Why I Wrote #SciFi Novel COLONY ON FIRE

After writing the first book, COLONY UNDER SIEGE with these characters – Dr. Saffia Mandell, newly minted doctor working off her medical school bills by doing five years of government service on a remote colony and Micah Navonn, Chief Ranger of his people, who own the planet – I just really wasn’t ready to walk away from them. More plots kept coming to mind and I like these two and their world a lot.

The book is set in my Sectors scifi universe.

As I mentioned last year when explaining the first book, Haven Two is loosely inspired by an island where I have relatives, which we used to visit in the summer when I was a kid. (All people and places in the books are fictional, however.) So perhaps more than most books I write, I personally feel at ‘home’ there and can visualize the setting quite clearly.

(If you’re interested in reading the post on why I wrote the first book, it’s here.)

It’s a first for me to write a series which focuses on the same hero and heroine in all the books. I have other series but they feature a new couple each time. I’m enjoying the challenge and with Saffia and Micah it feels natural to me to follow their lives through the succeeding years. Lots of adventures to be had on a colony planet!

Backtracking a bit, I’ve always been fascinated by disasters, probably because I was ‘imprinted’ with the Titanic’s sinking as a child. At that time, the family lore was that we had a distant relative in second class who survived and so naturally I heard a lot about it, wondered what I would do if I was there, etc. I’ve since written many a disaster novel. I hope with a title like COLONY ON FIRE it’s not a spoiler to reveal there’s a major wildfire in the plot. I’ve lived in Southern California since I was 19 and had my own brushfire experiences. Nothing like what my characters go through in the novel, nor what many have suffered in real life, but enough to be able to extrapolate. I think my worst was being on my way to work one morning and becoming trapped on the freeway by a fire which had jumped the road…and I was next to a gasoline truck! (Yeah, if I put that in a novel people would scoff but true story.) The CHP eventually led us to safety by driving across the shoulder and then across the grass to reach an exit ramp where the fire wasn’t as close. Looking back, I think it’s lucky we all made it without someone getting stuck. There were about ten cars.

I’ve always been especially terrified of being stuck in my car with the fire approaching and having to flee on foot…because the fires move incredibly fast, especially if wind driven.

And I do maintain a prioritized list of what to grab if we’re evacuating for a fire, prioritizing in order of how much time we have to get out, from basically none to half an hour. There are always so many sad stories of people who took things which were replaceable or just the closest items – it’s very VERY hard to think clearly in a crisis like a rapidly spreading wildfire and limited escape routes. We have a teaspoon which has been in the family over 200 years and it’s not melting on my watch, so that’s right at the top of the list, after humans and the cats.

I told my children when they were little we had one shot at catching the cats in the event of an evacuation and then we were leaving, no matter what. It sounds harsh and you know how much I love my cats but it seems every year there’s at least one tragic story of a human perishing while trying to save their pet from an advancing fire. I totally understand the impulse but human life first. (I probably would have relented and made more than one effort to find the cats and stick them in their carriers but it was important to be clear to the children that their lives were the most critical issue when time is limited and the fires are coming.)

The other thing is, first responders are wonderful, selfless people but they can’t always get to you in time in a big brushfire situation so you have to make plans relying on your own best efforts.

I always had a plan with more than one escape route and a backup plan because for many years we lived in the foothills in the classic “one road in, one road out” situation and I knew we could be easily trapped.

I’ve read countless books about wildfires, including many survivor stories from all over the world, as well as watched quite a few documentaries, including some on the best forest management techniques to prevent the mega fires. A writer loves doing research! I also found a way to work in the issue of the various species of beetles which have destroyed millions of acres of trees in the west, leaving the dead forest behind as tinder. Haven Two has its own infestation of an invasive species.

But the book isn’t all about the fires. I also had so much fun diving into researching mobile medical clinics and wow, was that a fascinating rabbit hole! They’re used for so many purposes and come with so many variations, features and amenities. It was fairly easy to take what exists now, on Earth and scale it up for Saffia’s use on Haven Two in the far future. Of course for a while the internet tracking cookies were convinced I was in the market for a mobile clinic and those were the ads I was shown. Usually my feed is full of cat themed tee shirts and fantasy figurines!

Here’s the blurb for the book (below the graphic), which can be read as a standalone:


When she came to Haven Two Dr. Saffia Mandell expected to grimly do her five years of medical service as the colony’s only doctor, work off her medical school debt and leave. Then she’d fallen in love, handled an epidemic and become an accepted member of the community. Now, in her second year, she faces new challenges as the tinder dry planet heads into a fire season and a mysterious food allergy threatens the local restaurant’s reputation.

Chief Ranger Micah Navonn of the Calinurra never expected to fall in love with a human woman but Saffia was a special person who captured his heart and now means everything to him. Not all of his people are as enthusiastic about the situation and his efforts to handle the politics are getting complicated. Add to that an infestation by insects from another world, causing portions of the forest to die off and his plate is full.

When the jet stream shifts course and the fires rage, will the colonists and the Calinurra set aside their differences? With Saffia’s life hanging in the balance, can Micah arrive in time to save her and the colonists in jeopardy?

Life on Haven Two never lets up.

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And a quick excerpt:

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