It is always a pleasure to have Veronica Scott visiting at Whiskey With My Book. You may be aware, she has a new book out, Danger in the Stars, and she is here to tell you a little bit about how it came to be.
Thank you for having me as your guest! I’m thrilled to talk about my new science fiction romance Danger in the Stars, and share my beautiful cover from Fiona Jayde, the blurb and an excerpt with your readers!
This story actually began with a short story I wrote for the Pets in Space anthology, about a beautiful alien woman who happens to be an empath and a prisoner of a ruthless crime mob. Once that tale was done, I remained fascinated with exploring the idea of an empathic heroine and what ways her power might manifest, both to protect herself and to accomplish tasks for the Amarotu Combine, my interstellar mob. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I was always fascinated by the Star Trek episode “The Empath,’ and although my story goes off in its own direction completely, that was the original moment when I started thinking about a heroine who had this set of abilities. The Urban Dictionary defines empath as “a person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation.” Of course Miriell, my heroine in this book, can do so much more, including forcing unsuspecting people to act on feelings they may not even realize they harbor. But there’s a cost to her…
I also enjoy the way Nalini Singh write and uses Empaths in her Psy-Changeling series – my favorite book in the series is Shield of Winter, where Ivy Jane and the other empaths play a large role in saving their civilization. (No spoilers.)
Plenty of room in the creative universe for each of us to write our own version of empathy as a gift/curse/power/temptation!
Figuring out who the hero could be, when Miriell is immersed in the world of interstellar crime and held closely captive, was a challenge. Conor ‘introduced’ himself to me right away when I was pondering the plot, but then I had to figure out what his secrets were and how he could be a true hero and the right man for Miriell. I made great efforts to ensure I didn’t stray into Stockholm Syndrome territory – where a victim may start to feel affection or emotion toward the captors as a psychological survival strategy. I tried to ensure that both Miriell and Conor stayed clear headed and genuine at all times about what the situation was and that their emotion was trustworthy true love, not an outgrowth of her captivity. Miriell was a high ranking priestess on her own planet and remains pragmatic at all times about those who hold her prisoner, including Conor. But her powers tell her he’s keeping secrets and she can’t help but wonder if her god Thuun has sent him to help her.
Miriell, a powerful empathic priestess, has been kidnapped from her own primitive planet along with a number of her people, and sold to the evil Amarotu Combine, largest organized crime syndicate in the Sectors. When she and her handler are sent to use her power to commit an assassination, she must leave behind her own sister as hostage to ensure her compliance. Miriell cannot ask for aid without endangering herself and others.
Despite his best efforts, Combine enforcer Conor Stewart is entranced by Miriell, and helps her evade the worst of brutal treatment from the rest of the mob. But Conor must keep his distance, before the lovely empath learns that he has secrets of his own–secrets that could get them both killed.
The situation becomes dire when Conor and Miriell come to the attention of both the Combine overlords and the deadly Mawreg, aliens who threaten the Sectors. Can she save herself and the Mawreg’s next victims? And will Conor help her, or remain loyal to his evil bosses?
The excerpt – Miriell and her Combine ‘handler’ Jareck have just arrived on the planet and are driving to the hotel with the local crime boss Opherra and Conor, an enforcer.
Over the past four years of horror and captivity, Miriell had perfected the art of studying her captors carefully, seeking to understand and anticipate where the most danger would come from. Head bowed, hands folded meekly in her lap, she reached for the planet’s living energies—the plants, the animals, the fish, the birds—and although the feedback was curiously minimal, she let a tiny portion of her renewed power loose. The effort was unusually challenging. Taking a deep breath, she curbed her impatience and hoped her face remained expressionless. Cryo sleep affects me more each time I travel. At least, she hoped it was the effect of the technology the Combine forced her to submit to, and not her god leaching away power from one who was now so unworthy to hold it.
Jareck shifted beside her, but she was well acquainted with the slimy green and gray representing his soul in her amplified vision. She needed to know what this Opherra, the woman in charge, was like. Outwardly, the boss was a sleek beauty, generously endowed with all the attractions the human men seemed to prefer—long shiny black hair, pale skin accented by perfectly painted ruby red lips. Her clothing was well made, intricately detailed. Golden rings and earrings completed her presentation. A woman of riches and power. Her soul was as Miriell expected—dull sullen reds threaded with black, and layers of the same slimy green and gray that defined Jareck. Hints of tarnished gold. Corruptive power. Miriell withdrew, afraid that one possessing so many aspects of the Shadow, even if human, would sense her scrutiny. Already hostile, Opherra mustn’t also become suspicious. No one rose to high rank inside the Amarotu Combine without being ruthless and possessing a highly developed situational awareness.
She almost didn’t bother with the bodyguard, Conor. She’d met many like him, men and women, at the facility where she was imprisoned. Some smarter and more ambitious than others, but all dedicated to the crime syndicate they’d sworn their lives to uphold. Thugs at best, killers at worst. No help to be had there, only danger.
She decided she might as well know how deep his cruelty and corruption ran, if only to armor herself against the near-hypnotic effect his voice had on her.
Her senses read him as obsidian, opaque black shields, to the core. One who hid all his dark secrets well. Hardly surprising. There was a wisp of sex between Opherra and him, reinforced by the proprietary hand the crime boss rested on the muscles of his upper thigh. Miriell realized she’d shaken her head. It’s no business of mine if these two sleep together. Surprised by her own reaction, she straightened her spine, schooling her face to remain impassive. As she closed down her silent search, she stopped, caught by a flicker, a hint of pure cobalt blue fire, buried deep beneath the outer layers Conor presented to one such as her. Startled, she focused more sharply with her senses but the flame, if it had been there at all, flickered and vanished.
Only warriors of Thuun carry the blue fire.
But this man was no warrior of her god. Thuun held no sway here in this civilization. Her unanswered prayers and desperate pleas over the past four years since she and her people had been taken testified to the god’s absence. She raised her eyes to find him staring at her, oddly silver eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, as if he knew she was studying him. A tiny shiver of adrenaline coursed through her veins, and Miriell curled herself up a bit more tightly, averting her gaze to stare fixedly out the window at the sprawling city.
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Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author and “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.”