For the fifth year in a row we’re having fun in the science fiction romance world with the Pets In Space® 5 anthology, in which my co-founder Pauline B. Jones and I invite other authors to take that story prompt and run with it. I often explain the concept as being something like “Lassie in space”, where the pet in question can be any kind of animal or creature but needs to be integral to the plot. We donate part of the proceeds to Hero-Dogs, Inc., which provides service animals to veterans and forst responders in need. Since we first started the project in 2016, thanks to our readers, we’ve been able to donate over $15,000 to the nonprofit organization.
I asked my fellow authors to share a little about what inspired their story for this year’s anthology, as well as giving us a peek at their To Be Read List and what they’ll be up to next, now that the anthology has been released. My answers are included below as well.
Here’s the blurb for the anthology itself: It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you out of this world. The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to Hero-Dogs, Inc., a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone!
New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author S. E. Smith, The King’s Quest (Dragon Lords of Valdier Series Short Story):
A playful trick leads to love for a Goddess, but will the King she falls in love with accept her for who she really is?
Story inspiration: I love stories that capture my heart and my imagination. My PiSA5 story definitely does both. This story can be read as a stand-alone, but it does fit into a larger universe—my Dragon Lords of Valdier. The story is about Tamblin, King of the Kingdom of Glitter. Tamblin rules over a beautiful world on a remote moon where his species and others like him are no larger than a doll. Don’t be fool by their diminutive size, though. They have a huge heart and a fierce spirit. This spirit comes alive in The King’s Quest. The moon is under threat again as off-world traders, wanting to capitalize on the small creatures that live and thrive there, hope to make a fortune on the furry rodents that are considered a special treat to the Dragons of Valdier.
I’ve always loved the stories of Thumbelina, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Gulliver’s Travels, and the Borrowers. When I first wrote about the characters in Ambushing Ariel: Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 4, I was so impressed by their strength. I ended up writing Tia’s story which is now an animated film, and always knew that I would write Tamblin’s story. This is a story with heart, compassion, friendship, adventure, and the special magical power of an emotion called love.
Be prepared for some laughs, some tears, and to cheer on the amazing people who live on a small moon in a galaxy far, far away.
Next for her: I’m excited to finally be writing The Dark Prince’s Prize: Curizan Warrior Book 2. This story has been a long time coming but is turning out amazing. There is nothing sweeter than when a story takes me by surprise—and gives me characters I love to love and love to hate. LOL. This one has plenty of both! After The Dark Prince’s Price, readers have requested Jarmen’s Jane Doe from my Lords of Kassis series and then Rorrak’s Revenge: Zion Warriors Book 3. This is a powerful line up of stories and I’m excited to share them with readers.
On her TBR List: As usually, my TBR list is a mixture of fun and self-improvement. I have a few Peggy Henderson, Pauline Baird Jones, Veronica Scott, and Carol Van Natta stories in my Library that are screaming for me to stop everything and read! On top of that, I have several self-help/improvement books to help me grow as a person and keep my mind here on Earth for a bit. I love getting lost in another world, don’t you?
When a planetary exploration trip takes a dangerous turn, a human woman and her powerful AI friend will need all their skills to come to the rescue.
Story inspiration: I have been thinking of going back to the main characters in my novel Dark Horse for a while, and so it was the first thing that came to mind while planning my Pets in Space® novella. It was a lot of fun to revisit the characters, but I’ve written it in a way I hope readers who haven’t read Dark Horse can still enjoy it. I’m guessing readers who are huge fans of the series will love to have a peek into Rose, Sazo and Dav’s lives again.
Next for her: I am currently busy writing a novella for a fantasy romance anthology, Warlords, Witches & Wolves: A Fantasy Realms Anthology. I wrote fantasy before I wrote science fiction romance, and it has been hugely enjoyable to go back to another beloved genre for me.
On her TBR List: I often pre-order autobuy authors’ books well in advance and then sort of forget about them, and I’m thrilled the latest in Faith Hunter’s Soulwood Series, Spells for the Dead, is now waiting for me on my Kindle as soon as I’ve made my current deadline
USA Today Best Selling Author Veronica Scott, Star Cruise: Return Voyage (The Sectors SF Romance Series):
She survived the worst interstellar shipping disaster in history as a child but can she survive the RETURN VOYAGE as an adult?
Story inspiration: I like to make my PISA story into my annual entry in my STAR CRUISE series as well, located on the interstellar luxury liner Nebula Zephyr. I enjoy revisiting some of my characters from previous STAR CRUISE stories and I feel the concept of a huge cruise ship gives me plenty of latitude for telling a variety of stories. I actually started with the concept of a service animal, based in part on the appearance of an afghan hound, but made more alien of course. My next challenge was what would bring such a sizable animal onto the ship as a pet? In early 2020 there had been so many true stories about people bringing odd animals onto airplanes as service animals and I read about someone who had a miniature horse they wanted to travel with! Since I visualize Verlaine as being about the size of a very small horse that seemed perfect to me. So he became a genuine service animal of the far future.
But who would need such an animal to support them on a trip on a big luxury liner?
Enter Gianna Nadenoft, who survived the wreck of the interstellar cruise liner Nebula Dream in my very first published scifi romance novel. She was a (precocious) child of three at the time of the events in Wreck of the Nebula Dream so I felt it was a safe assumption she’d have had post-traumatic stress symptoms of various kinds and might have needed a service animal to help her cope with life after the wreck. And the story spun itself out for me from there.
Next for her: I’m working on Jamokan, the next novel in my award winning Badari Warriors series about genetically engineered soldiers of the far future. After that I plan to write book two in my Colony series.
On her TBR List: Looking forward to The Ippos King from Grace Draven, the next book in the Bioluminescence series by Auryn Hadley, Apokalypsis Book Five by Kate Morris, The Solstice Kings by Kim Fielding, Under a Winter Sky including a Jeffe Kennedy story, Spenser by Tasha Black (well really all the upcoming releases in the Intergalactic Dating Agency series by authors like Cara Bristol, Lea Kirk, Susan Grant and more)…
USA Today Best Selling Author Pauline B. Jones, General’s Holiday (Project Enterprise Series):
A lady, a frog, and the General that wanted to be Picard…
Story inspiration: For me, the story always starts with a pet, what kind of person is likely to own that pet, then I try to find the one person in my Project Enterprise universe who will be the most annoyed or flummoxed by that pet. It was pretty easy to figure out the pet, the heroine and the hero, but picking a general who is leading the expedition? That made it truly hard. But even general’s need holidays…
Next for her: I am currently at work on my ninth Project Enterprise book. I’m a little amazed about that. It was only ever meant to be one book.
On her TBR List: I have been waiting for the last book in Lindsay Buroker’s Star Kingdom series, Layers of Force. I kind of cleaned up my TBR this year, but I always looking for books by SE Smith, Carol Van Natta, Veronica Scott, Michelle Diener, and Martha Wells (MurderBot!)—to name just a few!
USA Today Best Selling Author Laurie A Green, Juggernaut (The Inherited Stars Series):
A security commander must decide if she can trust a mysterious stranger and his bioengineered StarDog when the secret underground site she protects is threatened.
Story inspiration: When I signed on to pen a new story for Pets in Space® 5, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be writing another StarDog story or one involving a completely different pet. I started brainstorming on plot and character ideas, and what began to unfold in my head was not the usual science fiction romance story set on a star ship or a space station, but in an ancient underground lava tube! Juggernaut soon became that story—the one that would deliver a huge twist in my Inherited Stars universe that I’d been planning to unveil in a later book. The secrets buried in that ancient cave turn out to be galaxy-shaking and it ultimately requires a StarDog to unravel the mystery.
Next for her: I plan to have two or more books in my series published yet in 2020, and then take a step back into history to explore the Legend of Katrina, which has been mentioned often in the unfolding of the Inherited Stars saga.
Her TBR List: I have several books I’m eager to read because of enthusiastic referrals, but Susan Grant’s Hawk: Sky Mates (think Top Gun with space aliens) will be out in October and Auryn Hadley’s
Bioluminescent (The Mimics Book 1) are two at the top of the stack. Well, and all of the Pets in Space® 5 stories, of course! I also hope to soon read The Fringe Series Omnibus (books 1-5) by Rachel Aukes and Star Trek: Picard – The Last Best Hope, which is supposed to be a prequel to the ‘Star Trek: Picard’ CBS All Access series.
Rescuers Taz and Rylando can’t let their forbidden attraction get in the way of saving lives. When a planetary disaster turns deadly, can they save an entire town… and each other?
Story inspiration: My story in Pets in Space® 5 is Galactic Search and Rescue, a novella in my Central Galactic Concordance space opera universe. The story’s inspiration came from three sources that my muse pulled together into a fast-paced adventure plot with romance. Plus pets, of course!
First, I read an article about the amazing giant pouched rats that are trained to seek out and help humans disarm landmines. These rats are very appropriately named “Hero Rats.” I even included one in my story. Second, news footage of the rescuers in several major disasters riveted me to the screen. Whether it’s wildfires, earthquakes, or devastating explosions, first-responders are there to help. The bravery of these folks is staggering and humbling. Third, Pets in Space® supports the Hero-Dogs.org charity, which trains and places service dogs with disabled veterans and first-responders. The team of trained rescue animals in Galactic Search and Rescue is my tribute to service animals everywhere, from the conventional to the decidedly unusual. I think partnering with animals makes us better humans.
Next for her: I’ll be deep in the editing cave with the next novel in my space opera series, Spark Transform. It’s book 5 in the big damn story arc that’s going on. It’s the same universe as Galactic Search and Rescue. After that, I’ll be working on the next book in my paranormal romance series, plus a super-secret project that ought to keep me off the streets and out of the socially-distanced karaoke bars for a while.
On her TBR List: My not-secret, not-at-all-guilty pleasures are paranormal romance, science fiction romance, and space opera. Convenient, considering that’s also what I write. My jam is multicultural characters who find love and destiny in hidden worlds or the stars.
USA Today Best Selling Author Regine Abel, Reaper (Xian Warrior Series):
With time running out, a woman accepts her fate only to find hope in the genetically engineered warrior created by her captors.
Story inspiration: After wrapping up the overarching story in my Xian Warriors series, many fans asked for the stories of a few of the other Warriors and especially for a HEA for Stran. Stran is a Creckel, a warrior beast that resembles a pangolin with a dragon head. He was my pet in PISA 4, and he makes recurring appearances throughout the Xian Warriors series. In the final book, Varnog, we learned the locations of multiple secret bases where terrible experiments had been performed on innocent victims. It only mentioned that the Xian Warriors would go check out those bases to rescue any possible survivors. I had not planned on actually writing books about those rescues. But I realized doing so in this instance would give me the opportunity to address both of those requests. On top of writing Reaper’s story, I loved the idea of Doom and Stran reuniting once more for another Pets in Space® anthology. Except this time, we also meet the badass Brees, a modified Creckel with a bit of sass.
Next for her: I have finally taken a dive into the world of audiobooks. In fact, Doom, my PISA 4 story, will be the first audiobook I’ll be releasing in November. I’m also starting to look at possibly dabbling insome Italian translations of my books, but that still in early exploration. In the short-term, my goal is to wrap up my Veredian Chronicles series with the final book Defying Fate so that I can launch into the Titans spin-off series, where the children as young adults face their destiny.
On her TBR List: It’s ridiculously long. But my top priority is the entire Venys Needs Men series by the fabulous Amanda Milo, Tiffany Roberts, Poppy Rhys and Naomi Lucas.
USA Today Best Selling Author Alexis Glynn Latner, Pastfinders (Star Ways Series):
A woman’s psychic gift might be the catalyst needed to save the life of the man she loves—in an ancient archaeological site that contains a stupendous discovery.
Story inspiration: What sparked my story in PISA 5 isn’t obvious in hindsight. I definitely wanted to write a PISA story with a trauma service animal. But some elements of the story have existed in my imagination for a long time. Mercury’s psychic gift to change the laws of probability around her and so change her luck, and that of her friends and enemies—her psychalchemy—was in my idea notes from twenty years ago. Even then, she was one of a team of xenoarchaeologists studying alien ruins. Her love interest was supposed to be somebody else. He’ll be a good hero when his time comes but he’ll have to find another heroine. Mercury is taken!
My hero Haze is completely original to Pastfinders. He had to have a reason to be at the ancient archaeological site, so it became an official visit in his capacity as a biologist with the planetary government. He also had to have PTSD that crashes down on him. Haze evolved from there. And Rusty, the alien trauma service creature, evolved to be what Haze needed.
What put everyone and everything together was the title. It’s what the xenoarchaeologists call themselves after their starship, Pastfinder. On the barren planet Tellus, under ancient alien ruins, there is a buried, eroded past to be discovered. Haze has his own buried past—the trauma that left him with PTSD and in dire need of a sympathetic service animal. The planet itself has a lost geological history that the colonists want to recreate, by making a long-dry river flow anew. How could these lost and found pasts intersect? I think that was the real spark of the story.
Next for her: Next up for me is the final revision of the second book in my Starways series. In the first book, Witherspin, the Pastfinders’ leader Svetlana Tai surprised me by demanding some stage time. In the second book, Starmaze, she and her merry crew of archaeologist-adventurers turn out to play a major (and swashbuckling!) role.
Her TBR List: In the next weeks, I’ll be reading something, but I don’t know what. During the first COVID shut-down, I worked my way through a stack of unread Library books. Then I started investigating the books in my Kindle that I haven’t read. I’m still at it!
USA Today Best Selling Author J. C. Hay, Mittens Not Included (TriSystems: Smugglers Series):
Three little kittens have lost their way…
Story inspiration: I’ve been itching (because I’m allergic, see?) to introduce cats to the TriSystems for a while now, and knew that my smugglers would be the best place to bring these very rare, very expensive little creatures into the world. Rare and expensive, I hear you ask? Yes—Because every bit of weight was needed for human cargo as the colonists fled earth, Cats (and Dogs) came only as genetic stock, rather than as living animals. Because of the expense of reconstituting from DNA, Cats and Dogs are the companions of the extremely wealthy. Somehow it seems appropriate that creatures who were once worshipped as divine should be cherished and a treasure in their own right. As for what inspired the story specifically, I had only to look at my heroine. Someone brilliant and sensitive deserved the most good-hearted member of the Sentinel’s crew, and that meant the quiet, reclusive ship’s medic, Layth.
Next for him: I have several irons in the fire at the moment. People who’ve finished Mittens Not Included should expect to see more of the enigmatic Mr. Pierce, and more TriSystem Racing in the future. But I’ve also been trying my hand at something completely different—I’m going to keep those details under my hat at the moment, but rest assured, it’s still Sci-Fi, and it’s still Romance. I wouldn’t stray too far afield.
On his TBR List: I’ve been re-reading Cassandra Chandler’s Homeworld Security books, and ripping through Bec McMasters’s London Steampunk books as well. I just started The Mech Who Loved Me, and am enjoying it tremendously.
USA Today Best Selling Author Kyndra Hatch, Finding Mogha (Before the Fall Series):
A human’s effort to save a sentient being takes her straight into the path of a Korthan warrior.
Story inspiration: The California poppies inspired much of the world-building for the paradise world Dani and her companions crash on in Finding Mogha. They were so numerous this year and I spend a lot of time watching and photographing them. And clearly crashes on other worlds are a thing for me, as all three stories I’ve written in The Fall universe (Before The Fall series and After The Fall series) have involved some sort of shipwreck on an alien planet, lol.
Next for her: I’m looking ahead in the Before The Fall and After The Fall series universe. What all started with After The Fall in Pets In Space® 3 has turned into an expanded cosmos. It’s very exciting!
On her TBR List: Anything by Honey Phillips and Tiffany Roberts is on my TBR list these days. That is some inspirational alien romance writing right there, especially if you like your aliens to be very ‘alien!’
USA Today Best Selling Author Cassandra Chandler, Rate of Return (The Department of Homeworld Security Series):
Falling for an Earthling sends an alien and his adorable, six-legged pet in a tailspin.
Story inspiration: The universe of The Department of Homeworld Security is huge. Even after thirteenbooks, we’ve barely scratched the surface of everything that’s been building in my mind. I want to share more of all that with my readers. When I sat down to write my story for the Pets in Space® 5 anthology, I started thinking about the villain. I decided to make him be from a particular group of sentients that are causing problems for The Department of Homeworld Security and their allies. The more I learned about him, though, the more I realized he wasn’t this story’s villain…he was the hero! Serac is definitely the most complicated character in the series, and I loved learning more about him and seeing his struggles and triumphs. I also had so much fun learning about his people and their secrets and gifts. Rate of Return taught me even more about this universe, and I can’t wait to share it!
Next for her: I’ll be branching out even more in this universe, with several spin-off series in the works, starting with a deeper look at the Cygnians. Before I get to that, I’ve promised readers the third novel in my dark Sci-fi/Urban Fantasy Romance Blades of Janus series, which I hope to have out this year!
On her TBR List: My TBR list is always growing! I’ve been saving Varnog, the latest book in Regine Abel’s Xian Warriors series and plan to read that next, and I’m having a lot of fun reading Annette Marie’s The Guild Codex Spellbound Series.
Leslie Chase, Glitch (Crashland Colony Series):
An alien pirate and a human find love in the shadow of disaster.
Story inspiration: A lot of my books have pets in them, and in the Crashland Colony Romances, every human amongst the crashed colonists has a holographic companion animal. So when I got the chance to write a story for PISA5 I knew instantly that it would be a Crashland story, exploring those holographic pets. For a while now, I wanted to see what would happen if one got damaged, and that was the inspiration for Glitch, a hologram cat that doesn’t quite work right, but whose human still loves and cherishes him.That was the story seed, and everything grew from there. So I guess I was inspired by all those people who care for their pets even if they aren’t perfect, and look after the animals others reject. Wonderful people, all of them .
Next for her: I’m finishing up another Crashland book right now, the fifth novel in that setting. It ought to be out by the end of October, with any luck. After that I’ll move onto book three in my Salvaged Hearts series, or possibly a Christmas novella. I’ll have to see if the seasonal spirits grabbed me!
On her TBR List: So many books! I read fast, but not fast enough to keep up! Right now I’m looking forward to burying myself in Her Alien Captor by Zara Zenia and Juno Wells, and I’m also keen to read Soul Keeper by Tegan Maher.