When Pauline B. Jones and I decided to organize our second take on pets in space, I felt this was my chance to write a rock star romance. I really love the genre but never thought I’d write one since I’m pretty much a science fiction author. BUT then I found a way to have a rock star aboard my interstellar luxury cruise liner and the next challenge became to identify a hero. That too was fairly easy – a security officer on the ship, assigned to protect her. But what kind of a pet would he have?
I’ve always loved Andre Norton’s vintage scifi and her Beastmaster was one of my favorites, years ago. Partly as a tribute to the hero of her book and his eagle, Baku, I decided to give my hero an alien, telepathic eagle, with a backstory of having been to war together. The hero in Beastmaster was also a veteran of space wars, who’d fought on many worlds with his team of telepathic animals. I have to stress my hero in Star Cruise: Songbird and his eagle Valkyr are completely different from Ms. Norton’s, but it was fun to write my own take on the concept. It’s always nifty to give a group of authors the same story prompt and see how differently they’ll tell the tale. Which is actually a fundamental principle of the whole Pets In Space concept that Pauline and I operate from – tell us a scifi romance story with a heroic pet integrally involved in the plot!
Blurb for Star Cruise: Songbird:
Grant Barton, a Security Officer on the Nebula Zephyr, is less than thrilled with his current assignment to guard an Interstellar singing sensation while she’s on board the ship. It doesn’t help that he and his military war bird Valkyr are dealing with their recent separation from the Sectors Special Forces and uncertainty over their future, with their own planet in ruins.
Karissa Dawnstar is on top of the charts and seemingly has it all – talent, fame, fortune and devoted fans, but behind her brave smile and upbeat lyrics she hides an aching heart. When a publicity stunt goes wrong, Karissa finds herself in the arms of the security officer assigned to protect her – and discovers a mutual attraction she can’t ignore.
Trouble continues to plague the pair, driving a wedge between them and leaving Grant certain that Karissa is in more danger than she realizes, from overzealous fans and her own management. Grant is determined to protect Karissa whether she wants his help or not. Can he discover the truth behind what’s going on before he loses Karissa or is there someone else plotting to keep them apart – permanently?
The excerpt, when rock star Karissa first meets Valkyr the eagle:
Karissa stopped in her tracks once she was across the threshold. “You didn’t tell me you had a bird!” Before he could stop her, she went forward to where Valkyr sat on his special perch. “You’re gorgeous, big boy.” She extended her hand to stroke the glossy iridescent black wing.
Grant had no conscious memory of moving but he had her in an iron grip, with his back to the bird and her safely to the side.
“What the seven hells—” She yanked away from him.
“Valkyr is a Qaazamir hunting eagle—he could bite off one of your fingers without any problem and his talons can inflict enough damage to kill a human. Never approach a wild, feral animal as if it’s a house pet.”
She looked chastened. “He’s beautiful. And he doesn’t seem upset. Or threatening.”
“You’re in his space and he’s never met you.” Grant turned. Valkyr sat on his perch calmly, blinking at them, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. He preened, fluffing out his feathers, raising his elegant crest of white and doing a bit of grooming, then spread his wings wide for a moment in an imposing display, before settling on the perch.
“Give me a moment to get my gear and we’ll go,” Grant said. “Promise me you won’t get close to him.”
Karissa nodded but still seemed so fascinated by the bird that Grant was uneasy as he headed toward his bedroom.
Won’t hurt the pretty one. She admires me.
Grant smiled. It seemed Karissa worked her celebrity magic on animals as well as most humans. He acknowledged Valkyr’s comment with a quick thought and hastened back wearing his special handler’s glove and shirt with the padded shoulder. Going to the perch, he held out his left hand and Valkyr sidled off the perch onto his fist, clutching him with the huge talons that could cause so much damage.
“Wow,” said Karissa, coming closer. “His claws are like knives. How can you hold him without getting hurt?”
“The glove and the shoulder of my shirt are made from woven cartefl fibers, strongest material in the Sectors,” Grant said. “In the old days, a handler had to wear bulky leather gloves and thick padding but modern tech makes things much easier. Shall we go?”
Karissa moved toward the door but gave him a dubious look. “You just carry him through the ship? What if he gets spooked and flies away?”
“Valkyr is a highly trained military asset,” he said, entering the corridor behind her. “And a registered sentient. He knows how to behave in a noncombat situation. This way.”
“So the two of you were in the war?”
He really didn’t want to talk about his past or explain himself to this pop star. “Yes. We were in the Special Forces Z Unit until recently. Z for zoological.”
“I saw a documentary on them once,” Karissa said as they entered the gravlift.
Valkyr liked antigrav and flared his wings to the full 8’ span, posing dramatically as they drifted downward toward the hangar deck.
Don’t show off for her too much. Grant chuckled a bit as Karissa gasped at the display his companion was making.
Blurb for Embrace the Romance: Pets In Space 2:
The pets are back! Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, featuring twelve of today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors brings you a dozen original stories written just for you! Join in the fun, from the Dragon Lords of Valdier to a trip aboard award-winning author, Veronica Scott’s Nebula Zephyr to journeying back to Luda where Grim is King, for stories that will take you out of this world! Join New York Times, USA TODAY, and Award-winning authors S.E. Smith, M.K. Eidem, Susan Grant, Michelle Howard, Cara Bristol, Veronica Scott, Pauline Baird Jones, Laurie A. Green, Sabine Priestley, Jessica E. Subject, Carol Van Natta, and Alexis Glynn Latner as they share stories and help out Hero-Dogs.org, a charity that supports our veterans!
10% of the first month’s profits go to Hero-Dogs.org. Hero Dogs raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.
Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author, as well as the “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, 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 recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”