Guest Post: The Challenges of Writing Short Stories
The Adventures of The Everyday Fangirl again welcomes author Veronica Scott as a guest blogger to talk about the challenges of writing short stories for her futuristic universe, the Sectors.
Thanks again Veronica for being a guest blogger today!
Thanks for having me! Always a treat to come and visit the EverydayFangirl Blog and talk science fiction romance!
The Challenges of Writing Short Stories by Veronica Scott
I usually think and write in novel length format, but in 2016 I accepted a couple of challenges to write shorter, for three very different anthologies. The collections are no longer available, so I’ve put the three stories together in one volume myself now and released them under the very unwieldy title Star Cruise A Novella: Stowaway Plus Rescue and Token Short Stories. I thought it was really important to be clear that the book doesn’t contain three novel-length works. But wow, what a title, right?
I thought I’d talk a little bit about the stories and why I wrote them. First of all, if I’m going to come up with a 9k to 25K story that has a beginning, a middle and an end, plus the HEA, I needed to work within my already established futuristic universe, the Sectors. This allowed me to show new readers a bit of my worldbuilding by giving them the feeling there is a well-defined setting, and people who have read my books will feel right at home and perhaps see some familiar characters in supporting roles. To that end, two of the stories involve the crew of my luxurious interstellar space liner, the Nebula Zephyr. Of course I’m also hoping new readers will want to dash off and read more Sectors stories after finishing these!
Pauline B. Jones and I had the idea to create an anthology that blended pets into stories of scifi romance and adventure, which became the award winning Pets In Space, with seven other terrific authors. For that project, I wrote Star Cruise: Stowaway and created one alien pet, added in a ship’s cat, and took off with a romantic suspense story. (The blurbs are given below.) I had so much fun writing this and became so intrigued with the addition of a major interstellar crime syndicate to my Sectors, that I wrote another full novel, Danger in the Stars (which released in April), and am now working on a second novel that explores some other aspects of romance and adventure the mob and the captive empaths provided. So as an author, I think taking the time to do this novella really worked for me, and readers were very kind with their reviews. We are doing a Pets In Space 2 this year, by the way with a slightly different mix of authors.
Star Cruise: Rescue was for an anthology with mostly or all Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors and there was no central theme, so I brainstormed what kind of mischief my crew members might get into if they spent an evening on a planet. Fortunately around this time I read an article in Business Week of all places, discussing curated events for the very wealthy. I had an ‘a ha’ moment about how the bored, rich ‘Socialites’ traveling on board the Nebula Zephyr might end up taking a crew member with them to such an exclusive event and the trouble that might ensue.
The third anthology was Dealer’s Choice, for the 2016 RT Booklovers Convention and was a limited edition paperback, only handed out at Linnea Sinclair’s Interstellar Bar & Grille event. (I was a co-host.) There was no way I was going to miss a chance to be in an anthology with Linnea Sinclair and to have my story edited by her as part of the process! She gives great notes by the way. The unifying theme of the collection was to involve a scifi casino as the setting. Now I do have a casino on the Nebula Zephyr, but for some reason I wanted to write a story in the style of a classic Western, where the hero rides into town, gets involved with the local problems, falls in love with a dancehall girl and….HEA ensues. So I put the story on a space station with a casino, but still in the Sectors. The Golden Token is the title of this story.
I find I enjoy writing the occasional short story or novella as a change, and it can be something of a ‘palate cleanser’ for the Muse, before diving back into my longer novels. I was also happily surprised to have the characters in the Stowaway novella prompt me to now write two more novels that hadn’t been on my mind at all. I seem to be able to hit the different word limits of each project, which is satisfying as an author. I think my biggest challenge or frustration perhaps is that I tend to take my time for my characters to reach the point where they experience physical intimacy, so a novella or short story from me doesn’t give the full flavor of one of my novels, which do usually contain a few moderately warm bedroom scenes. (I’m a 3 on a 5 point scale of steaminess.). I’d definitely consider doing another anthology project someday, besides the Pets in Space series.
Thanks again for having me as a guest here and I look forward to guest blogging here in the future!
As a special treat, here is an excerpt from one of the short stories The Golden Token. Charlie has just arrived on the space station and expects to connect with his next ship immediately but learns there’ll be a delay of several days:
He plucked his ticket from the man’s fingers, taking a glance to see how much oxygen tax he was paying. “Wait, there’s some mistake here. I’m not staying on the Station.”
Tongue between his teeth as he concentrated, the station agent reviewed the information on the screen before him. “You’re hopping a ride on the Centauri Dawn to your destination in Sector 46, right?”
“Yes, but she’s supposed to be docking later today.”
The clerk shrugged. “Updated info as of an hour ago. Ran into some rogue comets. She won’t be here for three days. Be glad she’s coming at all, would be my advice.” A small alarm sounded and the man held up one hand. “Hold on, this could be your lucky day.”
“I fail to see how.”
“Says here you’re arrival number one hundred for this cycle and entitled to a golden token, redeemable at the Hall of Good Fortune.” He handed Charlie a large, fake gold coin, embossed with a dragon on one side and blank on the other.
Astonished, Charlie flipped the coin over. “You must be kidding me. Nobody uses metal money these days, not even in a backwater Sector like this.”
The clerk said, “That’s for gambling at the Station’s casino, up on Level A. Only place to get drinks, gamble, have some fun. Depending on your preferences, of course. The menu’s not as extensive as it used to be in the old days. Kumisarc Corporation’s always cutting back.”
In an effort to stem the tide of the now-garrulous agent’s information, Charlie asked, “This station got a hotel?”
“Temporary housing only for non-residents, rents by the day. I can reserve you a unit.”
Charlie scanned the lobby. There were a few seats on the far wall and he knew he’d seen some in the arrival area.
“Security don’t allow vagrants,” the man said as if reading his mind. “No camping out in the waiting areas. Even with a valid transfer ticket.”
He stifled a growl of irritation, drumming his fingers on the counter. So far this station was a racket, trying to separate him from his credits and doing a good job of it. “How much for the room?”
Not surprised to be quoted a predictably exorbitant price, Charlie set the useless coin on the counter while he transferred the credits, got his code key strip and picked up his bag, ready to make the best of his unexpected layover.
“Hey, don’t forget the token.” The clerk held it up before tossing it to him. “This plus a few credits’ll get you a drink or a spin of the roulette wheel. Not good for much else.”
Charlie made a one-handed catch and slid the disc into a pocket on his utility pants.
“No open carry weapons, by the way,” the clerk said, leaning over the counter. “Gotta keep them stowed in your baggage. Security does a body scan before anyone gets into the casino. They get real upset if they see weapons. Had a few incidents with hotheaded miners over the years, trying to settle their personal grievances with blasters. Tempers are short these days.”
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peak!
Star Cruise: Stowaway: Cargo Master Owen Embersson is shocked when the Nebula Zephyr’s ship’s cat and her alien sidekick, Midorri, alert him to the presence of a stowaway. He has no idea of the dangerous complications to come nor does he anticipate falling hard for the woman whose life he now holds in his hands. Life aboard the Nebula Zephyr has just become more interesting – and deadly.
Star Cruise: Rescue: When a shore leave excursion goes terribly wrong for Mira Gage, a member of the Nebula Zephyr’s crew, Security Officer Clint Miltan races the clock to find her before the ship leaves orbit and abandons Mira to her fate. Clint’s got more than a professional interest in Mira, but will he be able to save her from the aliens holding her prisoner?
The Golden Token: Sectors Special Forces operator Charlie McBrire had a few days to kill on a layover at Space Station 47. He never expected to find himself in the middle of a miners’ rebellion, fighting to save the life of a casino dancer he just met but can’t imagine living without.
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.”