcheck?” The voice, a warm contralto, had the broad vowel accent of a Fjordlander.

He looked up and nodded. Of course, it was the woman. With a three to one ratio of women to men in the Empire since the war had decimated its male population, the majority of commercial spacers out here were women. She slid into the seat across the table from him and put down her cup of coffee. The liquid in the chipped mug appeared as black as hydraulic fluid, with an evil rainbow sheet floating on its surface. No one but a pilot would drink that shit. Few ship drivers out here cared, but she must be one of those few who lived by the ancient adage: Twenty-four hours from bottle to throttle.

“Bru Thorsson? I expected a man.” He was hoping it would be a man, or a non-human, or anything but a beautiful woman with dark chocolate colored eyes
“Yeah, and most people expect a Viking, too. My old man was a traditionalist and had a perverse sense of humor. It’s short for Brunhilda, but don’t even think about calling me Hilda. Call me captain and we’ll get along fine.” She took a drink of the coffee, her face screwed up, and she returned the cup to the tabletop pushing it aside.

The cat sat in the chair next to her, its white paws rested on the table and its sapphire eyes studied him intently. He slammed down all the anti-telepath barriers he’d learned in basic training. Kaphier cats freaked him out. Telepaths, always rooting around in other people’s minds.

“You have experience in outside work?” Thorsson asked. A lock of dark chestnut hair escaped from under her billed spacer’s cap and curled against her cheek. She tucked it behind one ear with a casual flick of her fingers.

Outside work. Extravehicular activity. Zero gee, zero atmosphere. Before he could block them, images flooded his mind. Blackness sprinkled with the cold unwinking stars, the bulk of a hiveship hanging overhead, and motionless bodies drifting in clouds of frozen red droplets.

“Yeah, I’ve worked outside.” He took a gulp of whiskey and welcomed the pain pouring down his throat. He looked away from the dark eyes and found himself locking gazes with the cat. Its whiskers twitched. Privacy laws prohibited a Kaphier cat from reading a human without permission, but out here is was common practice for a ship’s captain to depend on one to vet prospective crew people. The cat’s blue eyes blinked, and it yawned. Thorsson nodded, apparently satisfied with her feline compatriot’s evaluation.

“Great, you’re hired. Give me your logbook.” She held out her hand. “I’ll get you registered with the Yggdrasil and we can get the hell off this Yig-forsaken station.”

Her nails were clean, polished and square cut, short like most pilots who didn’t want to risk catching the wrong button on a control panel by accident. Like Katherine’s had been. She probably had the same calluses on the pads of her fingertips from hours tapping at the controls of a ship too.

A shout cut through the bar’s chatter and laughter, followed by the brittle crash of breaking dishes and bottles. He jerked, the shot glass tumbling from his fingers and spraying liquor in the cat’s face. It squalled.

“Sorry. I don’t want your job.” He barely took the time to register the shock on Thorsson’s face before he grabbed his off-ship case from the chair beside him and bolted, pushing through the crowd to the exit, leaving behind his last chance to escape his personal purgatory.


“What the hell was that about, Lilly?” Bru Thorsson asked the cat as she watched Colcheck disappear out of the bar.

Bug-burned.” Pity colored the cat’s mind voice.

“That wreck was a veteran of the Tzraka War?”

“When you mentioned outside work I caught a glimpse of something, but he shut down on me pretty quick.”

“Psy-blocking? I thought the Empire only trained their elite troops to do that, not grunts.”

“Could be he just hates telepaths. I picked up on a lot of resentment about my being here. He was afraid I might be reading him.”

“That’s why I bring you along.” Bru started to take a drink of coffee but put the cup down with a grimace.

As a teenager, young and stupid, she’d wanted to sign up with the Imperial Fleet and fly dropships, even after she learned the life expectancy of the pilots was less than six months. Her father had refused to sign off on her enlistment, probably the only reason she was still alive. Instead, he apprenticed her to her uncle on the Yggs and when Lars Thorsson died she took over the captaincy herself.

“Damn, Lilly, we need him. He’s the only unassigned person on the station right now who has a Class A license. And I certainly don’t have the resources to woo someone away from another ship.”

The cat nibbled on a claw. “Actually, all you need is his log book.”

“Are you suggesting I roll him and steal it?”

“It’s been done.”

Bru shook her head. “That would strand him here and I wouldn’t wish this gerbat infested hole on anyone. Even Cam. Why’d Traffic Control on this dump have to be such sticklers? I can fly the Yggs by myself just fine. I don’t need a second crew member.”

Regulations stated that a Lister SA-17 needed a crew of two licensed pilots, minimum, but Bru had been operating the ancient salvage ship on her own for the last three months—ever since she and Cam ended. Cam Sebastian had been her partner, in business and in bed, for more than a standard year, but the best of things come to an end. Even the immense bulk of the Yggs had been uncomfortably small for two ex-lovers to share, particularly when one sulked in his cabin and refused to pull his own weight.

When they put in at Dead End Station, Cam cleaned out their jointly held ship’s operation account and bought a ride on an outbound freighter, leaving her stranded until she could find another crew member. For now, her personal account paid the docking fees, but they wouldn’t cover them for much longer. As soon as she blew through that money, the Dock Master could begin filing the forms to impound her ship—which was probably how the bitch supplemented her income. Her only other option would be to comm Fjordland and ask her father to front her the money, but that could take weeks to get here and those docking fees would be mounting every day. And asking her family for money felt like failure. Finances were stretched equally as thin at home, what with her brother’s medical bills. She’d do everything within her powers to avoid that, even if it meant kidnapping Colcheck.

“Can you follow him, Lilly?”

“He smelled like a distillery, and I don’t think he’s seen the inside of a shower for several weeks. I would think even a deficient human nose like yours would be able to track him. And he’s leaving a psychic trail of self-pity as wide as a small asteroid. So, yeah, no problem. We going to roll him?” The cat jumped down and headed for the door.

“No, but I am going to shanghai Mr. Colcheck.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holidays past… and future.

     Growing up in southern Florida, I didn’t have a chance to experience a white Christmas. The closest I came were glittery winter scenes on holiday cards and scrapping ice off the windshield of the car on below freezing mornings. I’d hope for a cold snap to roll in and bring 40 degree weather so my Dad would light a fire in the fireplace while I opened my presents on Christmas morning.

     I know, I can hear all you who live in New England, the Upper Midwest and Canada laughing. “Wimp,” you’re saying. After you’ve spent a few summers in the balmy southland, you have trouble adjusting to what little cold we get—it interferes with the water skiing and sunbathing. As the locals like to say, “Your blood thins out.” Winter visitors stand out because they are the ones in shorts and flip-flops, while the locals use the cold weather as an excuse to wear their boots and wrap Doctor Who scarves around their necks.

     I really didn’t experience a white Christmas until I was in my mid-twenties. Uncle Sam sent my husband and me on an expense paid two year vacation to southern Germany (also know as serving in the army). He was posted at a small post in Herzogenaurach, near Nuremberg. We’d always heard about the wonderful Christkindlesmarkt  (Christmas Market) held in Nuremberg, so off we went with a group of friends on a snowy December evening.

     It was a magical night, with the square full of lights and merriment and the old Frauenkirche Church overlooking it all. The stalls were filled with delicate handmade glass ornaments; the air held the scent of bratwurst, gingerbread and gluhwein. And of course, snow. It was so cold, the only way I could keep my hands warm was to wrap them around a cup of gluhwein—hot spiced wine. The only problem was I kept emptying the cup, to keep my insides warm. Needless to say, we were all happy and a little tipsy by the time we left.

I purchased a box of iridescent glass ornaments, protecting them all evening long from the pushing and shoving of the crowd. When we returned to the states, I proudly put them on my Christmas tree, only to have the cats, Frodo and Meriadoc, ride the tree to the ground and break most of them.  Such is the life of a Crazy Cat Lady.

Click on picture to get the receipt.
If you’d like to make some gluhwein for your holidays this year, click on the picture for the receipt. If you don’t partake of the spirits, the drink can be make with apple cider.

Holidays future-Founder’s Days

     The majority of the action in my new book, Cypher: The Dragon’s Bidding Book Two, takes place during the ten day period of the planet Scyr’s major holiday, Founder’s Days, sort of a combination of Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving and Fourth of July, all rolled into one. It celebrates the anniversary of the arrival of the original colony ship from the First World (as they call Earth). The first-in colonists divided the planet’s 400 day year into ten months with four weeks of ten days each, setting aside a full week for a huge celebration that ended on the final day of the year. During the holidays there are parties, concerts and formal balls that the new emperor  plans to attend, but her Security Chief, Kimber FitzWarren knows that this is the perfect time for the assassin she’s hunting  to strike. For Fitz, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The assassin is her lover, Wolf, who’s body and mind have been co-opted by the computer generated personality of a killer. In this scene Fitz realized what she's up against with the help of her aide Lt. Pike and Jumper, an intelligent, telepathic cat. He's the book's comic relief and the quintessential side kick. I like to think of him as a cross between Chewbacca and Garfield.

The lieutenant nodded, his head bobbing like some child’s toy. “With the augie project shut down, your partner may have only been a target of opportunity, but what if Tritico wanted to subvert him specifically?”
A mind with no compunction, no morals, hijacking a body with all of Wolf’s considerable talents for mayhem? Ice settled in Fitz’s stomach. “Tritico tried to kill Ransahov once before and failed. Now he needs an assassin who can get through all the Imperial Security measures—get past me—and take her and the entire government down.”
“Is even he that good?” Pike said.
Jumper surged to his feet, fur standing up along his spine. “With those upgrades? You bet  he is. You’ll never see him coming. He’ll rip through this security like it was wet  paper. No offence, Boss Lady. Then he’ll blow away every one of those wimpy Praetorian Guardsmen in their pretty white armor. The only thing you’ll see of him will be his smile just before he puts a slug between your eyes…” His ears flatten against his skull. “We are so screwed.”
Had Tritico forced Wolf to become a pawn in a competition much like the strategy games the two had played as cadets at the Academy? A contest acted out not in a virtual reality world, but across the sweep of an empire. Not with icons on a screen, but with real ships and weapons and living, thinking beings forced to function as game pieces. Had he picked Wolf solely for his skills, or because he knew that if there was one shred of the man she loved inside that stolen body, one glimmer of his soul, Tritico could inflict untold pain on him as he made him watch himself slaughter his friends and loved ones? Slaughter her?
Fitz started to rise, but froze as Pike’s face went ashen.
“The Founder’s Day celebrations.” Fear strangled his voice. “There’ll be thousands…”
Fitz took up the litany. “Tens of thousands, from all over the Empire, even the Midworlds. Ari will have concerts to attend, speeches to deliver, at least one warship christening. Not to mention that big gala at Star Henge.”
Her young aide found his voice. “Which will be attended by the Emperor and the civilian Triumvir, along with every high ranking military official—Fleet or Marines. Every assemblyman or councilperson. Every businessperson in the Empire, hell in the whole Human Sector; anyone who wants to snag a lucrative imperial contract. If your assassin is as good as the cat thinks he is, he can effectively behead Ransahov’s entire government at any one of these events.”

From the 15th until Christmas Cypher will be available at a special holiday price of only $1.99. Enjoy and don't forget to leave a review. Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Joyous Kwanzaa.

Click to return to the SFRB page for the next great blog post.

1. Lea Kirk  16. Michelle Howard  
2. Pippa Jay  17. Siren Allen  
3. Carol Van Natta  18. Tess Rider  
4. Liza O'Connor  19. Kyndra Hatch  
5. Jolie Mason  20. Melisse Aires  
6. Aurora Springer  21. Michelle Diener  
7. S. A. Hoag  22. Shari Elder  
8. Pauline Baird Jones  23. Ed Hoornaert  
9. Veronica Scott  24. C.E. Kilgore  
10. Jess Anastasi  25. Diane Burton  
11. AR DeClerck  26. Athena Grayson  
12. Dena Garson  27. Misa Buckley  
13. Carmen Webster Buxton  28. Kaye Manro  
14. Imogene Nix  29. E.M Reders  
15. Christina Westcott  

Monday, June 8, 2015

SFR Brigade Summer CafĂ© - Week 4
Androids and Aliens
And a couple of cyborgs for good measure
Cooking by the Seat of Your Pants 
     Like my writing, I cook by the seat of my pants. It's just a little of this, some more of than and last time there wasn't enough cheese, so I'll add a bit more pepper jack. In a new WIP, I might start out with an outline, even make up a stack of 3X5 cards. I know where my story is going; I just don't know how I--or my characters--are going to get there. And somewhere in the "mushy middle", I invariably re-plot the ending.
     So it is for my cooking. At some point in time, I had a recipe for this dish, but I've changed it so many times, I don't recall what the original was. The only things that don't change are cheese and eggs. Sometimes I add onions and potatoes, as in the one below. Other versions have been sausage, peppers and onions or onions and broccoli, or asparagus, or any vegetable you like and happen to have in the refrigerator. Feel free to make your own personal version of it.
     I know, if you're one of those people who has to have a recipe to follow, this is going to drive you crazy. I'll bet you're a plotter, too.
Chris' Potato and Cheese Frittata
     You'll need an 8 inch heavy cast iron skillet and a non-stick fry pan. A small carton of low-fat, low-cholesterol egg product (to balance out the hi-fat, hi-cholesterol cheese), a small white onion and a can of pre-sliced, cooked potatoes (so I cheat, I don't have time to slice potatoes, I've got a book to write) and a package of finely grated cheese (of your choice, but it has to be real. That fake stuff just won't melt right). SautĂ© your thinly sliced onions and the potatoes (separately) in the non-stick pan. Grease the iron skillet liberally and place over medium heat. Pour in about half an inch of egg product, then layer the onions, potatoes, cheese and more egg until you finish up just short of the edge of the pan with enough egg to cover everything. Cook slowly, lifting the edges periodically to let the uncooked egg on top flow underneath. Cook to about three quarters done, then top with a nice thick layer of more cheese (hey, I didn't say this was low calorie) and place it under the broiler until golden brown.
     This is great for Sunday brunch, served with fruit, a muffin and cuppa tea, hot, Earl Grey. Along with your favorite book. It should serve 2-3, depending on their appetite, but left-overs warm up nicely and work well for supper with a salad.
And now for something entirely different. 
A first look at Cypher, the second book in The Dragon's Bidding Saga 

     "No.” The strength of his denial, contradicted the confusion in his eyes. “I’m….”
     “Who? Who are you then?” asked Fitz.
     The elegant features twisted. “I don’t know. All I remember…”
     “Do you remember anything before you woke up in the medical bay?”
     “I, ah…. You, I remember you, Gray Eyes. You were there, bending over me when I opened my eyes. I wanted to crawl inside those silver orbs and stay with you forever.”
     “But nothing before that?”
     “No.” The word seemed to hurt him.
     “That’s because you didn’t exist before that second. You’re just a scrap of programming that Dr. DeWitt slipped into Wolf’s computer while they were doing the augmentation upgrades. It overwrote your personality. Tritico paid the cyber-tech to hijack your body. He figured you were the only person strong and smart enough, with the access to kill Ari and he wanted her out of the way, so he could go on doing business the way he always had. He programmed you to kill her.”
     She stroked her hand down the side of his face, felt the scratch of whiskers. “Come back with me, Wolf. We can pull the program out. Stop it now before anyone else get hurt.”
     He flinched back from her touch. “Don’t call me that. I’m not your Wolf. And I’m not just a piece of bad code. I exist, damn it. I’m human, I have emotions and I want to stay alive.”
     "We’ll figure something out. I promise. We won’t just delete you like a random cypher…."
     “Cypher. I like that.” He trailed his finger down her throat. "No more Wolf. Call me Cypher.”
     His mouth claimed hers, hard and hungry, his tongue forcing its way past her lips demanding her response. All the anger, fear and frustration of the past few day ignited a laser bright heat inside her, fusing her mouth to his. He pressed his body against her, pinning her to the wall. When the need to breathe drove him to lift his mouth, he searched her face, his eyes hooded and dark with passion.      “You don’t seem like the type to seek hard anonymous sex in Warren back alleys. Who is this Wolf to you? At first, I thought you were his bodyguard, just an augie charged with protecting him, but it goes a lot deeper than that, doesn’t it?”
     “You…Wolf is my bonded partner. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to get him back.” She lifted her hand, displaying the thin platinum ring circling one finger. Her index finger held a second, larger band. “These are our bonding rings. I’d never heard of the custom before, but you…Wolf… said it was common on his home world Willcommin. I kept yours… his, while he was undergoing the implantation surgeries.”
     “Bond-partner, huh? Lucky man.” He kissed her again, softer this time. It ended too soon for Fitz.
     “You told me once that you would be by my side for a long as I would have you. Even for all eternity. I need you to keep that promise now.”
     Cypher shook his head. “I’m sorry, Gray Eyes, but I can’t do that. Although, I’ll admit that kiss almost made me change my mind. The truth is, I’ve gotten accustomed to this body. It’s quick, strong and smart. And easy on the eye, if I’m reading your emotions correctly. I’m going to need all those attributes when I come after Ransahov again.”
     Fitz raised her chin and put as much frost into her gaze as her aching soul would allow. “If you do, I’ll be forced to stop you. Don’t make me do that.”
     “You might try, but I don’t think you’ll succeed. My advice would be to stay out of my way. I’ve already stolen your Wolf’s body and maybe after the Emperor is dead, I’ll come back and claim his woman.”
Look for Cypher, coming soon.

A Hero for the Empire, Book One of the Dragon's Bidding series now on sale at the following:


Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Cat Made Me Do It
by Christina Westcott
Since the long ago day I discovered Space Cat Meets Mars in my local library, I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy. So I guess it was natural that when I tried my hand at writing, I’d choose space opera. My stories were always less about the technology and more about the people, how they interacted and cared about each other—even if some of them were aliens. Sure, there was adventure and danger, but my characters were often motivated by the emotions they felt for each other. They wanted to save the universe, but more importantly they needed first to save each other, because they were in love. I labored for years, receiving many letters from editors. You know the ones—“We liked this, but…” Eventually I found some success in writing magazine articles, but fiction remained my elusive first love. 

Once again, a cat stepped in to show the way. In my local Barnes & Noble, while perusing the science fiction section, I came across a book with a cat on the cover. I decided to take a chance on it. It had cats in it; that alone was worth the price. It turned out to be the first science fiction romance I’d ever seen. The echoes to my own stories were astounding and heartening. Not only did it have adventure, space battles (and of course cats) but it had love. And (gasp) sex scenes, right there on the page—actually no, they were usually in bed. 

I was hooked. 

Now my long literary pregnancy is over and those chance encounters with cats have led to the release of my first SFR (Sci-Fi Romance) this month, A Hero For The Empire. Are there cats in it, you ask? Bet your whiskers.



Cybernetically augmented Kimber FitzWarren has been given the task of locating a missing military icon, Arianne Ransahov, but the only person with a clue to the woman’s whereabouts is mercenary, Wolf Youngblood. The Empire just attempted to assassinate him because of this knowledge, so when Fitz shows up in his bedroom at 0-dark-30, he’s less than happy to see her. She explains she isn’t there to kill him, but to plead for his help. Help he’s reluctant to give—until another assassin comes after both of them. 

The two set off on their quest along with Fitz’s sentient starship, Lizzy, and Wolf’s telepathic cat, Jumper—who’s a cross between Chewbacca and Garfield. The action is non-stop, with our heroes escaping one Imperial trap only to face another danger, then another. But there is enough time for the pair to fall in love. Hero for the Empire is good, old-fashioned space opera in the style of Star Wars, Firefly or this summer’s blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy.


I’ve always thought that when man went to space, cats would follow him. Their lithe bodies are built for flying in zero gravity and their paws grip with the tenacity of Velcro. Now if we can just figure out what to do about that pesky cat litter in zero gee… 

Cat have always gone adventuring with mankind, accompanying us on voyages of discovery, riding on merchant vessels and have even following us to war. There’s the story of Oscar, the German cat who was aboard the battleship Bismarck when it was sunk in 1941. He was rescued by a British ship, which was itself sunk four months later. Only to be rescue again and—you guessed it—sunk again before the year was out. Eventually, his name was changed to Unsinkable Sam and he was retired to an old sailors home in England. 

In that tradition, the cats in my imaginary worlds, ride aboard starships to protect their crew from frainies, a particularly nasty mind parasite. Fearless space cat, Jumper, does battle with The Enemy to save the hero and heroine.



   Now The Enemy had come aboard this ship and wanted to kill his person. That would not be tolerated.

   Five fuzzy globs of light drifted out of the common room. Jumper saw them as dirty gray spheroids of wiggling tentacles tipped with organs to locate the thoughts of their prey. His green eyes narrowed, a hunter’s growl rumbling in his throat.

   The powerful muscles of his hind legs hurled him among them, claws slashing, jaws crushing. He hit the deck and rebounded, tumbling and slaughtering until only one remained. It flashed away and down the stairs to engineering. Jumper spit out the foulness of his last kill and soared after it.

   He grabbed the handrail on the stairs, slowing his forward momentum and peered down into the room. A glowing ball of frainies a meter across churned in mid-air. Was it a trap? He’d heard stories of cats swarmed by The Enemy and killed, but were they true? Or only cautionary tales to keep high-spirited kittens in check?

   The puff of fur on his behind twitched as he tried to lash his non-existent tail. Jumper leapt, screaming his battle cry. He was a Gold Dragon and this was, as the mercenaries liked to say, a target rich environment.
 You can catch her and her herd of cats on her website at or on

Buy A Hero for the Empire at:


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Soundtrack of Your Book

Can A Sexy Super-Soldier, a Mercenary and a Telepathic Cat Save the Galaxy?  

A Hero for the Empire

The Soundtrack of Your Book

Every great movie has an equally stirring soundtrack. Where would Star Wars be without Jon Williams’ exciting music or any cinematic love scene not accompanied by a background of lush strings? And just like any sweeping film, your book deserves its own soundtrack. 

More than any other stimuli, music affects our thoughts and moods. Filmmakers are well aware of this fact and use music to full advantage when heightening the emotion impact of a scene. Don’t believe it’s that important? Watch any romantic or adventurous sequence with the sound off and see if it doesn’t lose a huge part of its emotional impact.

You can’t package a soundtrack with each of your manuscripts, but you can use this trick to supercharge your own passions while you write. Build a play list of music that represents each strong emotion you want to express—danger, love, sorrow. If you don’t know where to begin, select a movie that expresses the feelings you’re searching for and build from that. Pick a title song as if you were scoring a film, melodies to represent each of your main characters and even a love theme. 

If you’re one of those people who can’t write to music, don’t despair. Listen to your play list while running errands, cleaning house or walking the dog. You’ll soon come to connect this music with your manuscript so intimately, that every time you hear it—be it in the mall or the grocery store—you’ll be transported into the world you have created. When you sit down to write, take a few minute to relax and listen to the appropriate play list. Open your mind and let the images come. And then write.

I write space opera romance, filled with interstellar battles and gun fights between the love scenes, so my play lists contain a lot of loud, exciting music, particularly power metal by bands like Nightwish and Epica. During the edits on my last book, my editor had requested a change in a fight scene near the end of the book. I completed all the other revisions, the manuscript was due back the next day and I still had nothing on changing that scene. I plugged my action/adventure play list into the car’s CD player and hit the Interstate. North of my home, the highway runs flat and relatively straight for 14 miles (31 klicks) to the next exit. From there I turned around and returned. By the time I pulled back into my driveway, the entire scene was there inside my head and all I had to do was dash to my office and write it down. 

Music can do that, break down all the creative blocks and let the creativity flood in. Not always, but when it does, it’s magical. Here’s an excerpt from my newest release, A Hero for the Empire. See if it doesn’t read better with a little heavy metal in the background. Either “Unholy Trinity” by Epica from “The Score-An Epic Journey” or “Storytime” (instrumental version) by Nightwish from Imaginaerum works for me.

The freighter abruptly rolled to the right. Red lights rippled across the control panel. Alarms wailed. With a thruster out, the Loki series glided like a block of plexisteel dropped in a bathtub. Their angle of descent steepened precipitously. Wolf managed to bring the ship out of the roll and feathered the throttle on the remaining engine to keep them level. 

When her hearing returned, Fitz could hardly understand him through the ringing in her ears. “Ship, give me a revised course to the bloody landing site. Can we make it there?” 

Lizzy’s answer was obvious as the plot recalibrated on the tactical display. Their new course passed directly over the city toward the mountains. It ended abruptly about half way up one of the peaks. 

“I’m afraid not, Colonel.” 

“Find me a pass or valley or something to fly this piece of shit through. Otherwise, we’re going to have to put down on this side of that range. The only place that looks good to me right now is the ocean, and I’m not keen on going swimming today.” 

“There.” Fitz pointed out a break in the line of peaks just before Lizzy put the new course up on the display. “Can we make it through there?” 

“Perhaps,” the ship answered. “If we can maintain this altitude. Colonel, change your heading to three-five-zero.” 

As Wolf eased the nose around to the new heading, Fitz eyeballed the slender defile ahead of them. This far out, it looked impossibly narrow with a tangle of trees crowding the gap between two vertical rock faces. Half way through, the passage doglegged to the right. She wouldn’t want to fly through that in a perfectly good shuttle, let alone a crippled freighter. 

“Jumper. Box,” Wolf snapped. For once, the cat didn’t argue. His claws scrabbled on the deck plates, and the door to his carrier slammed. 

“Fitz, activate your crash web.” He fought with the controls, not waiting to see if she obeyed him. 

Cocooned inside the restraints she would be unable to do more than watch. “Not yet. You’re going to need my help with the ship.” 

“I don’t need your help. I need you safe. Activate the web.”

At her touch on the button, the restraints boiled out of the edges of her seat, enveloping her and contracting. She felt trapped in a vat of thick cold pudding. A clear shield covered her face, sparing her a sense of suffocation and allowing her to communicate. 

“What about you?” 

He shook his head. “Someone has to fly this shit box.” 

As much as she’d rather see him safely ensconced in the crash web’s embrace, she knew only he could take the ship through that defile. A coldly logical computer, Lizzy would never have considered such an unlikely course. It took a slightly mad and very ballsy human pilot to pull this off.