Monday, September 15, 2014

Smart Talking Space Cats?

 I'm joined this week by my friend and colleague, Christina Westcott, author in the ever more popular science fiction genre, Space Opera Romance.   Book Release Date: October 7, 2014.
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 Patty:  Tell us a little about Christina Westcott and why you decided to become a novelist?

Chris:  Like most writers, I was the inevitable dreamer as a child. My family lived in the country and I grew up without a lot of other kids around. I never had many friends at school, because I was too busy living in my own private (and much more interesting) world. Horses were my choice, so I spent my summers charging off on my trusty steed, imagining I was saving the universe, or at least the neighborhood, from an unspeakable evil. Or else, I cantered along with my nose in a book, slipping into someone else’s fantasy world. Good thing the horse knew the way home. Luckily, well-meaning aunts and the public school system, never managed to break me of my day-dreaming habit.  My friends and relatives still think I march to a different drummer—one usually playing heavy metal music.

Patty:  You call what you write “Space Opera Romance”. Why did you choose to cast your stories in a science fiction setting, as opposed to contemporary or perhaps historical? And what the heck is space opera anyway?

Chris:  I've always had this urge to color outside the lines, draw my own lines in fact. SF appeals to that need to be different, to see the world 180° out of sync from the Normal. (Hmmm. Or did discovering SF at an early age make me the non-conformist I am?)  It does create problems for a writer. If I set my story in present day New York City, or even 14th century London, England, the reader would have a clear idea of the setting. In writinscience fiction, I build every rock, creature, planet and government, then present it to the reader in a believable, but not overwhelming way. I have notebooks filled with names, definitions and timelines that I refer to constantly to maintain proper continuity in my universe. (Now what year did the First Bug War start?)

The term space opera appeared in the middle of the last century. We had horse operas for westerns and soap operas for the daytime dramas, and the monikers were a bit of a put down. In recent years, space opera has made a comeback as a legitimate sub-genre of SF with movies like 1977’s Star Wars and this summer’s blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy. Ask half a hundred fans what space opera is and you’ll get fifty different answers. To me, it’s adventure on an interstellar scale, with heroes and kick butt heroines and, yes, a little romance. When you’re striving together to save the galaxy it just seems inescapable that you’d fall in love. And where else could I cast a trash-talking cat as a major character?

Patty:  Ah, yes, the cat. How did you come up with the idea of using a kitty cat?

           Chris:  Jumper is the hero’s sidekick, sort of a telepathic cross between Chewbacca and Garfield…

Jumper:  Hey, you can just kiss my whiskers. I’m a merc, a bona fide member of the Gold Dragons Contract Military Corporation; I ain’t no kitty cat. I’m a Kaphier Cat and we were genetically engineered to protect our people and ships against Zaafraines, a really icky tasting mind parasite. Yuck, I hated putting those things in my mouth. You never know where some of them have been. That was only one of the many times I saved my people’s butts in A Hero for the Empire. Take a look at this excerpt and see if you don’t agree with me.

 Now The Enemy had come aboard this ship and wanted to kill his person. That would not be tolerated.

Five fuzzy globs of light drifted out of the common room. Jumper saw them as dirty gray spheroids of wiggling tentacles tipped with organs to locate the thoughts of their prey. His green eyes narrowed, a hunter’s growl rumbling in his throat.

The powerful muscles of his hind legs hurled him among them, claws slashing, jaws crushing. He hit the deck and rebounded, tumbling and slaughtering until only one remained. It flashed away and down the stairs to engineering. Jumper spit out the foulness of his last kill and soared after it.

He grabbed the handrail on the stairs, slowing his forward momentum and peered down into the room. A glowing ball of frainies a meter across churned in mid-air. Was it a trap? He’d heard stories of cats swarmed by The Enemy and killed, but were they true? Or only cautionary tales to keep high-spirited kittens in check?

The puff of fur on his behind twitched as he tried to lash his non-existent tail. Jumper leapt, screaming his battle cry. He was a Gold Dragon and this was, as the mercenaries liked to say, a target rich environment.

Jumper:  See, don’t you agree that I’m the hero? And that’s me on the cover with the heroine, giving her directions on how to save the hero. She couldn’t have done it without me. Alright, where’s that dish of liver and cream gravy you promised me if I’d show up here and answer you stupid questions?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Writing Process

The gorgeous, new bride, Rhonda Mason, a fellow member of Southwest Florida Romance Writers, invited me to participate in this blog tour. Check out her answers to these 4 questions at


My answers to the 4 questions:

1. What am I working on?

I’m just finishing the last round of edits on the second book in my Marine series with my critique partners, Sonja Gunter, Molly Jebber, and DJ Welker. The title is Always a Marine. It’s the story of a wounded warrior, and single dad’s, struggle to raise his daughter and run a successful construction company. It follows Once a Marine, published last year. I’ve also started book three, titled Love a Marine.

Even though I now reside in Florida, all my novels are based in California, where I was born and lived most of my life with detours in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming before I landed in southwest Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. No, I’m not running from the cops!


 2. How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I’m a voracious reader and I read a lot in the genre, non-fiction, and outside the genre. I can only compare my Marines with those military romance novels I’ve actually read. Inspired by my family history, going back the original Marine ancestor, Lt. Presley Neville O’Bannon. I wrote my first modern Marine novel.

O’Bannon’s the United States Marine, who with the exploits of his small band of intrepid warriors, inspired the lyric “To the shores of Tripoli,” when our nation was in its infancy. The USS O’Bannon was commissioned a few short years ago. That sword you see Marines holding so proudly is a replica of the one awarded to Lt. O’Bannon in the early nineteenth century

So, I have a personal reason to love and write about these heroes. Believe it or not, my dog groomer is a tough retired Marine, who’s brave enough to love toy dogs usually associated with girls and women. Knowing Vic also spurred my interest.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I started out writing straight contemporary romance. I had no single thread that linked my stories. All were stand-alone novels. Frankly, I was told by an agent who I hope will represent my work that in the reality of today’s publishing, I needed to pick a specific sub-genre and stick to it. I had already written and published Once a Marine, and had planned another military hero romance.

As you can see from my website: - that’s my direction now. I decided to take the stories in a slightly different direction and make my heroes retired and/or Wounded Warriors, for the sad reason we have so many today from Afghanistan and Iraq. Of my current heroes, one has a physical wound and one struggles with PTSD. In spite of their challenges they are real men in every sense, and the women they love will testify to that.

4. How does my individual writing process work?

Oh, boy. That’s a hard one, but I’ll give it a shot. A character usually comes to me, either male or female. The more I think about that person, the more real they are to me. In the yet to be published book I just finished, Always a Marine, I discovered Marla Danaher first and had to find the perfect man for her strong bossy personality in the most unlikely place. A man she never would have chosen. I discovered him in the form of Dwayne Dempsey, my physically wounded warrior, an intimidating Alpha Male.

Then next I set about writing a short biography of each main character. What they want, what motivates them, what weaknesses and strengths they exhibit. After that I think about other characters peripheral to the story. Also, I like to include a child and a dog in every story to make them more down-to-earth, more faced with everyday problems real people have every day. Not that my characters aren’t real. To me they live and breathe.

Then the work begins. I try to come up with my edited first draft in six months. Whew!


Now check out the talented writer, Joanne Tailele, on her Writing Under Fire blog at



Joanne Tailele wrote her first short story at the tender age of ten. But – life got in the way and she didn’t begin to write commercially until 2010, fifty years later. She has self-published two women’s fiction books and is working on the final edits to book three.