Why I Wrote IVOKK: New Badari Warriors #SciFi Romance Novel

Genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony from the Sectors to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens. 

Ever since I released book four in the Badari series, JADRIAN, I’ve had comments and requests from readers to revisit one of the supporting characters, Sandara the Sanctuary Valley chef.  People wanted to know her back story and they wanted her to have a chance at her own happy ending, since she and Jadrian didn’t end up together.

I’ve been pondering that as the series went along. It’s always a tremendous compliment when readers like one of the secondary players enough to ask for more! I felt it would be something of a challenge to match Sandara with any of the existing Badari because she pretty thoroughly put the pack’s teeth on edge with a certain scene wherein she and Jadrian were extremely unpleasant to each other in public, to the point the Alpha’s mate Jill had to step in.

But then when I wrote DAEGAN, the world of the Badari opened up (trying not to do spoilers too much here) with the addition of an entirely new pack who’d been prisoners in the South Seas. As I wrote Daegan’s story, I kind of kept my eye on his number one enforcer, Ivokk, who I thought might be a worthy mate for Sandara. He didn’t know her before, he wasn’t a pack brother of Jadrian’s and since his group of Badari grew up somewhat differently, I felt like I had more room to take a fresh look at Sandara herself in the context of how the two of them might relate to each other. I could take her out of her comfort zone, send her off on a mission with Ivokk and see what happened between the two of them.

In my opinion, she needed a strong, senior level Badari as a mate.

As far as her back story, right from the beginning she was an anomaly to the colonists among whom she’d lived before they were all kidnapped, because she was a three star chef and had almost nothing in common with them, yet there she was, running a restaurant on their frontier world.  I won’t give the details away here. I will say that I love the reality program “Top Chef” and have watched every single season, some of them more than once, and while Sandara of course is not based on any real person, I think my Muse absorbed all the wonderful detail and passion about cooking from the chefs and judges on the show over 17 seasons (plus 5 Top Chef Masters seasons) and brought that richness to who Sandara is at heart. Then from there her backstory became clear to me and I was off and running. I found a few points where her interests and Ivokk’s could intersect nicely, giving them a bit of common ground. And a believable – I hope – and critical mission, under the circumstances.

From 1908, one of my grandfather’s favorite books as a boy. I loved it too! Full of adventure…

There’s a wild boar hunt in the book and I have to say I was somewhat influenced by certain episodes of “Yukon Vet”, where the vet has encounters with really large male pigs, as well as some other pretty fierce herd animals. Those episodes gave me a foundation for the sequence, along with a lot of internet research, which of course authors loooove to do. Endlessly. This author anyway! Also, many years ago I attended an event where an entire pig was roasted, which made a huge impression on me and I drew on that a little bit. And one of my grandfather’s favorite books as a boy, which I inherited and also loved, was an adventure by G. A. Henty wherein the plucky heroes had a run-in with wild pigs in South America and had to climb trees to escape and that made such a huge impression on me as a kid.

At one point Sandara has an episode of atrial fibrillation (afib) and believes she can feel her heart quivering and/or doing the irregular heartbeat. This is based on myself, because I have afib (several types in fact, lucky me) and during some of the episodes I can feel my heart fluttering in my chest. I wish I had a Badari healer close at hand to help! So please, no notes that this scene is unrealistic. I’ve lived it.

Yup, my Muse and I really are all about synthesizing my own life experiences, everything I’ve ever seen or read or been fascinated by, plus the fruits of research, and weaving the elements into what I hope will be an enjoyable story for my readers!

I’ve got a couple other surprises in the course of IVOKK that I’d love to talk about but can’t without doing spoilers…

I hope if you decide to read the book, you’ll find the romance and adventure exciting and satisfying…

The blurb:  Proud enforcer of the Badari South Seas pack, Ivokk undertakes a secret mission back to their former home, in search of a cure for a mysterious illness affecting his soldiers, now in exile in the north. He’s ready to make any sacrifice to find the answer and help his pack brothers stay strong. He’s even willing to accept responsibility for the human woman assigned to the mission, although she’s a headstrong civilian, difficult and rumored to dislike his kind.

Sandara DiFerria was once a three star chef in the Sectors, but that was before the alien enemy kidnapped the entire adult population of her colony to use for experimentation. Rescued from the labs by the Badari, she does her part to support the rebellion now by running the vast commissary operation in Sanctuary Valley. All she asks is to be left alone until she can get back to the Sectors and pick up her old life again. Her one previous romantic brush with a Badari soldier turned out badly, ending in public humiliation. Add to that post-traumatic stress from her life before moving to the colony and she’s the last person to pick for a top secret mission. Or so she believes.

The Alpha running the pack disagrees and sends her to do the job under Ivokk’s watchful eye. Thrown together by the nature of the task they must undertake, the undeniable attraction they both feel grows. Will the dark secrets of Sandara’s hidden past create an insurmountable barrier between them? Can Ivokk and the tempestuous human chef find the answer to the Badari illness in time? Or will the elements and the enemy bring disaster?

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The excerpt – Sandara is called to a mysterious meeting:  Pulse pounding in her temples, Sandara stared at the appointment notice on her handheld’s calendar. There had to be a mistake. She wasn’t required to attend any meetings at the Alpha’s administrative building. What she did had no bearing on the waging of the war and if anyone had an issue with the kitchen or the dining hall, she heard about it from Nicolle or very rarely from Jill, the Alpha’s mate. She did not go to meetings. Even when the huge contingent of South Seas Badari, including cubs and cadets, was suddenly added to the population she had to feed, she’d only received a call from Nicolle a short time before the first wave of newcomers was flown in.

Sandara was tempted to call Nicolle and ask her what the seven hells was going on but a tiny reserve of caution made her hesitate. Aydarr and Jill had taken great pains to be clear she was important to the valley operations and her efforts were valued by them after the whole unfortunate episode involving her and Jadrian months ago. She didn’t feel at any risk in her position. Be hard to find anyone else who could run this damn commissary in a cave and do half as well. Didn’t they know an army—even a genetically engineered one—traveled on its stomach? They need me. But…a little voice in her head whispered she’d better not push Aydarr too far. He had a temper, he had absolute power and he didn’t tolerate challenges.

High strung and difficult she might be (and even prided herself on the attributes, if truth be told), a summons to his conference room for a meeting wasn’t to be ignored.

With a mix of respect for the Alpha and unease over what he might want from her, she made sure her under chef had a good grasp on the preparations for the next meal and made her way to the tiny cave she’d been given as her own residence, in view of her position as head of the kitchen. Badari were all about rank being recognized.

Her rooms were in a cave complex located close to the kitchens and luckily there was a side tunnel leading from the one where the community dining area had been established to the residential area. MARL had installed his lighting units in the tunnel and there was also the soft luminescence from the lichen which grew profusely on many of the cave walls. She ducked into her modified chambers and changed into clean clothes, making a face as she did so. Tee shirts and utility pants weren’t her normal mode of dress in the Sectors, but it beat the Khagrish khaki colored prisoner jumpsuits. Then she was on her way outside, hastening to the administrative complex further up the valley.

Not many people were out and about at this time of the day, which was given over to work assignments and military drills, with the Badari cubs in classes. Sandara was happy about the lack of people on the trails. The Badari guards didn’t challenge her as she climbed the steps to the admin building, which meant she was expected, further indication the meeting notice from Nicolle was no mistake.

Inside, she hastened through the hall to the conference room and entered, only to stop short on the threshold as she realized there were a number of people already there, although thankfully she didn’t seem to have interrupted a meeting. “Oh, sorry, I—”


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